Greetings from Masada in Israel. We've been busy bees since you last heard from me. From Bethlehem we had our same driver take us to Jericho, which is the lowest city on earth, at 200 meters below sea level, and also the oldest continuously populated city on earth. The highlight of Jericho is its cable car that runs up the Mount of Temptation where Jesus was tempted by the devil for forty days and nights. I only lasted about an hour. From Jericho we were headed to Ramallah, but Walid said it was too far/expensive for him to take us so he dropped us at a bus stop and we went back into Jerusalem and got another bus to Ramallah. We spent the afternoon drinking terrible coffee and eating cheap falafels before meeting our couchsurfing hosts. Travel Tip: don't let both traveling companions sleep on a bus at the same time only to wake up in a random Palestinian neighborhood.
After our adventures in Palestine we decided to head out to the dead sea and surround deserts. With tours running almost $100 per person we thought it best to rent a car at $90 for three days. We drove to spot on the Dead Sea called Qalia and did the obligatory floating and mud basking. Jerod was able to confirm that it is indeed saltier than the Great Salt Lake. From Qalia we drove down the coast to En Gedi (also on the Dead Sea). We picked up an Italian couple hitch-hiking and drove them down the coast a bit. Luckily we found a store open on Shabbat to buy some food for camping out and went to a beach on the Dead Sea with free camping. Apparently it was also the night for every young adult in the area to show up and see who could play music the loudest and latest. At 10 PM, with no sign of sleep on the horizon, we decided to get an early start on our day. We broke our camp and loaded some day packs with some food, water, and our sleeping bags. We snuck into the National Park and made a star-lit ascent of Mt Yishay (about 2000 ft). At the top we camped out for the rest of the night, finally out of earshot of terrible arabic techno music.
We woke to the sun rising over the Dead Sea and headed out for the desert plateau. We hiked around for several hours before choosing the trail labeled as the most difficult descent. We made it safely into a lush river valley and cooled off swimming under a waterfall, ala shampoo commercial. Now I am sitting in a Youth Hostel in Masada. we are getting up a little before 5 AM to climb Masada and see the sun rise again.
From here we are headed to Eilat on the Red Sea (Red, Dead, and Med). We will make a stop in the Negev Desert on the way and Maybe get some camping in. From Eilat we will cross into Aqaba, Jordan and begin our Quest for the Holy Grail in Petra.
Until next time......