Monday, October 27, 2014

Israel 2014 Day 6: The Dead Sea

Israel 2014 Day 6: The Dead Sea

We had a nice late start this morning, after making some french toast ("pancake toast" -- I guess, technically, that's what it is!). We all had a tasty breakfast together and then got directions towards Ein Bokek, a small resort town alongside the Dead Sea. We decided to take the Highway 6 toll road, which was supposed to be a bit faster, easier and with less traffic. Let's roll!

WOW, it's gonna be hot today

First stop was a gas station, where we got a tasty cheese sandwich, a chocolate milk, and a crazy epic Chocolate Babka MUFFIN. Um, yes.

Stopping for some fun food at a gas station
Chocolate Milk in a bag!
Then we drove for a bit longer, right into the desert. It was pretty crazy to see the landscape change so drastically. I saw a camel crossing sign on the side of the road (that was awesome), and soon after, as if on queue, some camels hanging out by the side of the road. The landscape was really dry, but not "flats" -- it was still a rolling landscape, as if you were in California, it's just that the "hills" were all dusty! I was surprised that the desert was not just wide open and flat, like I'd seen in when in Arizona or Nevada.

To the Dead Sea!
Towns in the middle of the desert
At Sea Level...
-100 BELOW Sea Level!
We drove along towards Ein Bokek and it kept getting hotter and hotter. Another crazy thing was the signage about sea level, we kept getting closer and closer to sea level, until finally we started driving *below* sea level!! The town of Ein Bokek is actually about 400 ft. below sea level. Wild!

Arriving in Ein Bokek
We got to Ein Bokek after a few hours of driving, and checked into Isrotel Ganim, our hotel for the night. We had gotten a great deal on a "Garden Room", which was a nicer one with a little deck, so that was super fun. After dropping our stuff in the room and getting our bathing suits, we stood outside in about 40 degrees Celsius waiting for the shuttle bus to the beach. It was close, but it was so hot outside we decided to wait for the shuttle. The beach area was neat, it was the same sea (of course!) but a little further down in a private area just for guests of our specific hotel. A few of the hotels had the same, along the beach. It was much less crowded than the main public beach, so that was a big plus!

The drive to the beach was only a few minutes, and we dropped our stuff and went straight into the sea. It was such a weird and funny feeling. Due to the mineral content of the water, you just need to lean back in the water and your legs fly up! It's hilarious. As you can see, I had a great time:

So, that rocked. :) I "swam" for a while, though I had so much trouble trying to turn myself right side up. Trying to swim on your stomach is a similar feeling to swimming in a pool while wearing a big inner-tube around your waist. Your buoyancy is totally different than what you've ever experienced before in a lake or a swimming pool, it was just so funny and weird. I practiced for a while to see if I could sit upwards... and managed to get the hang of it eventually. Once righting myself to a straight vertical position again, I tried doing a pike up and down -- that was hilarious too. You only go a short distance, and then you bounce/bob up and down! Your legs also make a funny sound when they surface quickly when sitting down.

Floating in the Dead Sea!
Just floatin'
Wide view of our hotel's beach area on the Dead Sea
Go in Peace
Unfortunately, the often touted "Dead Sea Mud" was not as prevalent here as we expected. We thought people might be selling it at the beach itself, but it was only in the tourist shops. So we decided not to go for it, and just enjoy the time in the Dead Sea floating around and sitting down quickly to hear the funny sound when you legs floated up quickly. Good times :)

I had a fresh-water shower after being in the Dead Sea, and I thought that maybe they messed something up and the water coming out of the shower was being pumped in from the Dead Sea itself, because it seemed so salty... Nope! It was actually fresh water, but I just had so much salt on my face that it felt like the water was salty! Crazy.

Hertz Rent a Car, 400 ft below sea level
Michal excited about the chocolate milk in a bag
We walked from there to some small grocery shops, and we tried some local chocolate and chips for fun. From there, it was time for dinner, so we went to Aroma, an awesome coffee shop place. They have some awesome local dishes too, so we got a Shakshuka with awesome bread, a Halloumi salad, and a Half Avocado Sandwich. All washed down with an "Ice Aroma"... so good, and basically a Tim Hortons Iced Cappuccino.

They're even out here in Ein Bokek
Excited for dinner at Aroma
Our cool hotel deck
Back we went after a nice dinner to the hotel to plan our trip to Masada in the (very early) morning! We got to sleep nice and early to prep ourselves for an insanely early start tomorrow morning to climb Masada at Sunrise.

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