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 Six – Dead Sea and Beyond. Still aiming North, but with a backtrack Southward.
OKAY, we finally have to leave Masada, but lets quickly go to the cableway complex for a final look, and a fruit juice drink at the open air fruit juice stall on this large terrace outside.. (have cameras ready..) great juices and great views.
So, when you leave one place, before you blink your eyes many times, you are at the next place, this time the Kibbutz Mitzpe Shalem, also with these magnificent views and also the home of ARAVA beauty products, and has a lovely large cafetaria and shop. Inside the shop we were shown a video about the area and the products, and every day (exept Saturday) you can watch the factory machinery and workers through glass windows. As always the people are so friendly, and a continuous flow of buses and cars bring the visitors.
Metsukey Dragot, Hooray, finally, Oh well, on yet another follow-up visit on a beaut day (a Saturday morning) the weather fantastic, and travelling in a rent car, with a young man who comes from India, to work for short periods in hi-tec in Netanya. We drove into this magic place on top of the mountain, and immediately saw a group of young people sitting on a terrace, drinking cool drinks and drinking in the scenery of the Dead Sea, and the mountains.
We found the reception/entrance into to a lovely big coffeeshop, a big room with a big counter with stools and the other walls have low chairs with cushions and the tv set, and a door to the terrace. Here, Leah welcomed us and explained that this is a “hosting village”, that is always full to capacity on a Friday night, and also many religious people come to enjoy and relax…the full Saturday. Others come to climb and hike and do rappeling and mountain stuff, others come just to meditate, and walk on the mountain paths and climb rocks and also has a lovely play area for children. Then a couple of hours after sunset [on Saturday] the place almost empties and the weekenders travel away, relaxed, to their homes, (could be anywhere in Israel).
Anyway the 1 young lady and 3 fellows on the terrace gave us much info about their lifestyles and homes and jobs and their travels and their plans and hopes, and 1 single ibex perched on a high rock was “performing” for us. A large round low building is for “getting together”, also on the “other side” a bedouin tent, looks exactly as you may imagine from a bible story, where you sit on rugs and cushions and sip tiny cups of tea.
Certainly I will be back to sleep-over and have breakfast, in this magic place where you can see the sunrise and the sunset from the same spot. A couple of hours flew by and it was time to leave.
A few kms up the road at a sign “Ovnat” is this “out of this world” restaurant, made from a large container, with some colourful signs, and here I had my “best freshly made sandwich” and sat in the “middle-of-nowhere” eating and drinking, and seeing the scenery. After a visit to the most unbelievable toilet/building, then we need to carry on.
A few more scenic kms with sea on our right we see a high nondescript fence that you dont give a second glance ?
At the end of this fence is a sign pointing to the sea, and we turn in to Einot Tzukim (Ein Fashkha) for a visit and a walking lesson never to be forgotten.
We have a swim in a man made pool that is fed with fresh water from stream from the mountain. No filtration plant here, fresh water flows in from a stream, then flows out the other side to make its way into the dead sea. The place caters for picnickers and campers and hikers and outdoor types who love “roughing it”…nothing unusual about that, and some days during summer holidays, and Jewish festival days there will be thousands of people around this “open area”, loving the heat and what comes with that. (of course much garbage at the end of the day.)
The closed area [not open for the public] is called “The Hidden Reserve” and small groups are taken on a tour through this absolute paradise, which has many types of trees and shrubs and flowers and much of interest, also a large pond that is fed with fresh water from underground, that pond also has “fresh water fish” that have been introduced, just a few meters from the saltiest water on the planet. AMAZING, [ well done rangers. NO mess here.] The walking tour shows where the water line was in recent years and how the sea has receded, and current water edge is quite a distance from the road. A good tour with much information and I was amazed that the small children already know so much about nature. At the end of the tour we say our goodbyes to the people and the guides, and back on the road we now stop at a small sign (that we never saw before, that the rangers told us to look for) that shows the water level (painted on a rock) of about 100 years earlier. AGAIN AMAZING.
Also amazing is the friendliness of all the different rangers and guards that work there. My personal hat off to Adi who I met the first time when I was there on my scooter.(2001) Then on a later visit together with my daughter from South Africa, (2003) he gave the 2 of us a private guided tour through that magic “Hidden Reserve”.
Digressing for a moment , that, when together with another daughter and husband, also from S.A. we visited (on my birthday) April 2005, and found this unbelievable large crowd, we hung around quite a while, then left without seeing Adi and not visiting the hidden reserve) that was the busiest day of the “high season”, and probably the day with the most flies and probably the biggest mess to clean up… (cant win em all !)
A short drive to “Lido” where the regional council offices are, filling station and a coffee and eats place and a few pictures later we get going south again. (This is the “lowest point” on the planet (and for our trip) its the furthest point going north that we do on this plan, then we head back south.) reasons become clear, later
NOW, going south again a quick pop-in to Kibbutz Kalia, which also has b / b facilities and also own the date plantations across the road. We are invited into the dining room for a cuppa and a chat. Also on their kibbutz, is…
QUMRAN – is the place where in 1947, some Bedouin boys found unbroken pottery inside the caves, which contained the Dead Sea Scrolls, and now some areas have been excavated and ancient ruins found which tells the story of how it was living there in those times. On paying your entrance fee and receiving a brochure you go into an auditorium to watch a video about the place, then explore at the open excavations. A couple of hours with cameras, and imagination, and then some refreshments in the new complex with this shop and cafetaria. Dont look at your watches coz guaranteed the time has flown…so pleasantly ?
Now we have the return drive (south) and pop in to Mineral Beach for a quick look and a quick drink, ( this area also belongs to Mitspe Shalem where we went to Ahava shop.) We will be driving for a couple of hours til we get to Ein Bokek, (time for a short nap and to catch up on reading some of the brochures), and sightseeing, and a few stops to see the same views from different spots. Some rock sculptures on the side of the road commands us to stop for pictures, then a couple more stops at several bridges and viewsites, and finally we leave road 91 and go on scenic Road 31 up to Arad. (Now you can see why we backtracked south.)
Louis the Scooterer is 69 years old and it sounds like he’s just getting started.