Dead Sea

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February 11th 2017
Published: February 13th 2017
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So, time for another blog post. Overdue, in fact. I know, I haven't posted anything in a long time, but that's because we haven't traveled anywhere lately.

Ok, so, Saturday the weather was fantastic and we decided to take advantage and go down to the Dead Sea for the day. We packed up with food and snacks, piled into the car and headed out. I took the family to a location on the Dead Sea coast that very few people know about. I'll keep it that way for now, since it's so pristine and I'd like it to stay that way for as long as possible. I only know of the place because I was there a few weeks ago on another hike.

Anyway, we parked, loaded our backpacks and went walking. We entered a small gulley and followed it to the coast. A short walk in the river bed and the Dead Sea coast appeared. Pure white beach, green and turquoise water, blue sky, the pictures here could have been taken in the Caribbean. Only thing missing is a coconut palm and a drink with a paper umbrella.

Except, when you get closer things get interesting. The few green plants growing in the river bed disappear and the sand on the beach is actually salt. All kinds of salt crystals, from fine sand to pearls to corals, lace, crocodile teeth, cauliflower and more. Those closer to the water were pure, sparkling white. A little further away the salt mixed with dust or silt and grew darker, more orangy-brown the further you got from the water. A little further away from the lake the beach is covered with a hard crust of salt, cracked and broken in some places. As the water retreats the soil collapses, leaving steps just the right height for a comfortable seat.

We stopped for breakfast on the beach. Sandwiches, vegetables and dried fruit with a great view.

After our meal we walked up the coast, looking for different salt formations, seeing all manner of shapes in the salt. Also bugs that accidentally landed here and branches brought here by floods, all caught and coated in salt.

We took our time walking along the coast, checking out the variety of salt forms and shapes until we got to what looked like a canal that we couldn't cross, and the water became black, smelling of sulfur. Just inland from the beach, no more than 50 meters, was a large sinkhole. Some sinkholes around the Dead Sea are formed when the salt in the soil dissolves as the sea recedes, the soil becomes unstable and collapses. In this case, however, the receding sea exposed a mineral spring. The flowing black, smelly water from the spring caused the sinkhole and flows from the sinkhole into the Dead Sea through the canal it formed. Nothing to do but to walk around the hole. Carefully. Don't want to get too close or the ground might collapse under our feet into the hole.

The walls of this hole are striped with layers of white, black and dark browns. Looks like a layered chocolate and nougat cake! Really cool!

We wandered around the hole and back to the beach, just enjoying the day. Taking lots of pictures, playing with the salt pearls, collecting samples. The kids' packs were getting steadily heavier...

After some time we entered another rivulet where one of the Judean Desert wadis cut into the exposed seabed on its way to the water. Actually part of the wadi's delta. Because of the speed that the Dead Sea is receding (1.20m a year), it's easy to calculate the age of the little canyon. It's about 15 meters deep, so, less than 15 years old! What would have taken hundreds of thousands, or even millions of years of floods cutting through rock took just a few years here.

We stopped for a drink, some tea and a snack at the valley's mouth before walking a short distance into it. It was here we found the most interesting salt crystals. On the mud walls was a fuzz. It really looks like super soft and delicate fuzz growing on the walls. And here and there, perfect squares embedded in the mud. The squares came in different sizes, from about half a centimeter to a side, to 10 or 15 centimeters, but the nicest ones were the mid-sized ones. The kids had a wonderful time searching for and digging out the salt cubes.

We left that spot and returned to the beach. My plan was to continue along to another such rivulet, with more interesting formations in the mud and salt, but after some time along the beach we were all getting tired, so we found a path back inland. So, another half an hour (maybe a little bit more) of brisk walking brought us back to the car. We made some more sandwiches, finished off the vegetables, had coffee and headed home again.

We all had fun, saw something new and interesting that didn't even exist just a couple years ago, and brought home some souvenirs. All in all, a very successful day.

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