MASADA and the Dead Sea

imageimageAfter a rather unpleasant night on the beach ( which by the way has an eclectic array of garbage on it- surprising, that Israelis, all who express a love for the beauty of their country, seem reluctant to pick up their trash!!), what with traffic and people walking along the beach in the early hours of the morning, we packed up, walked over to the hotel, helped ourselves to a couple of lemon Popsicles, and went up to the road to wait for the bus to Masada. Our painkillers had kicked in and, other than Arlene’s shorts suffering a major seam failure and the bus driver trying to cheat Arlene out of  50 shekels, we arrived at the entrance to the ancient fortress stoked with excitement. We bypassed the snake trail in favour of the cable car, stowed our packs and checked out the site. MASADA was built by Herod who, in typical megalomaniacal ( is that a word??) fashion, built a number of palaces complete with huge storage rooms and public pools. I can only imagine the labour required to fill the cisterns with water and then have that water carried up such a forbidding pile of rock. After Herod’s death the palaces fell into disrepair but the fortress was taken over by anti Roman rebels. ( Jewish freedom fighters). When besieged by Roman forces in 73AD they chose to kill themselves rather than be enslaved. Later inhabitants, included monks and rabbis, used the ruins as a spiritual retreat as evidenced by the synagogues and Byzantine church complete with mosaics. It’s been a while since I’ve had the pleasure of viewing such a significant archaeological site!

Afterwards we treated ourselves to falafels and would have gone for ice cream but the concession was charging $7 for a bar. We were pretty sore after a couple hours of walking through the rocky ruins.  We must really look in need of a lift as people sometimes just come up and offer. We think we are  stoic, exuding an air of confidence and independence but we must, in reality, look quite desperate.  I have my Terry Fox limp and Arlene has this hesitant waddle as she cautiously plots  the positioning of each step. Our reliance on hiking poles, along with the backpacks and grimaces add just the right touch of pathos! On the way out of Masada, a woman about my age made a beeline for me,  clucking like a mother hen about me being in Israel, about the pain in my leg. She gripped my arm and said “May the Lord God bless you”,  and I sensed the blessing through her touch. Not that it translated into any physical improvement, but to receive a blessing from a total stranger was touching.

The next couple hours were spent getting to a decent campsite. The bus driver filled us in on why the Dead Sea shrinks to almost nothing in the middle ( diverting water from the Jordan river for starters, ) to how the sinkholes form along this portion of the sea. He dropped us at the David recreation area, which had no camping but ample fresh water and where two Arab boys insisted we give them each one of our hiking poles. After all, if we had two each, we could give one away.  I had to remind them we had two feet, but English was lost on them.

Then two older Dutch guys who were in Israel for the weekend, gave us a lift to the local kibbutz where we could supposedly camp. The view was pleasant, but it was right beside the road, had no water – overall not a great place. While Arlene and I were contemplating possibilities and rummaging for the Advil, a man drove up to take some pictures of the sea. He asked us what we were doing… we told him…which  is how we ended up at this latest great camping spot. Picture a deserted beach on the Dead Sea with hot pools and the Dead Sea au natural – mo chunks of salt due to the mining of minerals. This part of the sea had waves rolling in. Salt mineral water and hot springs. People pay big money for these amenities but it was all ours for free. After a short but wild 4×4 ride over a rocky trail, our driver showed us the pools, collected a store of the coveted black mud , left 2 bottles of water, then drove off. We put our tents up in the dark and relaxed. We ate, listened to the surf, chatted, then went to bed, pleased with our private spa.

Most days we can never imagine where we will be by dark. Today,  we were expecting an uncomfortable night outside a busy kibbutz. Instead we have another piece of paradise and for that we are grateful. We have food and water for two days so we’ll stay here, enjoy the solitude, soak our painful body parts in the hot mineral pools then cool off in the sea. How amazing is that?


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