Adventures in Israel, the Epic Saga, Chaper II - Slack, Salt, and Sun

After I get in that Sunday evening and find my way to Ronni's place, we decide to hit the town and meet up with Jamie, who is also staying with Ronni. The connection is that we all went to the magical world of college together, although Jamie and I had not yet been acquainted.

Later that evening, Jamie and I decide to go on a walk, he with the intent to do some slackrope walking. We make our way to a park and he shows me how to set it up. He walked all over the rope, making it look easy, and then I try it, falling all over the place and unable to even mount the thing without assistance. There's a reason my college friends declared my puritan name to be Grace. By the end of the evening, however, I was able to get up on the line and balance for a few seconds. It is a really peaceful activity, and I'd like to get better at it.

The next day, Jamie and I tromp out to the Dead Sea, with the expectation that we'll spend most of the day there. We bus out, not really knowing where to get off. After driving along the sea for a while, we decide that the current stop is as good as any. There were only a few people at our particular beach, at least before a tour bus got there an hour later. But meanwhile, we floated peacefully and made friends with a Canadian student named Todd. I know everyone says it, but I need to add my own personal declaration of how awesome the Dead Sea is. You float. No matter what. You can try to sink, but it doesn't really work. Probably because you don't want to try too hard because getting the water in your eyes hurts a lot. And getting it in your mouth is super gross. I say this not from my experiences, but from witnessing Jamie's.

Having experienced the joys of flotation for a while, a novelty for me as I always sink in normal water, and the beautiful swirly water, the three of us decide that it is high time to find some mud. We see a man walking towards us, who had gone exploring for the same purpose a little earlier, and it appeared as though his journey had been successful. Jamie the bold question him and found out that the mud was about 300m off that-a-way. Donning our shoes, we tramp over the salty rocks and boulders, past the barbed wired and danger signs, and to the mud pits. The first one we encountered had a whole lot of trash in it. The was a moment where the three of us stood there, staring down at it in disappointment. By Jamie the determined found another pit that was satisfactory.

Todd acted as photographer for the Jamie-covers-himself-in-mud photo shoot, which was prolonged and humorous. "K, take a picture of me clean. Alright, now one of me holding the mud over my head. Now one of the mud on my head..." Jamie and his mud yamika were soon accompanied by lots more mud all over him while Todd and I covered ourselves as well. By the time we got back to our previous location, a tour bus had arrived, full of "Ugly Americans," a term that had been given to loud, culturally insensitive American tourists.

Still partially covered in mud, we see some girls who bought mud at the souvenir shop nearby. Jamie proffers that there is free mud a little ways off, but the girls were very proud of their mud, and informed us that their tour guide said it was dangerous. Prissy and proud.

We take lunch at a touristy place, the only thing that there is, and discuss plans. Neither Jamie nor I had realized how close Masada was to our current location, and decide to forgo the rest of the day swimming in favor of seeing the ruins. Todd, who had seen them recently, offered to accompany us as a guide.

So there we sit, at a bus stop in the middle of the desert, waiting. Along comes a transport vehicle. You imagine an interstellar space ship, no doubt, but there are not other words for it. Think shortbus meets greyhound. Okay, so maybe there were other words for it. Obviously intended for tourists--I mean, who else is going to want a ride here? Anyway, said vehicle pulls up to us, and the driver asks us where we are going, we tell him Masada, and he says he'll take us there. 50 shekels, he says. Each. That's almost thirteen US dollars, and the same that we paid for our round trip tickets. So we laugh. No way, sir. 30 shekels. We'll take the bus. 20. Okay, we're thinking, bus fare will be about that. Alright, deal. And we're off to Masada.

It's the hottest part of the day and we want to make sure we see everything, so we buy the cable car ride up, much to Jamie's chagrin, who would walk everywhere if he could. We saw building after building, room after room, and wall after wall of ruins. The views were gorgeous: dead sea, salt planes, rock cliffs. We could see the rubble outlines of Roman encampments down below. The cisterns were the most impressive. And the ramp. The freaking huge ramp. If you don't know what I'm talking about, go read the wiki article I linked above.

By the end, I was very sunburnt, and was running around with my black cardigan draped over my head to prevent the sun from hitting my face. Water was also an issue. I filled up my water bottle repeatedly (that the saints that brought those water tanks up), but it wasn't enough. I have no idea how those people lived up there. They even had the hot room in their fancy roman bathhouse. Basically a steam room. Who wants a steam room in the desert? Apparently the Romans. From this we concluded that it must have been Herod's winter vacation location.

When we started our decent down the mesa, Jamie started singing the Indian Jones theme song and ran all the way. Todd and I had a pleasant walk and saw a herd of about six Addax.

Sitting at the bus stop, waiting to return to Jerusalem, we recall that we bought round trip tickets to the dead sea, and didn't know if we could get back with the ticket stubs we had. And we were also impatient, so Jamie keeps flagging down cars to hitch a ride, but none of them have any room, especially not for all of us. So we wait. Eventually a bus comes, and according to plan, we shuffle on, look terribly lost and confused, and hand him our undervalued tickets. We can pay the difference, we say. But we know these bus drivers don't take money. So, mildly disgruntled, he lets the poor, hopeless travelers on. Way to go, getting places for cheap. Points for us.

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