Dead Sea and Masada
trip started out with some fun as we got lost trying to go around
Jerusalem. After a few failed tries (the maps of the area are really
poor) , We stopped to ask someone for directions and found out that she
did not speak English but she spoke German. Well between Darrel and
myself, we cobbled up enough German to ask for directions to Ein Gedi but
when she gave the answer we were confused. Then when Darrel said
what he thought she said and I said what I thought she said we both realized
that we understood half of what she said and luckily we both understood
the opposite half so together we knew how to get there!
Well actually we wanted to go to Masada first but it was just a little south of Ein Gedi. Masada is an amazing place. it is in the middle of nowhere and it rises high above the plains around the Dead Sea. If the base of Masada was at sea level, it would be a serious mountain. The top of Masada is a plateau and on this plateau a city fortress was built. To give you an idea of how high this place is, the East side that we came up from is approx 1500 feet from the base. The West side which has no easy way to get to the top is less high due to some near by and not as tall hills, is a drop off 400 feet (but you still have to climb 1100 feet around to the back to get to that point!).
What makes this even more impressive is when you realize that Masada is only about 150 feet above sea level! That means the Dead Sea is nearly 1400 feet BELOW SEA LEVEL!
Possibly the most impressive thing about Masada is the view. The second most impressive part of Masada is the palace areas on the North face. They are under restoration and you have to walk on a lot of scaffolds to get to them but they are worth the look. Be sure your vertigo is under control because some of the scaffolds are just boards with hand rails overhanging the edge of the rock and the next stop down is about 1000 feet! I know I had to regain a little composure after walking along them!
Our next stop after climbing the top of a mountain in the baking mid day sun was a place just North of Ein Gedi called Nachal David (David Nature Reserve). This compares to a national park in the US. The amazing part about Nachal David is the amazing contrast between the luscious green plans and trees in this park when not even 1/2 mile away is the largest body of toxic water in the world! The other amazing part of Nachal David is that it is full of small creeks and natural waterfalls and wading pools. We knew about this part and we had on our sandals and swimming trunks. We were not prepared for the scenery and the icy-coolness and refreshes of these streams of water hidden in this desolate location. Indeed this was an oasis to enjoy. Even after the entire trip Darrel and I still consider this park to be the top of the list of the places we liked and we would go back to. The hiking was fun and when you got hot you just jumped into a creek to cool down! The only bad thing about this park is we got there late in the day, coming from Masada, and to prevent people from getting lost (or eaten by the tigers in the park) they started to shut down some of the trails and we only managed to see the first part of the trail system.
Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea was the obvious attraction and while we knew that Nahal David would not be topped we had to do the tourist thing and take a dip in the Sea. The water has so many chemicals in it that you are not suppose to even taste it, and if you do you are to report to the medical center immediately! Well I can say after scooping up some water in my hand I can see why. The water (and there wasn't much of it) was mixed with so many salts and oils that it looked more like vinegar and oil that had been shaken up very well. You could see the oils and brine swirling and making all kinds of interesting patterns in the "water". The Sea was no where near as cool as the creeks of the Nahal David and the buoyancy caused by the heavy minerals in the water made it uneasy to move around. I found that I always staid in a seated position and if I tried to push my legs down that I would nearly pop out of the water like a cork! Careful, you are not suppose to submerse your face, very dangerous. OK enough of this, things are starting to itch and burn that are not suppose to. They have showers to rinse the salts off and I stayed there for a long time.
The Dead Sea was a neat place, Masada was awe inspiring for it's size and the history, but my favorite part was the nature park Nahal David for it's cool streams and nature trails.
Oh yea did I mention that I lost the car keys in the Dead Sea! Oh boy. The local shop felt sorry for us and gave us a free dinner and let us call for a truck. We ahd to wait about two hours to get the truck and Darrel got pictures of me and the truck driver breaking into the rental car to get our stuff. Next we had to ride in the truck back to Jerusalem and wait about an hour there to get a new car. What fun. At least I paid for the insurance so we were covered although it made us very tired. It was still a great day anyway.