Floating on the Dead Sea

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May 30th 2016
Published: May 30th 2016
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It doesn't matter how good a swimmer you are, it's an inescapable fact humans struggle to keep their heads above water. We display none of the grace and elegance of our sea dwelling friends, who must consider us clumsy with all that flapping and flailing about. So imagine being in the water and floating effortlessly, with the only concern keeping the salty water out of your mouth and eyes. Would that not rival the best sensation you've experienced? Yes my friends, it most assuredly does, and a visit to the Dead Sea is a travel experience like no other. The desert surroundings and the reality of being at the lowest place in the world add to the otherworldly feeling of floating on the Dead Sea. You can be a part of this incredible floating sensation by taking a day trip out of Tel Aviv, and visitors to Israel shouldn't pass up on the opportunity to visit.

The journal left off at the conclusion to a wonderful day exploring Jerusalem with my American friend. We were both tired after walking and exploring the historical city, so decided to have a rest in Tel Aviv the following day. That's always tempting as our hostel is right by the beach. I've fallen back in to the beach routine I enjoy: which includes a morning swim, sun baking, reading, listening to music, and a long walk. The hostel has been busy with people of all ages and backgrounds coming through, and it's such an interesting and vibrant place to stay in. There's always a number of birthrighters at the hostel from the United States and Canada, who take advantage of a free trip to Israel before reaching the age of 26 (based on the nationality of their mothers as is customary in the Jewish religion). They speak of the experience in glowing terms, and are grateful for the chance to learn more about the country of origin for their mothers.

We couldn't dawdle for long, however, and the next morning my American friend and I were back on the bus to Jerusalem. Public transport is efficient in Israel, and passengers rarely seem to wait long for a bus to arrive. Oh, and the buses have free Wi-Fi too! We got to the main terminal in Jerusalem, and before long were on another bus heading towards the desert and the Dead Sea. Driving through the suburbs of Jerusalem is interesting, as the people going about their business are almost exclusively Orthodox Jews, whereas in Tel Aviv one rarely witnesses people dressed in black. That's part of the appeal of Jerusalem, when you visit this city it doesn't feel like anywhere else on earth. It didn't take long for the stark reality of the Middle East to confront us as we drove out of the city, with the scenery changing to a bleak and desolate desert for the hour long drive. Finally a bunch of tourists piled off the bus and walked to the beach on the Dead Sea.

The western coast of the Dead Sea is on the Israeli and Palestinian Authority side, and it's also possible to experience this unique destination out of Jordan. There's an entrance fee to enter the beach, but it has everything visitors could need; including the lowest bar in the world, plenty of showers, a restaurant, change rooms, and beach chairs with umbrellas. There's also a big digital temperature display, and by noon it was 40 degrees celcius and stayed there all afternoon. We didn't muck around and got in the water as soon as we could. It pays to be careful wading out through the mud and salt rocks, because a slip can lead to an unpleasant experience. We saw a Russian guy slip and he was in all sorts of bother, and we called out for his girlfriend to take him to the shower, so she had to lead him up by the hand with his eyes clenched shut. However after a shower he was full of beans and ready to go again. It's a peculiar phenomenon of buoyancy where floating on your back is effortless, however floating on your stomach is not recommended. The important thing is to keep the water out of your mouth and eyes, as the salt levels at 394 metres below sea level are extreme.

So what to do after getting out of the water and having a shower, it must be time to crack open a beer. I don't make a habit of drinking in the sun, particularly when in the middle of a fierce desert. But there's something about being at the Dead Sea that brings out the party spirit in visitors, and my American friend is a difficult companion to refuse. After our inhibitions vanished we found it easier to chat with other visitors, either in the water or on the beach during this magical day. We ended up joining a lovely Dutch mother and daughter at the bar for drinks, and missed the last bus back to Jerusalem. A friendly young Israeli guy arrived in a car soon after, and drove us nearly half way to reach a bus stop, but refused to accept payment for his act of generosity. We hopped on the bus soon after to head back to Jerusalem, where we farewelled our friends and took another bus to Tel Aviv. It was an unforgettable day on the Dead Sea, but by 10pm I was tired out and a headache was coming on after drinking beers in the sun. I was grateful to collapse in bed, but incredibly my energetic American friend kicked on to a few bars as the night was still young.

I've spent the last three days chilling with the hostel crowd at Hayarkon 48. The guests here will live on in my memory, and one South African Jew advised me to get out to Yarkon park for a day before my visit came to a close. Visitors to Tel Aviv walk along the beach towards the historic Jaffa port, but heading in the opposite directions towards the traditional Tel Aviv port and to Yarkon park is also an experience to treasure. I couldn't manage to hire an electric bike as it was Shabbat and the hire shop was closed, but electric bikes are all the rage in Tel Aviv zooming along the designated bike paths. There's also plenty of electric scooters, and I was flabbergasted to see an electric skateboard also motoring along the bike path! Apparently they have a hand held control to zoom the skateboards along the beach front.

Tel Aviv is a booming high tech city, and the beach promenade is as beautiful as the Copacabana in her sister city Rio de Janeiro. The locals are friendly, confident, and welcoming; and the weather has been superb. The ongoing conflict in the Middle East is something to occupy finer minds than I, but we all wish for a solution that all sides can live with. As a blogger I focus on the experience of travelling to different destinations around the world, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to visit Israel. In fact I can't recall the last time I had such a wonderful time in a country, basically all of you should be here now!

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." Albert Einstein

As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now


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7th June 2016

In low places
Glad to see you made it to this location before it dries up. While we were there we were told Jerusalem was the spiritual city and Tel Aviv is called sin city.

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