By Louis the Scooterer
The travels of Louis the Scooterer, a retired former South African who has found an unusual way of getting to know Israel.
Part Five – Ein Gedi
Editor’s Note: This article was originally assembled using external links to all photos, which no long work. Apologies for all the missing pictures.
After many hours on top of Masada, ending with a visit to the shop to buy mementos, then a bed “anywhere in any place” is most welcome, and a cup of coffee and a chair under some palm trees is magnificent ! Thats the way it was at the “old hostel”, in the old rustic single-story building tucked away at the bottom of the mountain, and closed in by trees and shrubs and flowers, and in my opinion had “everything”, and was most charming. Also I was happy to meet some young South African volunteers who worked there, who gave me some of their time, and told me how they enjoy working at the hostel, and they also see some of the country.
Obviously, with progress and future planning, and the large groups of Israeli schoolchildren, and tourists from all over the world, that sleep over, eventually outgrew the “too small” premises, and the new sparkling modern building is now in demand.
The new complex has several floors and has elevators, and blends in with the landscape, and the beautiful views of the stark desert scenery is breathtaking, and the design of the building allows the magic scenery to be seen from many vantage points including the large dining-room and many balconies and from the rooms and dormitories as well.
The breakfast laid on in this great dining room has a variety of salads and herrings and cheeses and creams and cereals and breads and everything one eats at breakfast, beautifully laid out.
(On one occasion when I was the only person sleeping there on a Saturday night, the dining room should not have opened on that Sunday morning, but early that morning, a “plan was made”, and some kitchen staff from Ein Gedi Youth Hostel, drove down and prepared for me this breakfast, truly fit for a king, and attention like that can never be forgotten.)
Every meter and every minute the scenery changes, and every photo taken is a fantastic picture, whether in the shimmering heat of summer, or in the gray dark cloudy days of rainy season in winter.
On to Ein Gedi SPA where I gave myself a treat, and spent a few marvelous hours in the indoor facility that has sulfur pools and resting lobbies and indoor pools with more resting lobbies, and you hire a towel and a locker and “everything” is available including a shuttle-bus that took me close to the Dead Sea water, where I swam, ooops sorry, I “floated” on the hot salty water and then covered my body with black mud for a while then showered at outdoor showers, and traveled the shuttlebus back to the complex. More indoor swimming and pampering and more resting, then something to eat in the cafeteria.
Then on the road again, another few kilometers to Ein Gedi. ( Kibbutz, Youth hostel, Field School, Public beach, gas station and the MANY places to visit in that area).
Ein Gedi is an area I suppose can be described as a “world of its own”, and has Ein Gedi Kibbutz, well known for beautiful botanical gardens, beautiful sparkling blue swimming pool, and top market hotel accommodation, and is built high up on a ridge and has beautiful views in all directions.
At the Sea, a well looked after public beach and public amenities, restaurant, gas station and picnic spots, and all main tourist buses stop there, and people sit in the shade and eat their picnic meals. Then on the opposite side a few hundred meters into the valley, is David’s Stream with waterfall, and close by is the ancient Synagogue with original mosaics, and many ibex that perch on the rocks, and Ein Gedi Youth Hostel and Ein Gedi Field School.
ALL of these places have many stories, but here I try to give a couple of “must” tips…
1). A must, is take a walk to the waterfall and take a plunge under the falling water and shout loud that you “love it” while the ibex watch you !
2). A must, is a visit to the Field School behind the Youth Hostel which has a museum and a beautiful large lawn from where you can “drink-in-the-scenery” while the ibex watch you early in the morning when they walk on the lawns as though they own the place.
3). Another must is a swim/float in the Dead Sea at the Ein Gedi public beach.
I spent 2 nights at the Youth Hostel in Ein Gedi, and had 2 breakfasts in the bright airy dining room that looks on to the Dead Sea, also built in a beautiful setting, and very popular with tourists from overseas, and having seen and visited many stunning places including the waterfalls and the kibbutz gardens, and the Ancient Synagogue, and other interesting places and viewsites.
I then decided to go and “have-a-look” at the Field School above the hostel, a beautiful place in the mountain, lovely views and shady trees on a large green lawn and benches to sit on. When I learned that they also have hostel type room accommodation, I immediately booked-in for 2 nights.
A couple of highlights were meeting a group of students from Haifa University, 4 fellas and a girl who invited me to have coffee with them, and they told me many interesting stories about themselves. One chap, Dani had previously worked in a main tourist hotel and was given a “travel book” by a visitor who was checking out. Dani posted that book to me as a gift, and I consult that excellent gift often.
Later a group of Christians from South Africa, who were touring Israel [ in a 55 seater bus and a 14 seater minibus ] put on their colorful”Lesotho outfits” and did some “African folk-dancing” on the magnificent lawns of the field-school grounds, while the ibex family stood at cliff-edge watching them dancing and singing.
I was there with a young chap, Warren, from S.Africa who was working as a volunteer at the Youth Hostel, who earlier persuaded me to take a slow walk to the waterfall, and play in the water, while the other ibex family watched us. After watching the dancers, Warren and I were invited to join the group at the EIN GEDI beach and to share their lunches, so we had about 6 lunches with different small groups.
And the pleasant “happenings” just continue, coz later that evening another invitation to go with a couple (sister and brother ) to see the “Masada at night – light and sound” show, a very long drive through Arad to the “back of Masada” to see this excellent “show”, from this large outdoor “theater”. The show is on only once-a-week, and is with lights and sounds and smoke, and with the headphones in English giving the full description. Then the long drive back. And that’s how the stories grow, AND THAT IS HOW THE DAYS FLY BY.
At every place I chat with the workers and office staff and local tourists, and tourists from all over the world, and every chat is a story, and all these wonderful stories would take hundreds of hours to relate.
Has anyone been to Metsokei Dragot ?
I saw the sign on route 90 a few kms north of Ein Gedi, and took a ride up the scenic winding narrow road, a few kilometers to the top, a tiny enclosed area with a few homes and buildings, next to a tower lookout, and incredible 360 degree views of horizon, desert, mountains and Dead Sea.
The place is world-famous for “rough mountaineering”and hard-hiking and snappelling and climbing etc.. I was there to see the sunrise, and did not try to wake any people up for conversation and an explanation. I saw a couple of small children playing, but they did not speak English, SO I knew I would return another time !
My follow-up visit a couple of months later, in the rent car, was on a rainy day and the road was partly under water in places, and visibility was poor, SO I made a U-turn. SO, in my planning, my next visit will be on a sunny day, in the middle of the morning, and I hope to find someone to give me some explanations ?
Something to look forward to.
Louis the Scooterer is 69 years old and it sounds like he’s just getting started.