The second to last day of our mini holiday in Israel was upon us. We shoved a makeshift breakfast to our faces (no stores were open, thanks to sabbath) and headed once again to the desert.
Before taking on the cruel winter sun of the desert, we headed to the Dead Sea. Some googling had shown us the free to enter beaches at this famous salt puddle. We were all looking forward to the experience of floating, so it did not take long until we were carefully crawling over the merciless, rasping surface of the dry salt with our bare feet.
And then we floated. The buoyancy of the salty water was surprising. A human just sticks to the surface like a cork. We bounced and floated for some time, until we had to get going towards the hike of the day.
Our hiking guide was recommending a long walk through the desert plains and canyons and climbing a small peak to reach a panoramic view over the Ramon crater, following partially the Israel National Trail.
So we headed to Mitzpe Ramon, bounced off the main road to a dusty sand track in the desert and arrived to the starting point. The hike started from the campsite of Be’erot and continued into the crater, following mainly the dry bed of the river Ardon.
It was an easy walk, following the sand roads they organize jeep safaris on. So it started all off as a bit of a boring thing, we are used to more rugged terrain, but the views surrounding us were submerging our minds nicely. Soon we entered a canyon and got to walk surrounded by beautiful stone walls and enjoy the gentle shadows.
A horse shoe loop later the canyon widened out and we met the car tracks again. The crawled through the branching and opening river bed. At the same time the sand turned from yellow to red and we were constantly followed by flocks of quails and some other very pretty birds.
Finally we got to the promised climb. A short jump it was really, but offered a superb view over the desert under the magic of sunset. There we started to feel the chill rolling in too. The thin desert air doesn’t stay warm for long, once the radiation heat is gone. That was a sign to start making our way back to the car. So we went, looking back from time to time, to enjoy the changing colors in the sandy hills as the shadows grew longer.
Just as the darkness was making its way in, we reached the car and drove off. The last night we would sleep in a traditional tent type of a thing in a small town of Be’er Ora, which was only a short drive away from Eilat, handy for returning the car in the morning and getting to the airport. Little did we know, our hosts at the tent and calm sleep of the night would be just a distant memory come lunch the next day.
The misery started with the returning of the car. We found nowhere to park, the car rental officer saw it fit to bark about such stupidity to Waffle. We were shooed off to find our bus, which was surrounded by anxious passengers who had been promised the bus transfer an hour ago. The buses, however, only leave after being packed full, never mind the timetable. Which, luckily for us, the bus was packed quickly and we got on our way.
The bus driver was doing a long detour via the Jordanian border, which we found a little odd, since the the route via the Egyptian side would have been 20 km shorter. As we stepped out of the bus, we got the answer for the odd choice of route. We heard gun fire, and big explosions from that side. Which was unnerving, given the fact that we had no idea, whether it was a real situation or just an exercise.
With the soothing sounds of occasional explosions and machine gun series we packed ourselves to the terminal building with all the rest of the passengers. We were ordered in queues. That is where the staff apparently drained all their power of organizing.
We were lucky to be there early enough, since despite the queues, there was no guarantee you got picked for the security scrutiny in the order of flight schedules. The picking was completely random, and if you dared to ask anything, you got somebody shouting at you. Some people evidently missed their flights.
We stood there in the queue for over 2 hours before being picked, interrogated and walked through the security checks, shoving and shouting. For some reason Waffle’s colleague got picked for extra check and we lost him from our sight for almost an hour. We had to board the plane without knowing where he was.
Turned out, the airport staff was not handling the communication towards the crew of the plane too well either. The crew had no clue how many passengers they still needed to wait for. Every now and then a person or two were released and found the plane, eventually the colleague appeared too and we could relax. We were all going home!
It was a bit of a sour taste that the last days experiences left behind. Which is a pity, since the country is beautiful, food there is nice, and we would certainly like to explore the country by camping and heading more to the wild. But it might take some time before we venture that way again.