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 Seven – Dead Sea, The Back of Masada, and Arad.
We’re almost at the point where we take route 31, and we can just stop on the bridge and take pictures of Ein Bokek and the Dead Sea and the mountains in Jordan… and more important pictures of the mountains and stark environment right in front of us.
Then we start the scenic route uphill, finished with route 90 now on 31, and have your cameras ready for casual shots while driving… then after a couple of kilometers we stop at this viewsite with magnificent views of the Dead Sea and highway below us, and way in the horizons in 3 directions… once an Air Force transport plane passed by at eye level a few hundred meters from my nose ( I never possessed a camera at that time), and for a few seconds that plane gave me an unbelievable command performance ! and please don’t add to the mess already here you—yes you ! Place your garbage in to the garbage cans PLEASE.
Okay we travel a few hundred meters up to the next observation point for more pics of more magnificent views, and perhaps you will notice that many drivers will drive as quickly as possible and maybe will see nothing… now we climb again, and again have your cameras ready coz I may not be able to stop at the place where several motor bikes are placed as memorials to the drivers who got killed on that dangerous curve, and again we climb.
I will make a U turn and stop at a spot where only very few people will have seen this memorial on the other side of the “fence” — that has a “toy petrol tanker inside a round wheel” and the real truck at the bottom in the ravine…a couple of hundred meters down, rusting away over the years…..and then into Arad.
Digressing for a while, While sitting drinking coffee with some “friends” in Netanya… I mentioned I’m planning a trip to stay at Youth hostel in ARAD… Those ”friends” could tell me nothing about the place — but one of them said it is an “arid desert place”??
SO, when I rode in and came to the hostel, I was very lucky to get a [very simple] map at the hostel office… and off I went to explore. (Before the town was established it may surely have been “arid desert”, but this lovely town that came about, and still “grows” is built in an area where the climate is superb all round),
So I found a few viewsites and monuments and interesting looking buildings.. (the simple) map gave no details or explanations, and when I saw a sign “MASADA” I decided to ride there… NOW this is a quiet desert road with nothing to be seen and after a while I came across an oasis with lots of high palm trees, surrounded by a sturdy high wooden fence, and when I rode up to the gate I heard many dogs barking and when no one came.
I continued on the deserted desert road and eventually arrived at Masada, this is the back of Masada, and I saw 1 car at the tiny “office”— the ranger welcomed me with ice water and coffee and explained the place to me, and since I do NOT climb mountain paths… I didnt stay long.
I did learn that a “light and sound” show happens at that place at night with lights and music and explosions and smoke and is explained in your language with headfones…(That happens only Tuesday nights).
I left after a while and back at the high fenced oasis, the dogs were still barking, so I rode back into Arad, to a petrol station, then bought some supper at the supermarket, and back to the dormitory bed, in a tiny room with 2 beds, the other chap kindly pointed that he will sleep on the top bunk, and as he spoke not even one word of English and neither a word of Hebrew… and I knew nothing in Italian, we didnt speak, but the communication was excellent.
After a good nite sleep and I was up and out very early to find an unbelievable sunrise, standing on top of a cliff at this very large monument, awe inspiring… then back to hostel for breakfast.
A little later I found the town hall, who directed me to the Visitors Centre, a lovely series of offices and rooms as a museum and then MY BIG SURPRISE. The pretty young lady in charge led me into the auditorium, and on the floor had a very large model of all the mountain ranges in the entire Dead Sea area.While watching a video on many screens describing the area, and the geography and where animals roam — lights from the ceiling shine on the mountains that are being shown on the screen, then when the areas rainfall was ON the screen, then drops of water (from hosepipes on the ceiling” fell on the model, and the lights showed the “rain falling”. That simple feature I will always remember ARAD.
Another of the many places that I visited, was Tel Arad, a few kms away, which has this large fort and takes plenty of walking. Later while enjoying a coffee at the Bedouin tent cafetaria, I learned a little about the place from the pretty red-head ranger, and when I mentioned my painful knee, I was given permission to ride my scooter right up INTO the 5000 year old Canaanite City.
And now we will fill-er-up at the gas station, and drink a coffee…. and continue… into the following chapter.
Louis the Scooterer is 69 years old and it sounds like he’s just getting started.