Friday, May 17, 2013

Day 1 in Masada, Bus Trip from Eilat, Relaxing in the Desert with Nothing to Do

After staying up all night at the Arava Hostel in Eilat, I went to the bus station a little before 6 am to buy a ticket to Masada.  While waiting in line, an Israeli man asked me where I was going, I told him to Masada, he said he was going there too, meaning the Dead Sea. I explained, I was going to a hostel in Masada, not the Dead Sea area with the hotels, he asked me if I was sure, he said the last time he went to Masada it was just a desert, there were no hostels.   Turned out he was right about Masada being a desert with nothing around, only now there was a hostel, the one I booked, so I could do the sunrise hike up the Masada mountain.

The Israeli man told me which bus to take, told me to wait with him in line.  I bought my ticket no problem, the Israeli man said we were lucky there were seats on the bus, the departure board listed 26 open seats.  He said when he came to Eilat he had to stand for 2.5 hours because all the seats were full.  The man working the reception desk overnight at the hostel also recommended I get to the bus station early to be sure I got a seat, today was the day after a holiday and many people would be traveling.   The bus I took did not fill up, the final destination was Jerusalem, the buses later in the day were close to full, and probably sold out.

When I boarded the bus I asked the bus driver to let me know when we got to Masada, I do not know the area, everything is in Hebrew, I did not want to miss the stop.  The bus driver said he would let me know, my seat was directly behind his, so it would be easy for him to let me know when we reached Masada.

The ride to Masada was uneventful, we stopped halfway between Eilat and Jerusalem for a 20 minute break.  The bus driver left a couple of passengers at the rest stop, did not check to see if everyone had boarded the bus, he just started the bus and drove off.  I was happy I got back on the bus after going to the restroom.  I wanted to buy a snack but there was a huge crowd at the rest area, about 3 or 4 tourist buses had arrived at the same time.  Some passengers decided to wait in line, that is how they got left.

When the driver began to drive off, an elderly woman on the bus noticed a passenger was missing and alerted him.  They exchanged words in Hebrew but I could pick up the context clues and tell someone was not on the bus.  The bus driver pulled to the side of the road, a few seconds later a woman boarded the bus. The bus driver again started driving, people on the bus were talking, then he pulled over again, a man was running and got on the bus.  They exchanged some words in Hebrew, I got the sense the driver was displeased with stopping the bus twice for the missing passengers.

We were not far from the Dead Sea after the rest break, I started to keep an eye out for Masada.  A few passengers got off the bus at the Dead Sea resort area and others boarded.  I thought the Masada stop would be shortly after the Dead Sea, we turned off in the middle of the desert and I thought we were probably approaching Masada, I was not sure, but I figured the driver would let me know.

We turned off on a road that I thought was definitely Masada, the driver did not stop, I listened to the announcement, thought I heard Masada and checked with the driver to be sure, he said, yes this is Masada next time press the button to signal your stop.  So much for the driver agreeing to let me know when we reached Masada.  I did not argue with him, I just said thank you and got off the bus.  The driver had to open the luggage part of the bus, he had an automatic switch on the inside of the bus, did not have to get out.  He opened the wrong side, I signaled to him my luggage was on the other side, he opened it, I got it and the bus drove off.

View of Masada Desert, Dead Sea in the Background

I looked around, Masada was in the middle of nowhere as the Israeli man had told me this morning.  I wondered if I was in the right place, I began to drag my luggage up the hill, the hot sun reminded me of the Arizona sun.  I had a longer walk because the bus driver did not stop at the bus stop, I had to drag my luggage up hill a little, then I went and asked a guard where the Masada hostel was, he pointed in front of me.

There is a lot of security at Masada, maybe because it is so isolated, and in Israel there is a lot of visible security everywhere.  I went around the barrier at the guard station and walked towards the hostel, it was also surrounded by a security gate.  I buzzed the gate and they let me in, I walked through the parking lot and to the hostel, it was around 10 am. The woman at the reception desk told me the room was not ready and I could check in at 3 pm. I was tired, wanted to take a shower, instead I crashed on the chairs in the lobby, used the WIFI, and later walked to the base of Masada to buy lunch in the food court.

On my way to the Masada Food Court

My lunch was McDonald's, I rarely eat at McDonald's, I worked there 2 years and I got burned out on the food eating there all the time.  Today, there were not many options in the food court, there was the 78 shekel buffet meal, there was Israel's standard Falafel, hummus pita or plate, there was a shop with sandwiches I did not want, and McDonald's.  I decided to go with what I know, I got the Big Mac, I was having a bit of a Big Mac attack, rare for me, but happens more frequently when I am outside of the US and tired of the local cuisine.  There is only so much hummus one can eat before getting tired of it.

My McDonald's Lunch at Masada Food Court
After lunch I walked back down to my hostel, there was not much to do in Masada, I planned to hike the mountain for the sunrise in the morning.  I went back to the hostel, a couple of hostel mates from California arrived, I spent some time talking to them.  I spent the evening outside on the patio overlooking the Israeli desert with the Dead Sea, did not do much, there is not much to do here.  Tomorrow, I get up at 4 am to hike up to the top of Masada to see the Masada sunrise.

Day 1 in Masada Photos:

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