Sunday, May 12, 2013

Day 1 in Eilat, Travel day from Jerusalem, Relaxing on the Beach at the Red Sea

Today was a travel day, I caught the 10 am bus from Jerusalem to Eilat, a resort town in Southern Israel.  I took Jerusalem's light rail 3 stops to the Central Bus Station, the trip to Eilat required an advance purchase ticket, the hostel handled that when I booked my day trip to Petra, Jordan through them. When I got to the bus station I swiped my credit card at the ticket machine and it printed my tickets, easy.  Next, I had to find the bus to Eilat, I looked around and saw nothing but Hebrew on the screens above the bus terminals.  I asked someone standing near me which bus went to Eliat, he looked around, found Eliat, and pointed me in the right direction.

Lynnae on Bus to Eliat at Central Bus Station in Jerusalem
The bus ride to Eliat took about 4 hours, I was expecting a short ride, maybe an hour, like my trip from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Obviously, I did not do my homework and look at the map to see the distance between Jersualem and Eliat.  I did not mind the long ride, we stopped halfway through the trip for a twenty minute break. Most of the trip I had two seats to myself, a woman boarded the bus before we had the twenty minute break and sat next to me.  It was good she sat next to me, I was able to ask her why the bus stopped, she told me, we had a twenty minute break.

Sign to Eliat during 20 minute rest stop 
I counted two Israeli security check points on our way to Eliat, both times armed soldiers from the Israeli Defense Forces boarded the bus.  The first time, the soldiers questioned some men sitting at the back of the bus, then left.  The second time, the soldiers entered the bus, but I did not notice them questioning anyone.  The constant military presence is always a reminder, Israel is at war with its neighbors, as peaceful as the country often seems, Israel operates as a combat zone.

Israel Security Check Point

Israeli Soldier Exiting Bus
The drive to Eliat was uneventful, the big event for me was the Israeli soldiers boarding our bus, the Israeli security checkpoints, all these things were new to me. This is not something I have seen in the US or in any other countries during my travels in Europe and the Middle East.  There was beautiful scenery all the way from Jerusalem to Eliat, we passed some bodies of water along the way too. I took a nap for probably an hour in total during the bus ride.

View from Bus on the way to Eliat
 I paid 20 shekels for a taxi to my hostel after arriving in Eilat, I wanted to walk but I had no idea where the hostel was located, and nobody I asked could even point me in the direction of the street.  The hostel ended up being right around the corner from the Central Bus Station in Eliat.  I checked into my hostel, met one of my hostel mates from Seattle, then headed out for a walk to the beach.  

My first stop was a shopping mall near Eliat's beach, I saw a sign for the Gap and decided to see what they had.  I wanted to buy some shorts and a couple of tops.  I arrived in Europe when it was cold and I did not pack summer clothes.  I found a couple of tops at the Gap, did not find any shorts I liked.  After the Gap, I bought some food in the food court, it was food court quality too.  I ate my lunch/dinner, the best thing about the meal was the waterfront view from the food court.

After I finished eating, I walked to the beach.  I did not wear my bathing suit, so I did not go swimming, I did put my feet in the water, at first the water felt cold, but my body adjusted quickly to the temperature.  After wading in the water, I sat down on the rocks on the side of the beach and read my Kindle for awhile.  

Lynnae in the Red Sea in Eliat
I read the Kindle and watched Israelis ships pass by in the background, another reminder, Israel is a military zone, in a state of war with its neighbors. I saw one armed military ship pass by, and two smaller armed boats while I was sitting on the beach.

Israeli Military Patrolling Red Sea off Eliat Coast 

Israeli Military Patrolling Red Sea off Eliat Coast

Israeli Military Patrolling Red Sea off Eliat Coast

I headed back to my hostel after a couple hours at the beach.  Tomorrow I get up early for a day trip to Petra, Jordan. 

Day 1 in Eliat Photo Album 

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