Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Lowest Point

The lowest point?
Of my trip? There wasn't one.
Of the Earth?
Yes, I made it there.
And it was spectacular.

I heard they're bidding to make the Dead Sea one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. And I really hope they win.
Now this is not just a beautiful travel destination. The caves along the Dead Sea have also housed the Dead Sea scrolls for thousands of years. These scrolls are a great source of knowledge on Judaism and Christianity and shows us the evolutionary link between the two.

I had been wanting to go to the Dead Sea for a long time after having read about it in magazines. It seemed like an exciting place to visit. The perfect blend of exciting and relaxing, if you know what I mean.
And a few weeks after I left Spencer Tunick was going to be doing a photoshoot there. A photoshoot of nude people forming a sort of phalanx over the Dead sea - and call it art. Would you do it?
I checked out the website out of curiousity. Volunteers could sign up and be a part of this event and even 'prepare' for it at weekend parties on Tel Aviv's Carlton beach.

Going to the Dead sea was just magical. Horin picked me up shortly after lunchtime. In a 4 wheel drive. I'm saying that because that's the day I realised that it means a little more than a car with 4 wheels.
Since I hadn't had lunch, we stopped at a gas station along the way. The cashier at the gas station store thought Horin like every other Israeli had traveled to Hodu (Hebrew for India) and had brought me back (as a souvenir?). I picked up some peanut butter chips and peach water and a Magnum icecream - just something to prevent me from being melted away by the non-sympathetic sun.

We drove South in the direction of Be'er Sheva and Eilat (recent terror targets), passed through Arad while being surrounded by nothing but open land on all sides. All I could see were beautiful cloudy shadows cast on the uneven desert. It was surreal enough to form the background of a Dali painting.
We even saw a mini vertical dust storm and a little army base.
I suddenly felt so far away from home. But, in a good way.

Horin played the perfect tour guide and kept showing me little things along the way.
He also stopped to pick fruit from a cactus. I loved his enthusiasm but I'm really not that adventurous. This was seriously not a wise move since I never ate the fruit and he had cactus spines in his fingers for the rest of the day.

Driving through the desert and along the route côtière was breathtaking.
We stopped on the way so I could have ten minutes to just take in the crazy beauty I was surrounded by.
Plus I was going 'Yay! I'm going to the dead sea' in my head all through the journey.

Along the way, we could see signs starting from +500 mtrs and by the time we got there we were at -400 mtrs. This is because about 400 metres below sea level lies the Dead Sea - the World's deepest hypersaline lake.

We reached by mid afternoon and sneaked into a private hotel beach where we enjoyed sipping their ice water and groovy music. I couldn't believe I was there and within 10 seconds I was in my swimsuit and ready to go in for a dip. 

As you walk into the sea, it's a little pebbly but after a few steps you're walking on nothing but salt. The water is slightly oily which makes your skin feels baby soft in seconds. The Dead Sea also has a very high salt content so you won't find any fish swimming around you, since they can't survive in this sort of an environment. And, for this reason, it's called the Dead Sea. I was warned not to put my face in or suddenly try underwater swimming but if you have any cuts or wounds, too bad.

With the high mineral content, it's only natural then that you float. This was so much fun since anyway even when I go swimming, I only float around in the pool. I tried every angle and I still floated. Even on my stomach. It was amazing. I felt like I was in the circus with a safety net.

We then went and bought some mud. I thought I could just pick up mud from near the sea but that's not how it works. I applied the mud and went for my second dip in the sea. We floated around till sunset, watching the colours change over the water. It was nothing less than perfect.

Before leaving, Horin helped me take back some dead sea water as a souvenir. Yes, I was brave enough to carry the dead sea in a water bottle on my flight back and go through terrorist interrogation once again. All I needed to put on was my armour of nonchalance.

We drove back after sunset. It had suddenly become chilly. Above us was the most starry sky I had seen in my life. Enveloped in a blanket of stars made it feel like a festival in the desert.

It was the end of a perfect day.
Too good to be true.


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