Dome of the Rock, Dead Sea, Mt Massada

Trip Start May 11, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, October 8, 2006

On our way to the Dead Sea we stopped in Jerusalem to check out the Dome of the Rock from a closer view point and to see the Holocaust Museum. The Museum was massive and you could literally spend a full day there. It's supposed to be the most thorough museum in the world. It's a very educational experience that leaves you completely deflated but informed.

From there we caught a bus to the Dead Sea. A friend we met from the bar ended up coming with us too. As you know the Dead Sea salt concentration is so high that everything floats in a major way. I was prepared for this but what I was not prepared for was how incredibly buoyant I was! It's impossible to sink and the feeling is like nothing I have ever experienced. The down side is that the salt stings like acid and the water is so think with salt that it almost has the consitincy of an oil slick. We could only float in it so long before the burning just got to much! Dave did pee in the sea and it floated right up to the surface and the salt got in and did a little burning of its own!
Thankfully there was fresh water showers there and we were able to shower off!

After our swim we went for a hike up the hills of Ein Gedi national park. This hike was very similar to our Golan Heights hike. The path wound up a mountain in a ravine that was full of waterfalls and cool shaded pools with a killer view of the Dead Sea and Jordan (the country) on the other side. This hike was full of Ibexes which are these, goat/deer things I have never seen before. So I ended up taking a lot of pictures of them. Its getting close to mating season so all the males with the massive horns were on the prowl. Their mating ritual is pretty funny to watch. The male gets close to female, sticks out his giant tongue and basically blows a raspberry for about 10 seconds. I guess the female digs this. We also saw rock hyraxes' which are like tree climbing marmots that hang out in packs... it was really cool to see 2 animals I have never even heard of in one day.
After we were done with our hike we hitchhiked to our next destination which was Mt Massda. This is a massive castle fortress built by King Herod back in the day as fall back castle in case of attack. This fortress was built on top of this massive hill, (they call it a mountain) and back in the day it was equipped with huge underground storage for water, food and weapons. They could store up to 3 years of water and food in this Mountain top fortress. We arrived late at night and found that there is no town here just one hostel,the mountain and empty desert. The price of the hostel was 25 US so we decided to just sleep in the desert... we were getting up at 4 AM anyways to climb the mountain for sunrise. We ended up hanging out in the hostel and meeting a bunch of other travelers. We all sat on the patio over looking the Dead Sea swapping travel stories over vodka and lemonade (while Israeli F-16 buzzed over head).
Sleep that night was not that easy because we camped in an illegal spot and I was so tired I did not bother to put up my tent. So I just lay on my sleeping mat in the open desert and kept thinking I was going to wake up with a snake, scorpion or Park Ranger yelling at me! But we got up at 430 climbed to the top, saw sun rise and check out the ruins of the fortress.
The reason this fortress is famous is for this reason. 900 Jewish zealots were on the run from the Roman army and they fled to this fortress. They held off the attack for a couple of months but then it became plain to see that the Romans would over take them in the next couple of days. Instead of facing defeat at the sword of Romans the zealots decided commit suicide. But since suicide is a mortal since they drew lots and had 10 men kill everyone. (If you had family you were allowed to kill them yourself) Then the 10 men had to fall on their sword... I guess if you fall on your sword its not really suicide and God will still let you into heaven... So the next morning when the Romans overtook the castle they found nothing but dead bodies. Because of this some Israeli solders take their military vow here that "Never again will Massda fall"

And even though this has been the world's longest entry would be complete without travelers diarrhea story.......So some how I drank bad water and after we reached the top of the mountain, I was suddenly hit but the diarrhea express, with no bathrooms in site, (were on top of a desert mountain) and random people scattered through out the ruins, I had no idea what to do. Enter the cold sweats and the terrible fear that I'm going to shit myself at a historical site..... After running around like a mad man looking for a place that was away from people and not on something to historically significant, I found a trash can that was about 5ft tall and around a corner.. So with zero options left I had to hoist myself up on this trash can and unleash holy hell. I'm sure it would have made for a great picture with me perched on top of 5ft trash can, legs in the air and pants at my ankles.... but I survived and only had to hit one more trash can again before I was all better!! After finishing up I turned the corner and there they were..... Big, nice, clean bathrooms...

After this excursion we went back to the sea for one more float!
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