A pleasant night lead into a pleasant morning where we woke in our Jerusalem hotel and went to breakfast. After smuggling out pastries like a parent smuggling out a child during a Rwandan Genocide, we waited for the bus to pick us up and take us to Masada, Israel's most popular paid tourist destination.
The tour took us out into Judaean Desert where it was so very very hot. I don't know how the Road Runner and cactuses live out here. We drove past a very inviting Dead Sea out to fortification built on a mountain.
Needs more air-conditioning.
King Herod, or Herod the Great, who was apparently a massive dickhole, built the fortification around 37 BC because he felt like it was a good idea to put his people to work in the middle of a desert on top of a mountain without a crane...or even water.
The site is most famous for the Siege of Masada, a piece of history where 15,000 Romans decided that the 960 rebel Jewish living in Masada (known as the Sicarii) had been living their lofty lifestyle enough and it was time to be slaves to the almighty Roman empire. So, they attacked, and channelling his best Herod, the leader of the Roman Army got his men to build a circumvention wall (basically a protection wall) and then a ramp up the mountain (which took 8 months to build) to attack. Once the ramp was completed, the People's Leader decided the ramp wasn't enough, and thought "let's build a battering ram and get people to push it up an incline of some ridiculous angle".
All this hard work was for nought as when they broke into the citadel they found 960 dead bodies, and their Christmas bonus with it. It turns out that the Jewish rebels had set their citadel ablaze, except the food stores, and had the oh-so-awesome job of killing their family. Then they had people draw names and the remaining 10 would kill each other until one remained who would have to kill himself (apparently a no-no in Jewish faith).
And all the lazy ones had to carry these rocks up the mountain and pile them like so...just kidding
The reason they did this was that they thought they would have a lot more than 960 people to rebel against the Roman's, however since people had better things to do than oppose one of the greatest Empires ever, they decided it was God telling them 'Hey, you did your best but you made a mistake. Best you kill yourself' (classic God). So they did.
Also they didn't want to be slaves.
The site itself is pretty awesome. Still retaining some of the structure and we got to see various, half kept buildings, like a bathhouse, storage room, and got a great view of the desert and Dead Sea.
After Masada, we stopped for lunch at the bottom of the mountain. Although we didn't eat there, it had a McDonalds, because nothing spells burgers and fries than the middle of the desert. We ate our makeshift lunches on the tour van as we headed to our next destination. The lowest point on Earth, the Dead Sea.
The Dead Sea was awesome fun. We got changed into our swim wear and walked down to the Sea, which really should be called 'Salty Lake', since it is neither Dead nor a Sea. We were told that we shouldn't drink the water because it can potentially kill you. Naturally as we were shown how to get in without getting our hands wet (so we could handle anything electronic, like cameras or phones, I promptly splashed and got some of the water on my mouth (not in). Good Lord that stuff is salty.
Positive that I wasn't going to die, I laid back and chilled on the Dead Sea, floating like a discarded shoe. It was amazing but it does feel like you have been swimming in oil afterwards.
So close to walking on water.
After about 10 - 15 minutes in the water, we got to mud up. We slathered ourselves in therapeutic mud, from head-to-toe, doing our best 1930s Bugs Bunny impression and 20-minutes later we washed off the mud and jumped into the sulphur pool. Which was hot, but felt great.
Yep...can see no reason why this was banned
Unfortunately, our tour ended and we headed back to Tel-Aviv. We (two of us and our new Aussie friend) explored the city a bit more before having Subway for dinner and then going our separate ways. We went into our hostel/sauna and slept as best we could in a madhouse.
Day 9 - The setting sun on a new friendship
It kind of sucks that this is our last day in Israel. On one hand, we're moving on to explore new countries, but on the other, we made a good friend and the country is amazing. We awoke early and checked out. Walked a few blocks to our new hotel and waited an hour before being told that it doesn't open until 1pm. But we were able to store our bags inside and meet up with our friend.
Being Saturday and therefore the Sabbath, there wasn't much open but we went for a nice walk on a pretty hot day along places we hadn't explored searching for the Botanical Gardens...which we didn't find.
However we bought some rolls and cheese and some meat I suspect was Turkey and made our own picnic-style lunch at a nearby park in the shade. The tight-ass lunch hit us just where we wanted it and afterwards we headed back to the hotel seeing as it was nearly time to check-in. We waited and watched as the only entrance into the lobby of the hotel was being worked on because there was something wrong with the lock.
Finally we were able to check in and found the rooms good enough, the bed comfortable and it has a fridge and an air-conditioner. All I need.
We got changed and headed to the beach where we relaxed for a bit, did a bit of swimming and headed back for a quick nap (not before going to the supermarket to get some stuff for dinner).
I woke up to find myself impersonating a tomato. Our friend arrived not long after and we sat on the balcony to have a tight-ass dinner of another roll with some sort of turkey with cheese, tomato and lettuce. It was delicious.
We then went for a walk along the beach again and had an ice-cream and, sadly, said our goodbyes to friend as we watched the sun setting and back to the hotel to pack and head off to Jordan tomorrow.
A final thought on Israel. The history, the still established ruins, the old churches (ok, I mentioned churches once), it's all amazing. I'm not even religious but I thoroughly enjoyed our tours through the supposed sites of Jesus and family. Going into Palestine to see where he was supposedly born. It was all interesting, fun, and even in the sweltering heat, enjoyable. Our guides were amazingly informed and entertaining.
Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem are amazing cities and more than I expected. I honestly thought I wouldn't find much to enjoy about them, I even thought Jerusalem was just an ancient city with no inhabitants! but I was completely wrong. It helps we were able to explore it with a friend, it makes a difference and will always remember those memories.
The only downsides is it does look a little dirty and I am pretty sure it is the lung cancer capital of the world, nearly everyone smokes and they treat the streets like an astray. The other disconcerting part is the military members, training or full-time, carry their gigantic BGFs around like it's a handbag. I assume it's not loaded, but standing next to someone carrying a semi-automatic weapon on a tram is something new.
I am looking forward to Jordan, and hope people will go and see Israel.
I didn't take any photos today, so here's one of a camel from yesterday