Sunday, May 19, 2013

Day 1 Back in Jerusalem, Dead Sea Chill Out

I checked out of my hostel in Masada just after 10 am this morning and caught the 10:45 am bus to Jerusalem for the last leg of my trip to Israel and the Middle East.  I will spend two days in Israel, then head to Milan Tuesday night, back to Europe after a two week break.

Getting to Jerusalem from Masada was no problem, I met some Bulgarians at the bus stop who offered to show me around Sofia when I visit, take me to the mountains, etc.  We waited for the bus in the Masada heat, half afraid it would not show up, it arrived about 5 minutes after the scheduled time.  The Bulgarians were on their way to Wadi David and had missed their stop, and got off in Masada. We exchanged contact information, I gave them my CIA/FBI business cards, maybe I will see them in Bulgaria someday.

The ride to Jerusalem from Masada was about an hour, the bus was almost empty, I was not on the main Jerusalem-Eilat bus line, so I had the bus almost to myself.  People got on and off the bus along the way, but the bus never filled up, I got to stretch out, had two seats to myself, it was a comfortable ride.

When we arrived in Jerusalem, I walked to the hostel from Jerusalem's Central Bus Station.  I got turned around initially, asked a man for directions and made it to the hostel quickly, it is 3 stops on the light rail tram line.  I arrived at my hostel an hour before check-in, I used that time to get online and book the Dead Sea Chill Out tour through my hostel.  They asked if I wanted to go today, I said no, I had planned to go Tuesday.  I thought the tour started at 2pm, then I realized the tour started at 4:30 pm, a perfect time for me to get checked into the hostel and go to the Dead Sea.

I went up to my room at 2 pm, I had a hostel mate from Tucson, AZ, it is rare I meet someone from AZ, we started talking about home immediately.  She teaches in Iraq, and gave me some tips on teaching English overseas, my goal after I complete my tour of Europe.  I found out she was going on the Dead Sea chill out too, it is a popular tour.

My hostel mate and I went to the bakery next door to get some snacks before going to the Dead Sea.  The tour was full, I got the last seat on the bus, it is a small bus, bigger than a minivan, smaller than a tourist bus.  A few people on the bus were going on a desert ATV tour, something I am not interested in.  I grew up in AZ, I have seen enough desert for the rest of my life, I have no desire to ride around on an ATV in any desert.

We passed through the Israeli controlled part of the West Bank on our way to the Dead Sea.  We passed some Israeli settlements, saw some camels in their natural environment, not dressed up for tourists and passed a Bedouin Camp.

Israeli West Bank Settlements 

Bedouin Camp 
We passed the sea level point on our way to the Dead Sea, Jerusalem is 800 meters above sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest level on earth at about 400 meters below sea level.  I did not notice any physical changes as we descended below sea level or when we returned to Jerusalem, above sea level.  Our bus stopped for a few minutes at sea level, the woman from Tucson bought some necklaces from a Bedouin or a man dressed up as a Bedouin at the stop, then we resumed our journey to the Dead Sea.

Lynnae at Sea Level

Sea Level in Israel before the Dead Sea

Sea Level Town in Israel on way to the Dead Sea
We arrived at the Dead Sea around 5:30 pm for two hours of floating, mud, and relaxation.  I met a Russian on the bus on the way to the Dead Sea, we both wanted to get the Dead Sea pictures, floating with a newspaper, covered with the Dead Sea mud, so we alternated taking pictures of each other after we arrived.   We risked taking our cameras into the Dead Sea with us, we wanted the pictures, it was tough walking in the Dead Sea, the mud, the sea floor was uneven, but we did not drop our cameras and we got some great pics.

Lynnae floating in the Dead Sea 
The Russian brought a copy of the Moscow Times she picked up at the airport, I meant to bring reading material for that shot, was happy she brought some.  We both took turns posing with the Moscow Times while floating in the Dead Sea, the paper got a little wet, but we did not drop it or the cameras.  Luckily, if we tripped in the Dead Sea, thanks to all the salt, we would float and not sink.  We still had to be careful balancing with our cameras, even a little stumble and the cameras would be under water.  I may invest in a waterproof camera for my next vacation.

Lynnae reading the Moscow Times in the Dead Sea
It is hard to describe the feeling of floating in the Dead Sea, the water is thick, I got it in my mouth on accident a couple of times, salty and kind of gross.  I felt a few spots on my skin burning, they told us beforehand if we had any cuts and did not know it, we would find out when we got in the Dead Sea.  I have had a few bites that I have scratched, I think that is where the burning sensation on my skin came from. Looking at my skin now, it appears some of the scars left over from some bites I got a few weeks ago have healed even more, I am amazed and happy. I could benefit from another dip in the Dead Sea.

After taking pictures floating in the Dead Sea, reading the newspaper, we covered ourselves in the Dead Sea's therapeutic mud.  I started off with bad mud, someone let me know it was too sandy, and I may cause myself some pain using it, i.e. exfoliate myself and get the Dead Sea burn.  Our tour guide came over and showed me where to find the good, smooth mud, I got some big handfuls, someone told me I did not need that much, I told them I was taking it for other people to use too.  My tour guide said I could sell the mud I had collected, some people did not want to go out far to find the good mud.  

After covering ourselves with mud, we took more pictures, the tour guide came over and joked he did not know we would be modeling, he should have brought his camera.  We looked like the people in the tour advertisement brochure, covered with mud at the Dead Sea. 

Lynnae with Dead Sea Mud
After we shot all the pictures we wanted, we washed off the mud at the showers.  A Russian woman sprayed me down with a hose, I think she saw what I was doing was not efficient, she decided to assist me, speed up the process, so she could use the hose too.  We got back into the Dead Sea to really relax after taking all the pictures we wanted.  I felt great in the Dead Sea, the Russian and I joked, they must have put something in the water. I seemed to leave all my worries and stress at the Dead Sea, I was relaxed when I got out, felt great.

Our tour guide had dates, walnuts, and mint tea for us at the end of our Dead Sea Chill Out. He recommended wrapping the walnuts in the dates, they were delicious, I did not know I liked dates until today.  Maybe I just like the Israeli brand of dates he bought, we left the Dead Sea at 7:30 pm.  Today's trip was the first time on summer schedule, the tour left in the afternoon instead of the morning, it was perfect, not too hot, just right outside. 

The ride back to Jerusalem was uneventful, we picked up the people who went on the ATV on our way back to the city.  We passed through an Israeli checkpoint, there is no checkpoint driving into the Israeli controlled West Bank, but there is one returning to Jerusalem.  Palestinians are not allowed into Jerusalem after certain hours, some have work permits and must exit Israel by a certain time daily. I saw the red sign warning Israelis they could not enter the Palestinian controlled West Bank.  I tried to take a picture, I got a side shot of the warning, the bus moved in the middle of my shot.

Israelis Do Not Enter West Bank Sign 

Cars Driving to Check Point to go to Jerusalem 
After the Dead Sea Chill Out, I went out to dinner with a few of the people I met on the tour.  I got Shawarma, did not eat it all, it was mediocre, I think because it was late.  I am sitting in the lobby blogging, listening to a conversation between several Americans, I usually do not meet many Americans on my travels.  Israel is different, I have met a lot of Americans, in hostels, and elsewhere  there are some interesting people who travel to Israel, I have met all kinds.

Day 1 Back in Jerusalem

No comments:

Post a Comment