Jerusalem - West Bank - Dead Sea
Trip Start Feb 29, 2012
4Trip End Mar 20, 2012
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Where I stayed
Royal Dead Sea
What I did
Jerusalem is squeezed between the boarder of Israel and The West Bank. Soon after getting on the interstate we realized we were driving right past Palestine. The high concrete walls, triple barbed wire fences, and military checkpoints are what gave it away. It was pretty crazy to look in at that from just across the border, Jerusalem is well kept and put together, the other side of the wall is in need of a lot of work. Lots of new seemingly abandoned constructions were visible. Probably seemed abandoned because after all, it was the weekend.
Not too far outside of Jerusalem in land that reminded me of Arizona we pulled off at a rest stop viewing point type thing that was labeled as sea level. From this vantage point you could literally look down the road into a massive valley and all the way over to Jordan. It was the kind of view that you get in an airplane, except we were standing at sea level on land. It was pretty weird. Off the road in the middle of the dirt, rocks, and sand were scattered "settlements" consisting of metal shacks and makeshift farms. I imagine the Internet worked as well as the running water here
We came to an intersection where to the left was Jericho and the right was the road to Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea itself. We went right and the road bumped right up along the coast. It was a really cool drive and I recommend it to anyone. Although at the time we were taking this drive into the sunset I did not realize we were going deeper and deeper into the West Bank. The sun had gone down and we came up to a military checkpoint in the road. The guns these guys have on display are not the joking kind. An officer with blond hair and blue eyes carrying a gun as big as his leg stepped out into the street with his hand out as we approached the gate. He asked us where we were going, looked in the car at both of us, and then told us to enjoy our vacation. Had we been the towel wearing type I don't think he would have been so brief and friendly.
Other than this checkpoint there was no sign of human life, other than the paved road we were driving on
To the kibbutz front desk guy’s credit, it had recently been raining a lot. But we were in the middle of the desert and I don’t like to be told what I can’t do, especially when you’re trying to rip me off for $202 a night
There was a decent stretch of maybe 80 feet of brown churning water rushing from the mountain side on the right to the Dead Sea on the left. The majority of the covering seemed like it was only a few inches deep but a few areas in the middle seemed to be sufficiently deep with a few large rocks creating the image of rapids. We kinda looked at each other, figured we weren’t going to go back to the kibbutz anyway, and I punched the gas pedal. It went basically how I expected it to: water all over the windshield, a lot of unexpected potholes, a slight sensation of hydroplaning, and a lot of terrible noises from below the car.
We laughed after we got through it and got out to check that the tires still had air in them. Then continued down the nice paved road making jokes about the guy at the front desk who said we could not pass the “flooding.” After a minute a police car with his lights on came out of nowhere and quickly passed us. Hard to know if he was in a rush because we have noticed that regardless of anything, the Israeli police are always driving with their lights on
There were many more large rocks to avoid, wider sections of fast moving water, and more water to cross in general. However, there was a pickup truck presently crossing from the other direction, a bulldozer making passes, and the police car was already on the other side. I have to reverse out of the way to let the pickup truck from the other side pass me and as I do, he rolls down his window. He is pointing at something and yelling to me in Hebrew or Arabic about something up ahead. My K-State hat and American accent asked the man if he could speak in English to which he kind of scrunched his face and managed to say “NUMBERS!” while pointing ahead. I did just realize that there was an odd noise coming from somewhere when I backed the car up. Cristina says “license plate” and sure enough, our first brown water rafting trip knocked a screw loose on the tag and we dragged it all the way to this point without losing it. We were able to temporarily pop it into place.
At this point a second pick up truck has crossed from the other side and this one also stops to talk to us. There are three or four men inside, all of the towel on head fashion
By the time we hit civilization again, we were out and on the south side of the West Bank in a town called Ein Boqeq. There were lots of nice hotels and resorts to choose from and in the middle of it all, a McDonald’s. We swung into three different hotels to see which one had the best offer. Remember how I said Israel was not a cheap country? The prices of the three hotels were between $280 and $403 USD per night. They all were breakfast included but only the $280 option included a dinner buffet. I wasn’t hungry but obviously if I’m paying that much to sleep I’m going to take whatever else I can get. Forcing down some good food shouldn’t be a problem.
Something I’ve never experienced anywhere in the world is a hotel lobby like those in Israel. Everywhere else I have been the lobby is for checking in and out, speaking face to face with concierge, or arranging a taxi. In Israel, in addition to all those things, the lobby is like a big lounge. There were so many guests just hanging out socializing in the lobby
In the morning we crushed the breakfast buffet and walked across the street to the beach. It was not beach weather. 9:30AM, cloudy, windy, and 52 degrees Fahrenheit. So while taking off my coat, jeans, and shoes at the shore, I couldn’t help but think about how pleasant the water temperature was going to be. Also, by “beach” I mean small to medium sized rocks that feel awesome on your cold bare feet as you get into cold windy water. There is a real weird and cool feel to the water of the Dead Sea, its like thin olive oil on your skin. After wading in a ways I fell back into the water and to my surprise happened to land directly on top of an invisible air mattress. The water is so salty that it literally feels like you are sitting on an underwater tube. No need to move arms or legs to stay afloat, its all automatic and quite relaxing. Of course how easy is it to relax in a 50 degree windy sea on a cloudy winter morning.
We ran back barefoot to the hotel, rinsed off the olive oil like water and hit the road again heading back up north through the West Bank. By this time we figured the flooding would have calmed down and that bulldozer would have knocked out most of the license tag taking rocks (the license plate did fall off again while we were hotel shopping). Somewhere along the road in the West Bank we pulled off the road and walked down to the shoreline. I imagine this is what other planets might look like
We spent the rest of the morning driving north on the coast towards Jerusalem, stopping whenever there was a cool view or something to take a closer look at. When we came to a gas station at the highway junction leading to Jericho, we were surprised to see a camel tied up near one of the pumps. What a camel needs at a gas station pump, I don’t know. Maybe there is a secret about how they can make it in the desert so long without water. Gasoline? The owner guy of the camel was happy to make him sit for us and take our picture with it.
The Dead Sea is really cool. I absolutely recommend you to take a trip out there if you have not been. Although probably better to go when you don’t want to wear a coat during the day. Eventually it will be gone and just a piece of history.