Thursday, October 30, 2014

Israel 2014 Day 7: Climbing Masada at Sunrise

Israel 2014 Day 7: Climbing Masada at Sunrise

Oof! This day started off insanely early... at the glorious time of 4:15am!! We packed our stuff for the hike and drove 15 min to the Masada east gate. Masada in an ancient fortress, which the Romans took in the Siege of Masada. It is also a very steep and beautiful rock formation, and a very popular spot for tourists to visit when in Israel.

Wow, it's early. 5:06am. Let's do this.
Ok, now it's 5:09am, we're awake
Let's start walking up the Snake Path
Up and up
We started when the sun was still down, at dusk, and soon after the sun started to come up. Amazingly hot in this part of Israel, it was already 29 Celcius when we started walking!!!! Insane. But, there was a pleasant cool breeze which really took the edge off. The hike up was great.

Cool formations
Getting closer
My climbing girl
Watching the sunrise
Here it comes
Nice one
Almost up now...
On the trail
The moon
A little sideways
Crazy landscape
Looking out
Up at the top, we walked around a lot and saw some cool stuff like water cisterns. One of my favourite parts was a stone map of how water flowed through to difference places of the site, which came complete with a little water jug you could full up with a tap right next to it, and you poured the water onto the replica map to see it pour along all the different water routes. Fun. :)

Water was necessary for survival for the people living here, but King Herod also said it should be used for other purposes too: hygiene, and even recreation (swimming!) There were some cool sites to see up there like the old synagogue. There was actual a Bar-Mitzvah happening in that ancient Synagogue when we were up there. History!

Rock formations
Epic times
Top of Snake Path
That's a better one :)
Fun water bucket exhibit where you can see how the drainage system worked
The view
On top of Masada
Enjoying the view
There were lots of Birthright trips happening up there, as we wandered around and checked out the sites. We also saw the stage where the artist Idan Raichel had played recently. The Opera has also done an event here, that would rock.

Time to walk back down
At the bottom again
After a good couple of hours up there, we walked back down the same path. You can walk the other way (the way the Romans sieged the site), but you end up on the other side of the entire mountain, and it's like an hour DRIVE back to your car... certainly not walkable, especially in this heat! So we walked back down the snake path, ready to crush some breakfast. And crush it, we did!

We headed back to the hotel and changed and then went straight to the buffet breakfast!! Oh MAN that was awesome and perfect after our big morning schlep. They had 5% "white cheese", labane with tasty spices, egg salad, Safed 5% cheese, I got a tasty cappuccino, and there was AWESOME cheesecake.

Breakfast time! Lots of fish choices
Epic cheese
"Safed Cheese"... yeeeeppppp
Yoghurt and Fruit
Crazy awesome cheesecake
Huge tasty plate and a nice cappucino after a good hike
Better try some of that cheesecake...
So that was absolutely epic. I loved the breakfast and we totally owned it. I got like 2 or 3 plates and was just over the moon with excitement of all the awesome choices and crazy kinds of weird awesome cheese, and especially that cheesecake. YES!! That rocked.

From there we hit the pool area, and chilled out for a bit. We had a nice swim and some good chill time in these fancy Cabana things they had up at the pool. Pretty sweet. The Cabanas had funny "wedge" pillows so you could sit up and read in them very easily! Fancy times. It was only 10:30am... and was already 32C!!! So warm. I sat in a Cabana and wrote my journal notes -- perhaps the best place ever for writing my journal!

Cabines at the pool
We really enjoyed the sun and the chillin' there, and after a nice amount of time relaxing, we started the drive back. The water on the way out of Ein Bokek looked bright green. What a crazy colour!

The water was green today!
On the way back we stopped to get some water at a McDonald's and there was a Soldier in there carrying a big gun, I think this is perhaps standard issue. But, wow. Definitely not something you see every day back home.

Wow, it's not every day you see a soldier in a McDonald's (at home, anyway)
Back we went after this to Ra'anana. We dropped off our stuff and took a trip to the mall to go check it out, pick up stamps so I could send a few postcards, and check out a few fun things like a local grocery store. We got an "Ice Aroma", as usual. :) We saw some pretty interesting stores, where I found a Wall-E and a Monsters University kids book in Hebrew!! Obv. had to get those, cause that rocked.

That's my cup of tea
Beautiful silverwares
A Torah container
Haha, awesome
Well, this rocks
Hebrew written in a "Chinese style"
Nice Mezuzzah shop
All the hummus
We saw a crazy epic silverware store, where one might buy a Seder plate or fancy Shabbos candlesticks. That was pretty wicked. Also, we found a Judaica store!! Yes!! I really want to find some cool Mezuzzahs to take home, and they had a lot. It was fun to check them out and I've never seen so many before or so many different kinds, that was really exciting and I could have spent 2 hrs there just looking at each one. There were piles and piles of Yarmulkes, little artistic house prayers, candlesticks, etc. So Jewish. :)

And of course, the Kosher McDonald's! (If you're starting to feel a trend here of me constantly talking about McDonald's, don't worry, I'm not obsessed with the place. It's just super awesome to see it in foreign countries and I always love how they localize the food to -- sometimes -- match the customs of the country. When I was in the middle of the Australian Outback in a town called Alice Springs, I went into a McDonalds there. It was a hot day, maybe 40C, and their schtick was "Tastes of the World." I still remember, for some reason they had "Indian Curry Puffs" there... in the middle of the Australian Outback. How odd. And the "McOz" burger comes with an EGG on it, cause Australians are crazy). Anyway, in Israel, the obvious difference for McDonald's is that generally, it should be Kosher to meet the customs of the local country. I took a photo there, and it reminded me of my time back in Buenos Aires a couple years ago -- Argentina being the only country in the world outside of Israel to house a Kosher McDonalds. So yes, that was fun. The difference here between this one and the one in Argentina was that it had a separate area for Milk products (as Kosher rules state you need to separate Milk and Meat products). There was a little side-window area for Ice Cream only, while the rest of the restaurant and counter sold meat burgers. And, of course, no cheeseburgers. :)

We found a Celio store, my favourite French shop that I found with Andrew Lam back in 2007 when we were traveling in France. It's sortof like a French Gap. It was fun and I got some boxers there. We also went to a grocery store, and they had a WICKED collection of Hummus and Tahini. Like an extremely amazing amount. I got two types of (Kosher!) Salami to take back for snacking on with everyone in the evening later.

After the mall, we drove home in good time to change nicely, and then head to Tomer's Bar-Mitzvah Party!! The fun continues! We headed to an event place where they were throwing the party and it was just fantastic. A beautiful, expertly planned setup with twinkly lights and games for the kids to play, awesome appetizers, tasty food, and very heartfelt speeches and slideshow. What a sweet, warm, loving family environment. Totally awesome. And, as always, everyone was there! It was all so much fun and I felt incredibly welcome. Great times!

At the Bar-Mitzvah Party
Popsicle time
After this... time for Dessert, of course!!! We crushed some popsicles and finished up the evening with big smiles on our faces. What an epic day.