Today was a day on the move. We had breakfast and finished packing up and took all of our stuff down to the bus. They loaded our bags on and we loaded our bodies on and off we went. We went in a new direction today and didn’t go through Jerusalem. We headed to Jericho and the Judean wilderness. The group split up with those of us able to hike dropped off in the Judean wilderness in the Wadi Qelt. It was a terrific hike! This was the first time that one of Jeff and Janet’s tour group has been able to hike since it is usually raining there or in Jerusalem which causes flash flooding. But the day was sunny and clear and absolutely beautiful. Glenn had forgotten to get his hat out so we pulled together our meager funds that were not left on the bus and he got him a head scarf wrapped around his head by a Bedouin. We first got to a monastery in the middle of nowhere, where we refilled our water and emptied our bladders. We hiked on in a beautiful area of hills and valleys with steep ravines. IT was rocky and several times we had to climb up areas on the path. All in all it was about 3 miles and took us a little under 2 hours. It reminded Glenn and I of our Grand Canyon hike but much shorter and infinitely easier. When we finished up we met up with the bus at an area by the remains of Herod the Great’s palace from the 1st century.
We drove through Jericho and saw the sights on our way lunch. We rode a cable car up the Mt. of Temptation for lunch. It was a good lunch of several salads and meats. Some hiked up a little ways to another of the 5 monasteries left in Israel. There used to be 42 monasteries. Others of us, me included, sat in the sunshine and chatted and relaxed. After a bit we rode the cable car down and got back on the bus.
Next stop was the Jordan River and the sight of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist. It was much smaller than I imagined and that it used to be. It was very muddy and cold. We rolled our pants up and stuck our feet in. We read the scripture of the baptism and enjoyed the moment there before we put our shoes back on and headed back to the bus.
The Dead Sea was our next stop. On the way there, the road was lined with barbed wire fence and signs on the fence warning of land mines beyond the fence, very welcoming! When we got there we got off the bus and many changed into their swimsuits there to get in. Glenn did but I chose to just get my feet in. We all walked down to the Dead Sea and it was very cool. You could tell how far down the water was due to several factors…evaporation, water being diverted to settlements, lack of rainfall, and Israelis taking the water to make their Dead Sea skin care products. It was very weird feeling water. It left your hands feeling oddly slick. The edge of the sea had salt crystals of different sizes and it was slimy muddy. People had trouble getting in and out of the water but once in the floated way up in the water. When people got out where the water had dried they were very salty looking and had to immediately go rinse off. Some people were rubbing the mud all over their bodies and it was fun to watch people trying to get out. After rinsing and changing again we headed back on the bus for our 2 hour drive to Nazareth where we will be staying the night.
On our way we saw a line of camels being herded by a man on a donkey. We also passed through a check point and had 2 armed Israelis walk through the bus checking us out. I guess we didn’t look threatening because they went on through. The long drive, 2 hours, was a nice break. People talked, read, and Glenn and some others previewed some of the pictures Glenn has taken. All in all a pleasant trip.
Our hotel here in Nazareth is our first night in Israel and not Palestine. Here we can drink the water because it is all filtered. Our room is fine but cooler and the heater doesn’t work as well. Oh well. Dinner was good here at the hotel. We did have nice fresh fruit for dessert which was nice. We are very tired and achy after such a physical day. Going to bed early because tomorrow is another full day!