Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Bobbing around....

View from Masada over the plains and se
We were up early so we could be at breakfast by 8am as we had a lot of ground we wanted to cover, only to discover that we had been misinformed and breakfast strictly did not start till 8.30.  So we loaded up the car and waited for the dining hall doors to be unlocked so we could hurriedly enjoy the quite substantial spread.  It was a good thing we were on time; since just after we piled up our plates the students who were staying in the dorm descended like a plague of locusts on the buffet and what had once seemed bountiful…. quickly dissipated into crumbs and spilt milk.  We’d forgotten how quickly hungry school kids could demolish food!

Climbing up to Masada
Entering the light...
We headed straight for Masada, a ruined fortress on top of a high mountain with a striking view over the plains and the Dead Sea. It was impressive to walk around, especially seeing the monstrous cistern system that had been dug into the rock which collected water from the surrounding mountains so that the army would have a constant fresh water supply.  We overheard a guide explaining that the engineers of the time had noticed the flood waters pouring down the surrounding mountains along predefined paths, so they essentially dug routes for the water to force the overflow into the cisterns… a remarkable effort if you consider the 1000's of litres they collected and held.  

The Dead Sea!
After exploring the ruins for a couple of hours we hurried onto the Dead Sea, eager to experience the sensation of floating effortlessly (Sarah took the time to explain to Dave that the buoyancy was thanks to our bodies being less dense than the 33% solid state of the heavily mineralised water).  It was much more fun than we imagined, you can even stand straight as a pin and your head easily stays above the water line without any effort at all.  The danger though was getting any water near your eyes! We both got a tiny drop on our foreheads – and before it even reached our eyes they were watering and burning! And it’s worse if you try to rub your eyes with wet hands!  To make the session a little more painful – if you have *any* cuts on your body, you will feel them immediately… Serious fun, but seriously painful (we'd previously read that it was a bad idea to shave if you were planning on swimming and it's definitely true!)
Sarah bobbing around

After we’d bobbed around for a while, we found a nice sized mud hole and covered ourselves in the famous dead sea mud (had we known how much it cost in the shops we would’ve filled a bag or two with the stuff after we were covered!)  It took a lot longer to rinse all the mud off then it took apply, but our skin felt very silky smooth afterwards.  The extremely mineralised water does not however leave you feeling very clean as your skin feels like it's been covered in an oil slick...  

We had a ‘normal water’ shower to get cleaned off properly and drove onto the Biblically famous city of Jerusalem.  We managed to successfully navigate our way through it and then spent the next couple of hours trying to find accommodation, as everywhere we tried was full – there was seriously ‘no room at the inn!’… even after we asked at the local inn :)

The mineralised edge of the Dead Sea
We finally managed to find ourselves a spare dorm room in a place that was the Jewish version of Avondale College (and for those who don’t know Avondale College, sorry, we can’t think of another comparison). Even though the room wasn’t fantastic, a typical tiny dorm room with bunk beds, the grounds were beautiful and we could easily get to the great ‘Park and Ride’ system implemented for Jerusalem.  Unfortunately after our long hunt for a place to stay our day didn’t end with checking in, we then spent another hour driving around trying to find an ATM that would accept our card.  We finally succeeded in another town 8km away and we were very relieved to finally have cash again so we could pay for our room (and buy some much needed dinner!)

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