I tend to be quite weary of places that I hear rave reviews about. If anyone tries to tell me I MUST do something, I am automatically inclined to think less of it. Perhaps this is a coping strategy, a way in order to maintain reasonable expectations, because words become embellished and memories are always tinted rose. The Dead Sea was one of those places. A legend, a must see, a remarkable experience you know the type of thing that people put up rave reviews about on trip advisor. The thing with The Dead Sea is, it’s supposed to be dazzling due to its amount of salt right? I have seen The Salton Sea (which is 30% saltier than the Pacific Ocean) and I left with nightmares of crushing fish skeletons and death floating around in my head for far too long. I was skeptical, but I kept this scepticism quiet.
We rented a car from Hertz coercing a smile out of the grumpiest of ladies and tossed our snacks and packs into car ready to challenge the highways of Israel. Soon enough I had the strangest feeling of being at home, on the way to hike in Eastern San Diego. I was surrounded by desert and bulging rocks that defy gravity. Winding through the highway I was half expecting to see The Road Runner and Wiley Coyote bolt across the sandstone atmosphere but instead only saw a camel in the distance.
Arriving at The Dead Sea we parked outside of a resort and decided that if we walked into the place like we owned it, we damn well would. Wind was playing along the coast as our feet screamed due to the frozen salt beneath our toes. The colour of the salt fading from a rouge to a faded cream and then producing startling angelic pearled formations that blended and swirled together until the aqua-marine water blanketed them leaving a sparkling crystalline masterpiece.
The three of us peeled off our clothes and started searching for mud in the well used tub which was scraped dry. Lucky for us, a family traded a group photo for their left over mud and we lathered our skin in the mineral-rich mud snapped a picture and waded into the salted sea. There are rules of course in a sea that has 33.7% salt, you don’t go underwater or touch your eyes or splash others. The salt will sear into your eyes as if a million red-hot daggers were piercing into your iris simultaneously. When you enter the water you can feel the the salt drinking the mud from your skin there is a thin silky layer that drifts ever so lightly around your being. I was dazzled, but the best feeling was that of the water catching you and forcing you towards the sunlight. Seemingly weightless. Positively heavenly. Touching the crystalline bottom was a challenge therefor balancing upon the formations was a dare and contorting our bodies became our favoured entertainment.
As ethereal of an experience The Dead Sea was, it was time to swap the enchantment of the sea for a historic hike. We attempted to wash the salt from our bodies and head towards Masada. Masada is a fortess that was built in 30 BCE by Herod the Great and was complete with bathhouses, a swimming pool, and Herod even ordered full ships to arrive with wine and apples from Spain. A man made fortress that holds what seems like eons of stories within its walls and presents breathtaking views, sounds right up our alley. We had planned to take our salty selves up for a sunset expedition however, with the park now boasting winter hours they forbid us from climbing. Which naturally, our response was to combat this demand and attempt to climb the mountain in spite of them. Our actions were met with a boisterous voice echoing across the reddened rock that sucked all our hope of hiking this historical masterpiece.
Trotting off the premises feeling deflated we were going to give the day another shot at redemption we loaded into the car and headed towards Ein Bokek Nature Reserve. They couldn’t kick us out, it was open for 24 hours every damn day. Suddenly we were walking along side a babbling creek that skimmed over smooth stones and sand while canyon walls towered over us showing off their beauty. Rocks were climbing sandstone mountains peering down at us while we got tangled in the trees and slipped across the river bend. We watched at the sun dared to leave the sky casting dark shadows across the canyon walls and leaving us with a sense that something wild was watching us. We raced back towards the car and with the last bit of sunlight left in the sky we sat on top of ruins watching the sky burst with color before it all spilled into an inky shade of sapphire.
Our bodies still dusted with salt, had a long drive home across an abandoned highway in the desert we were craving a shower, food and sleep because Jerusalem was up next.