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 Three – The Arava, Timna Park to Ir Ovot
Editor’s Note. Originally this article contained pictures that were external links. Unfortunately these no longer work and the images have been lost.
The first time I went to Timna Park, was with a friend, who drove me there in his car, just to see where it is, and after about 20 minutes of driving in the park, we drove out.
The next morning, on my scooter, I left Eilat very early and saw the pointer-sign to Timna Park, and after a bit of wondering, decided to go in again and stay about 1 hour or so. After paying at the entrance and getting a brochure in English, I went to see the excellent video presentation at the cinema, and after an excellent video on a big screen, I now had a better idea of what is there.
I was the only person inside the park at that early hour, and at the Bedouin tent the kitchen staff said they would make breakfast for me in 30 minutes. I strolled around the lake and looked in at the different facilities, and drove around to nearby places on the scooter, taking in the magnificent scenery and absolute silence. AWESOME !
I returned to the breakfast which was enough things to eat for 4 people, and the staff, (with virtually no English), fussed over me as though I was a king, and when I was finished they packed all the food into plastic containers for me to take-away.
A few workers were arriving and 3 men who watched me scootering around, invited me for coffee and chat in their tiny office, (a converted container with airconditioner and refrigerator full of food and bottles of water etc.) When I mentioned it was my birthday that day, they insisted that I drink coffee with them and out of the refrigerator came cookies and biscuits, another marvellous party.
They were mainly in charge of the Tabernacle and other places that needed maintenance. (None of the rangers or staff had ever seen an older man riding a scooter at Timna, so my scooter was a talking-point.) Bikers on big motor-cycles do go there. A personal guided tour at the Tabernacle was an eye-opener with full explanations, then they gave me some tips for the other places I should visit where a lot of walking is necessary, and they told me of short-cuts and staff parking places where I could leave the scooter, and that would reduce the walking.
The many steps that need to be climbed were not for me, but still the entire place is full of surprises, and always in this wonderful desert surrounded by these cliffs and mountains and fresh-air and peace.
Many vehicles and some buses were arriving and now lots of people all over the places, looking, climbing, hiking, sailing on the lake and just doing their thing, and I had stayed 6 hours. Again I know that future visits are needed, and also to climb a few of those steps and do some slow walking.
101 INN is exactly 101 kms from Taba Border crossing, where route 13 meets route 90 at Menukha Junction.
At the end of one of the earlier wars, some high ranking officers in IDF were given an opportunity to receive some land, and this place was chosen by an IDF officer (hero) connected to parachuting, and paragliding, plus, He was in “parachute company number 101. Once he paraglided into Jordan and the then King of Jordan “saluted” him.
There are animal shows and a small museum and also b/b available, and much more…a very popular stopping place. and a wonderful adventure-place for children which includes animal rides, and an amusement park, as well as many eating kiosks. Buses carrying tourists from all over the world stop there. (to and from Eilat).
Anybody visiting 101 can see his parachute at the entrance into one of the “shows”, and should ask to read newspaper articles, especially a full page story from City Lights (an insert magazine in the Jerusalem Post at that time).
A few lines about a few places in the Arava.
I spent 3 days scootering around down south, visiting and seeing places, in the Arava Valley, sleeping 2 nights in b / b at Moshav Ein Yahav run by Rina, very pleasant accomodation, and an excellent breakfast brought to the room. Her husband Gidi, took me in his jeep, for a personal guided-tour of the moshav, and explained many interesting facts about growing fruit and flowers and vegetables, under cover in greenhouses, and the land allotted to each family for living area and growing areas, most interesting.
He explained about the usage of water allocated by computers and about the different crops that are grown. I learned a lot from him. He also took me to a monument on high ground, which has English explanations, written on metal plaques, about these places.
I rode on the Peace Route [ Derech Hashalom] going north, thru Ein Yahav and along desert areas, and visited the Australian monument, which is situated close to a friendly border with Jordan, and under a covered pergola, many interesting facts about the area, are explained in English on metal plates, and a wild fox scampered away, not wanting to be photographed.
Riding into Idan, I saw 2 men on motorbikes, chatting, they welcomed me to their moshav and also gave me some explanations about the crops and other information. I rode around a few streets and found this incredible red-flowered tree, then on the way out, I saw the signboard with the story about The Peace Route.
