The Lowest Place on Earth - Dead Sea
Woke up early in the morning and headed through the westbank (one of two Palestinian territories in Israel), into the Ein Gedi Dead Sea. Had a extremely relaxing day floating in the dead sea and at the dead sea spa. Floating in the dead sea is unique; you float without any effort. It has a list of minerals that cant be found anywhere else on the planet. On that note, if you put your face in the water your eyes will feel like they have gonorrhea. Without having anywhere to sleep, we decided just to unroll our sleeping bags and find a secluded place on the beach. With the dead sea directly below us, and the stars above us we slept like rocks. The next morning we climbed Masada. Masada was built by King Herod some 2000 years ago as a fortress at the top of a mountain. It was also the site where a Jewish tribe decided to commit suicide rather then be captured by the Romans. This was a particularly draining affair, as it was close 35 degrees.
Upon completion of our hike, we went to a nearby town for a relaxing meal and almost ran over a dead striped hyena on the road. Met a French girl traveling by herself, drank some wine and slept on the beach again.
Hiking in the crater
After waking up, we drove to Mitzpe Ramon to hike the crater. Israel has 3 amazing craters. It took as a bit longer then expected to find our hike and ended up doing a half-assed climb. However the views were still amazing. Upon completion of our hike we headed to Eilat for some relaxing. As this is the off-season, Eilat was almost deserted. Early in the am, we departed Eilat for Jordan, en route to Petra… Here the trip starts to turn into an adventure.
Driving through blizzard to Petra
We hired a cab to drive from the border into Petra, which is usually a relaxing 2 hour drive. However, we hit a major blizzard (yes, Jordan has blizzards). I have never seen a more terrified driver in my life (and this includes driving with my mom). I suspect the driver had never seen/driven on snow before. We probably averaged 15km and this included random tourrets like swearing outbursts by our cabbie. At one point, there was a small child walking beside the road, our driver honked and screamed “get the fuck outta my way!” even though the kid was clearly meters from the road and we were going less then 20k.
Bedouin riding horse in Petra
When we arrived in Petra we promptly went to bed. Even though we had been promised heat, there was none. So we all slept with the blankets over our face and with every imaginable piece of clothing we could find. The next day we walked into the ancient Nabatean city of Petra, the Nabateans were essentially a middleman trading empire, taxing all the goods traveling between Asia and Europe. Nothing we heard about Petra could have properly prepared us for it. The entire city is built into the mountain side and had enough man made caves to house 50,000 people! There are literally dwellings and caves everywhere you look, strewn amongst the much larger and more impressive sights of old tombs that tower over your head, being carved into the face of the canyons themselves. We hired a guide for the first day to give us the low-down on the city. Started by Nabateans, it was subsequently taken over by Romans and then the Byzantines. Bedouins moved in after the fall of the Roman empire and continue to occupy it today (however the Jordanian government kicked the large majority of them out of Petra to make room for the tourists). After the guide tour was over we went our separate ways to enjoy the rest of the day. Tom stayed in one of the Bedouin café’s and spent the day chatting with Bedouins and turks. Dan hiked to the High Place of Sacrifice and spent the day scrambling on the mountain side. On the way home, Dan chatted up a Bedouin (Adnan) and got invited for supper at the Bedouin village.
Supper with Bedouin friends
After a sketchy drive, we met up with Dan’s Bedouin friend at 8:00 in Um Sayhoum (the Jordanian governments Bedouin constructed village). As it turns out Adnan is also a Bedouin chef, and cooked us a amazing traditional Bedouin supper. We followed this by drinking litres of Arak (50% Jordanian alcohol) and having a dance party. The Bedouin hospitality is something not to be missed, they didn’t charge us anything, they invited us to sleep over, they gave us crafts that they made, all in the spirit of hospitality and friendship. Adnan’s cousin Halad also offered to guide Dan around Petra to see the non-tourists hikes and locations.
On the next day, everyone went their own way again. Elad, Anna and Glickman went horseback riding, Tom explored Wadi Mousa and Petra and Dan went hiking with Halad. Everyone met up at 6:00 to talk about their amazing day. Dan ended up hiking on some amazing and (at times) sketchy hiking trails with Halad. The hike included visiting Halad's 125 year old gradfather and aunt who have still live in caves in the mountain side. Tom got a great feeling for Wadi Mousa and Petra. The rest of the crew again met up with Adnan at 8 in Um Sayhoun and proceeded to enjoy a fabulous Bedouin meal. This time Adnan’s friend and brother were there along with his polish girlfriend. We were all too tired to drink Arak and ended up saying goodbye to our Bedouin friends around 12. That night we said goodbye to Petra and left first thing in the morning to Wadi Rum.
Wadi Rum, is possibly the most unbelievable place either of us have seen. The desert landscape was absolutely nuts in every direction. We managed to get on board with a guy who owned a 4WD pickup truck, and he took us all throughout the area. Seeing the place from the back of a pick-up truck was definitely they best way to go.
Wadi Rum is a red desert that is full of huge mountains that stand each on their own like huge fortresses throughout the desert. It can really only be described in pictures.
At the end of the day we were dropped off at a Bedouin camp where we were put up in a Bedouin tent, half-buried in sand. Our Sudanese cook Mahmoud cooked us a huge meal and we spent the rest of the night drinking tea in the main tent and trying to learn some new Arabic words. We slept like two dead babies, and luckily no sand vipers or camel spiders made their way into our tent. Both the sunset and sunrise were out of this world, and during the night the sky was so bright that we could fully see the milkyway galaxy stretching across the sky. The next day we woke up really early and caught a ride to the highway in a mangy old 4wd Toyota that was falling apart in every way. One the bumpy drive across the desert the seat we were sitting on collapsed. We managed to find a minibus going south and we ended up in the city of Aqaba.
Aqaba is Jordans only port, and is trying to be some kind of beach resort town. Its still got a lot of character though and the two days we have spent here have been perfect for recharging our batteries. We also managed to get our Egyptians visas at the embassy here in Aqaba, so we’re all set to catch the ferry for Nuweiba, Egypt tomorrow morning.