Masada, the Dead Sea, and Me

Day 4

Monday

Last night, after the return flight from Tel Aviv, I got my hotel room and crashed about midnight. No dinner, of course, so I ate a power bar and drank water. I think I really am losing weight. At 1:30 am, I get a call on my cell from the alarm company in LA stating that the alarm just went off in my house. What in the world did they expect me to do about it? I told them to dispatche the police because it was mid-afternoon on Sunday in LA, and they said they’d call me back once the house was checked out. I called Bryan to ask him to cover it from his end, and he reminded me that the Kings game would begin in another hour. After three or four calls, the alarm company called and said there was no break-in, Great! But now I’ve got a dilemma. Sleep or Kings game. I lay in bed for two hours, to jacked up to sleep, and the Kings game won out. I picked it up on the live radio feed on the internet, and heard my boys tie the game, and later listened as they won in it in overtime. THEY KNOCKED THE BEST TEAM ALL SEASON OUT OF THE PLAYOFFS! OMG! I actually yelled, couldn’t help myself, but fortunately, the security at the hotel didn’t come running. So, after no sleep, I got out of bed an hour later, hastily shut my suitcases, and checked out of the hotel for the start of the tour. Who needs sleep anyway. THE KINGS WON!

Big, comfortable bus. Good, knowledgeable, funny tour guide, an hour’s delay because a family of four wandered off from their hotel, and two others tied one on the night before and didn’t wake up, but finally we started off for Masada. I rode in the front of the bus.

We drove for about two hours. I saw biblical cities all along the way. Learned a lot about the various tribes (groups) that make up the population. So much that I can only relate the highlights. Drove past Ashod, the city that was indundated with over three thousand rockets for five years before Israel went back into Gaza. All quiet today, though. They have a very serious Bedouin problem in the Nagev. Over 60,000 that don’t fit into society at all. They camp in large numbers on government land. It takes a large squad of troops to evict them and it often gets violent. The Bedouins from Egypet have taken to smuggling drugs, rugs and other stuff from Egypt by taking their camels from Israel over the border, loading them up, and turning them loose. The camels are like homing pigeons, they head for home by themselves, so these guys are not at risk of being caught with the drugs. They now plan to put up a fence across the Negev desert to block the camels from getting home. The next major problem facing the region is water. Not enough, and everyone is daming up rivers, depriving their neighbors down stream. Lots of very big problems. We passed within view of the Gaza strip (within rocket range) but all was quiet. Perhaps the Palestineans stayed up to listen to the Kings game and were now all asleep.

The Negev is one really desolate place. It’s so dry that striations on the land that one might think were erosion lines are everywhere. But it’s no erosion, it’s goat trails going back centuries. They look like parallel lines that completely that completely cover the mountains like geologic strata. Amazing. We dropped down from over 500 meters above sea level to 490 meters below sea level to the lowest place on the planet not covered by water. The Dead Sea. It’s so low that UV rays are not a problem, so you can get burned, but it won’t damage the skin. Yea… that’s what I thought, too. But I ain’t buyin’ it. I’m slathered with sun block. This is one pretty face that’s not going to be tempted to get all browned up. We drove along the coast and finally arrived at the base of Massada.

Again, too much info to relate here, but the photo’s tell the story. The site is a geologic masterpiece of selection for security. It’s an isolated peak of enormous size, with the most ingenious system for capturing and storing water that I’ve ever seen. It must have been phenominal. The site held enough food and water for 1000 people for ten years. It took the Romans five years to send a legion, and once they got there, they must have been really pissed off to have to dislodge these rebels because it was oppressively hot, dusty, dry, and just plain miserable. They were so angry that they built a six foot high wall around the entire mountain, then built an earthen ramp up the back side to the entry gate while facing danger from boulders being rolled and thrown down on them from the top. It took the Romans only ninety days to breach this fortress, and we all know what they found. A mass suicide site. The moral of the story is don’t piss off the Romans? No, wait… it’s you can’t hurt us because we already hurt ourselves? No? How about… who cares… it’s so hot here all I want to do is go back to the bus and cool off!

