Another wonderful day with the odd surreal moment. We rose early (5.10 to be precise!) and walked to the tram stop. I took control of the ticket machine while everyone else told me what to do! Somehow we purchased 4 tickets. 3 stops on we alighted and Christine found the hostel from which the trip started.
Let me say from the start that if you ever go to Jerusalem take an Abraham’s Tour ( strap line: ‘exploring for 3,000 years’), they are just brilliant. We were by far the oldest on the mini-bus, but the guide was informative and delightful. The bus was comfortable and very modern. We drove out through the Negev Desert to the Dead Sea, which is rapidly shrinking as the Israelis extract more and more water from the Jordan. We arrived at Masada at about 8.40, but still weren’t the first to the top. The cable car was spectacular and mercifully short. A herd of women from Baltimore came in behind us in the car and it was like being enclosed in a tin can with a load of hornets. The noise was incredible, and all in that guttural whine of the east coast. We fled into the commander’s house, while they sat to listen to their guide tell them what they were going to see. But we were not safe for long and they pursued us around the site until we eventually out ran them as we made our way through the 29 enormous storehouses which kept the Herodan settlement fed. Water had to be carried up from below and emptied into enormous cisterns, which could also be fed on the odd occasion it rained (on average 3 days a year apparently). It was while admiring one of these cisterns that we stumbled over a collection of American Jewish school children. Thus was almost worse than the ladies, but luckily they were called into a circle by their teacher who proceeds to lead them in some callisthenics. That should wear the little buggers out, we thought. We moved rapidly along the west wall, admiring the stunning views to the southern tip, where peace reigned and the views were fantastic. We walked back along the east wall, taking pictures of the Dead Sea, now bathed in a sharp morning light. The story of Masada is both tragic and heroic and has made me want to come here from an early age. If you don’t know it, do google it.
Back down below, we drove to Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, a spectacular green cleft in the rock wall of the desert and a haven for wildlife. We passed ibex grazing near the road. Then we walked up into the valley, passing a number of waterfalls and a family of rock hyraxes sunbathing on a rock.
Butterflies and birds danced before our eyes. It was beautiful.
David’s waterfall is the highest one you can walk to, but as we turned back I spotted a track which led higher up the mountain and with Christine’s permission, set off up it, quickly followed by 2 Dutchmen from our tour and another young man of indeterminate nationality. We moved upwards at speed and in places the going was tricky, but the resulting views at the top over the Dead Sea were spectacular. The other young man then suggested that we should set off back down if we were to get back to the bus on time. I was for pressing on, but his common sense prevailed and we yomped back down. I was flattered by one of the young Dutchmen asking his old I was and looking rather surprised when I told him!
Then we headed for a private resort on the Dead Sea for a bathe. The mini-bus radio was on and suddenly ‘the jingle bell rock’ came on. A surreal moment , driving through the Negev Desert in temperatures above 30C singing along to a Christmas song! At the resort, the four of us made a camp on the beach (sea of mud and salt) and took it in turns to bathe. It is weird, lying, floating and reading a newspaper. Hard to get back on to your feet afterwards unless you roll over onto your knees. It was great fun and Dani went for a mud covering as well as it is supposed to be great for the skin.
We arrived back in Jerusalem at 4.00, tired and happy. I think we are getting to like Israel a lot. But my goodness it is expensive! We shall dine here tonight as last night’s meal was delicious and it is relatively cheap! Tomorrow Bethlehem, so we are going to be little stars!