Day 7: Highs and Lows
Trip Start May 19, 2009
30Trip End Jun 16, 2009
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Two hours later, we come out of an elevated pass to be greeted by an expansive vista of a vast valley. This is the lip of the Machtesh Ramon (Ramon Crater), one of the largest such features in the world
We proceed across the bottom of the crater to the far side, up a road with half a dozen switchbacks to the small town of Mitzpe Ramon ("Ramon Viewpoint") and its visitor center, perched precariously on the edge of the seemingly endlessly long, incredibly high valley's edge. Lunch outside with a view that can't be beat, then a visit to the center, an educational film, an more views: one from the center's roof and one from another spot not far away, which literally hangs over the edge of the ridge. According to the displays, we can see as far as 42 km (26 miles) away. Simply stunning. I'm so glad we took the detour off the straight-shot road from Eilat to the Dead Sea.
We press on, past Sde Boqer (where Israel's George Washington, David Ben-Gurion, retired) and Dimona (most famous for having Israel's nuclear reactor--that must have been what we saw in the distance a mile from the fence along the road, where signs warned that stopping and /or photography was forbidden; luckily, we stopped to take a snapshot of the "camel crossing" sign just moments before). More desolate, twisting, winding roads and there!--another high-up view, this one of the rugged, dusky, salty hills undulating towards the Dead Sea below us, the lowest point on the face of the Earth
Kevin wants to find a road sign that says "Sodom," since the ancient city is here, too, but "Mt. Sodom" is the best we can do. Past the big hotels and massive factories that exploit and process the mineral-rich waters, we find Kibbutz Ein Gedi perched just above the sea, our green oasis and home for two nights. It's a lush place, with botanical gardens, a pool, and a wide variety of guest houses. We take a walk among the cacti on show, have a nice dinner in the dining hall (served by young kibbutz members), and take in the view of the dry river bed (wadi) and Dead Sea below us. Another episode of Israeli "Idol" auditions and early to bed, since we plan on being up 90 mins. before sunrise to ascend Masada.