Next stop was lunch at at Kibbutzim along the side of the Dead Sea. Overcooked chicken, rice and corn. I was salivating. The chicken was overcooked, the corn was good, but they don’t have soy sauce for the rice. Damn. It was almost perfect, too. Real, LA food.

The PLO flushes all their sewage down towards the Dead Sea. The Israelies capture the effluence and process it and use the water for irrigate date palm forests. Waste not, want not. (Bad pun).

Now the PLO doesn’t want the Isralies to make use of their waste water, so they plan to use it themselves. Their going to dam up the effluence and use it for….. hmmm. They’ll have to figure that out later. First priority, get a lake full of sweage.

Maybe they can grow crops with it or something. The Isralies found a use for it so it must be worth something. (I’m thinking this is just a PR campaign by the Isralies to get them to stop dumping the raw sewage. Make them think it’s valuable so they’ll keep it just for spite. These Isralies are smart cookies.

Thirty minutes later, we were at the Dead Sea beach and spa. Across the water was Jordan. I payed for a locker an hiked down to the outdoor dressing room, got on my bathing suit and sandals, covered up with a towel to prevent the no UV sun damage, and hiked with the others down to the water. You really can’t sink. It’s like you’ve got a life jacket in your backside, cause you float whether you want to or not. A little tip from one who knows…. don’t shave before going in, and don’t get any water in your eyes because it stings like hell!

Got a friend to take photos, then I went over to the dead sea mud bucket and slathered up. Got photo’s of that, too. It was fun. Then showered off outdoors and it took forever to get the mud and salt off.

We then had to hike back up the trail, about a hundred yards, to get to the locker area. I thought I got all the salt off my skin, but it suddenly felt as if my groin was on fire. I’m not kidding, there was salt in my suit, and the guys were getting rubbed raw! I’m telling you this because it hurt like someone poured gasoline on them and lit them on fire. I still had fifty yards to go before the nearest shower. It felt like I was in no man’s land. Funny how focused your mind gets, how singular of purpose you become. No longer thinking of sleep or food. All I wanted was to strip off my shorts and get fresh, clean, cool water running over my equipment. I was limping by the time I got to the shower. Got the trunks off and the boys were firery red. Cool water never felt so good. I think I now know what must have pissed the Romans off enough to get them to breach Massada down the road in only ninety days. They must have all bathed one day and discovered the enduring agony of salt in the shorts. And since the rebels had the only fresh water, I think I would have breached the fortress myself to get at it, too.

And no. There will be not photo’s attached showing my injuries. Wouldn’t want to scare the children.

We drove into Jerusalem, located the hotel, got settled in, and for the first time, I get to unpack. We’ll be here for three days. We get one day to see the sights, then the following day is the National Day of Mourning. Everything, and I mean everything is closed. The only food will be at the hotel. The day after that is Independence day. Street parties, celebrations, fireworks. Should be a lot of fun.

I ate dinner in the hotel. Too tired to go out. Very expensive in Israel. Only Switzerland costs more. Huge buffet. I had chicken and mashed potatoes. But I learned a lesson here too. The chef told me the gravy was hot. I thought he meant temperature hot. I slathered it all over the chicken and mashed potatoes. It was spicy hot. I ruined my dinner. Ever had mashed potatoes with a mustered, lime sauce. Yep! It was yucky. I ate what I could, ditched the rest, and had a beef stew, or what looked like beef stew. It was tough meat, turnips (I thought they were chunks of potatoes), and veggies. I ate it, but I make a tastier stew at home. Desert was good. These folks do love their deserts. I had an ice cream cone dipped in choclate filled with chocolate mousse and chocolate chips, and a choclate covered, dipped in sprinkles ball of something that tasted suspiciously like rice (not so good). I finally made it back to my room and collapsed into bed about nine for a nap which lasted until 3:30 am. I’m now wide awake and typing, but after I post this and download the photo’s, I think I’ll turn on a hockey game. Oh, yeah. I’ve got indigestion (heartburn) from that freaking lime mustard gravy. Can’t wait to see what delicacies await me at breakfast in another……..what…….three hours. But I’m hungry now!

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