Then a few minutes ride back to Route 90. (By the way, on a previous trip in the rented car, I asked a woman standing at the bus stop, if there are some things to see at those places down the road, and she replied that there is nothing much, only a couple of farms.) Oh boy, was she wrong, maybe only 1000 things and stories at those places down there.
A short ride and I was at Ir Ovot also known as Biblical Tamar, this time [being my third visit], I met with Ernst who is a volunteer who does all sorts of maintenance and carpentry and builds things all around the places. He gave me a tour and showed me the 2300 year-old tree, and explained about the archeological diggings, and the buildings, and he showed me where the volunteers, (mainly from U.S.A.) stay when they come to attend to many projects.
He also showed me a video about how a hot-water well was discovered nearby, and he took me in his mini bus to the source a couple of kilometers up the road, and he showed me the pipes that brings natural hot water to an open-air bath in an enclosed area in the grounds of Ir Ovot. I see that everything is of a great deal of interest. Ernst then introduced me to Asher who is the manager of the complex and he handles the volunteers and visitors. I am hoping to volunteer for some days, and do what I can at that most interesting place.
A tiny ride to Ein Hatzeva to the filling station and self-serve restaurant, outside the moshav fence, where I met the drivers of 2 red Ferrari’s which was doing some sort of rally around Israel.
While riding inside the moshav En Hatzeva I saw peacocks strutting freely in the street, showing off their magnificent feathers. There is a lovely small zoo behind a fence, with an assortment of animals, a very lovely peaceful place.
A ride further south and I came upon a sign, with arrows pointing into the Sapir industrial site to the premises of Dr. Green and Fountain of Youth, so I took a ride in. I saw a long building, and at the far end a lovely garden setting with a fairly large parking lot. Dr. Green is a company that sells Natural-health products and has a big showroom in the building, and includes a lovely Chinese Restaurant.
I had a nice chat with Dari, who works in the showroom, but were disturbed by tour buses arriving and passengers wanting to be served. I had a plate of Wotnot soup then walked to the Fountain of Youth, and watched the water flowing down rocks into a pool, another very lovely peaceful place.
Then a short ride into the Kibbutz Sapir, where I found the delightful Chen in the tourist office, she gave me a coffee and some maps and some good information about many nearby places, and introduced me to her twin sister who works in the next office. Sometimes I get the best information at the end of a visit, and that begins the planning of future trips to other places not yet seen in the Arava Valley areas.
Now, we take a break, while I will tell you about my first and second visits to Ir Ovot. I drove away from Netanya early on a Saturday, (in rented car), and doing some sightseeing driving around with many stops, and taking a really l-ooo-n-g roundabout route to get to Masada (hostel). Through Yerocham on road 225 and a lovely scenic road to “coloured sands”,a fascinating place to take some red and yellow and other colored sand. ( I suggest you take empty bottles). And then on to road 227, which has some lovely viewsites, and breathtaking scenery from viewsites, and a few memorials that need climbing up steps.
Then driving down the steep descent to the bottom of the scenic road, I saw a small sign pointing to Ir Ovot , (very close to the junction, where Road 90 sign points north to Dead Sea and south to Eilat.) That is where Ir Ovot is, and when I drove in I saw a few isolated buildings and some caravans (permanent) and some archeological excavations. I walked around a little in this seemingly deserted place, and as I was driving out, I saw a lady open the door of a caravan, and we spoke a while.
Mary explained about the place that was once an agricultural kibbutz, and that over time and circumstances, the excavations and the pottery discoveries, became the main function of the place and that the pottery idols and artifacts found there are now in famous museums. She invited me to walk around to see all the excavations and diggings, but as it was late afternoon and the sun was setting, so I drove on to the Youth Hostel at Masada.
I returned the following week, and had a fantastic personal guided tour with Mary, who is not a young lady and has been a volunteer at Ir Ovot for many years. Ir Ovot is currently looked after by volunteers mainly from the USA. A very fascinating person, in a very fascinating place, full of interesting excavation sites and history, and her experiences and knowledge will force me to return for another guided tour.
Louis the Scooterer is 69 years old and it sounds like he’s just getting started.