Ah, Monday morning, we woke refreshed … not! Chris, Becky and I woke about 1:30am and didn’t fall back to sleep until about 4:30, while Sammi woke at 4:30 and apparently never fell back to sleep (a fact she would not let us forget throughout the day). I woke the next time about 7:20. As breakfast is only served in the hotel until 9:00am, I figured I’d better get going as it could take the girls almost until 9 to get ready on a bad morning.
Out of the shower, Chris moves slowly as Sammi gets in the shower and Becky remains semi-comatose. Finally, we’re all out the door and down in the breakfast room by 8:15 or so, not too bad. We all scan the buffet and settle in with some simple selections (eggs for Kim, some sort of grit-like dish for Becky, some cookie cereal – can’t remember the name now – for Sammi, and a whole bunch of stuff for Chris). Three of us power through two pots of coffee (left on the table) and one fuels up with chocolate milk before we’re out the door and waiting in the lobby for our guide.
Yes, if I haven’t mentioned, we hired a guide again for this trip. We were going to do it on our own this time but neither of us had the time to put into the planning/research needed before hand and we didn’t want to “wing it” for fear of not giving Sammi the experience she deserved. Our instructions said our guide, Moshe, would arrive after breakfast – we weren’t sure what that meant but we waited.
I also have to tell you, Becky had an issue with us being in the desert and our guide being Moshe. Her thought, “the last time Moshe led people through the desert, they were lost for forty years.” Turns out though, our Moshe knows his way around (and if not, I can now tell you that route 90, goes all the way from Eilat to the northernmost reaches of Israel, so if you want out of the desert, follow I90 North (i.e., keep the dead sea to your right). Anyway, Moshe came in and introduced himself to us and we were off.
We headed north to Masada, getting acquainted as went. Moshe drove us around in a 7 passenger van, like the one we used on our last trip. It’s not far to Masada, and before you know it, we’re parked and heading upstairs to get our tickets. On our last trip, we took the tram to the top and Sammi wanted to climb the snake path this time, so that was first on our list.
Perhaps it should say, "Abandon Hope all Ye Who Enter Here"
Moshe pointed us on the correct path, warned us about the importance of drinking plenty of water (did I mention that he pilfered one from the gift shop for me as we left my water bottle at breakfast), and sent us on our way.
Not long into the walk, we spied a Marmot, prairie dog, well some sort of animal perched on a rock above us.
As we approached, it scurried across the path in front of us, and hid behind a rock below.
We continued to climb.
It was sunny. It was hot. And I am not in the shape I was in 15 months ago, so this was not an easy feat, which left me frustrated and angry; I cannot lie. I rested often and took pleasure in the fact that there were men and women, younger than me, with less poundage on their bodies, panting and sweating up the hill. I reminded myself that exactly one year earlier, I was sitting in a room, having chemotherapy pumped through my veins, and now I was outside on an incredibly beautiful day, climbing to the top of one of the most historically charged sites I’d ever visited (even if this was my third time). I climbed, I rested, I silently took pleasure in the misfortune of others, and in 55 minutes (with resting), we climbed over a mile, and 750 steps.
Snake Path from about 2/3 of way
Moshe was waiting for us at the top. He took the tram.
We rested a bit, refilled our water bottles and began our tour of Masada. Each time I visit this once, fortress of Herod, where the Jews made a last stand against the Romans, I learn something new. Today, among other things, I learned about the water collection system used for the palace. There are 7 (or was it 17) huge cisterns throughout Masada, and canals dug from the mountain down to the fortress that diverted rainwater to these cisterns. We saw two, one we thought was huge, and one that truly was and learned of another that was four times bigger than the huge one. Unbelievable. There’s even a model by the “water gate” that demonstrates how the water collection system works.
We also were once again struck by the similarity between the actuality of the palace at Masada and the design of the White City of Gondor in the Return of the King movie; yes we are geeks.
Model of Masada (aka Gondor)
The remaining mosaics on the walls and tiling on the floor always amaze me too.
Remaining Wall Fresco
The other thing I learned is that Moshe likes birds. He brought stuff with him and was feeding them throughout our walk. These birds are indigenous to Masada.
We rode the tram, packed with people, down, and along the way decided to not visit Ein Gedi and hike to the falls as we had originally planned. Sammi wanted time to sit by the Sea and visit the hotel pools, so instead we stopped for lunch at the restaurant belonging to the Ein Gedi Kibbutz and the funniest thing happened, we ran into a girl from our synagogue; she also goes to school with Becky. She was visiting Israel with her aunt, a bat mitzvah present.
Lunch was fine – cafeteria style, plentiful. Chris, Becky and I had a spicy meat type sausage with fries, Sammi, a plate of spaghetti with a bland tomato sauce and Moshe, some roast chicken. That along with a plate of hummus, olives and pita and drinks we paid about 170NIS (roughly $44) for the five of us (Moshe snagged us some 5% off coupons before we went through the line).
After lunch, back to the hotel we went, a quick change later and we were down at the hotel’s beach along the Dead Sea. Having done the sea twice, I really felt no compulsion to go in but the girls and Chris did so I stayed on the shore with Becky’s camera to photograph it.
Chris on the Dead Sea
Becky and Sammi Dead Sea
After they got their fill of the Sea, we decided to head inside (as the sun sets early, especially since it sets behind mountains to the west – oh and of course there is some argument as to whether or not these are truly mountains as they start so far below sea level), and visit the hotel’s indoor, heated pool, which is filled with water from the Sea. This time I went in and it’s totally incredible – almost hard to walk in it, and you actually have to force your feet to stay on the floor of the pool. Becky and I joked with a turn on that “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” commercial, to “I’ve risen and I can’t get down” and then of course, we looked at each other and laughed hysterically (she’s so her grandma’s grandchild). If you don’t get that … well …
The hotel also has all sorts of spa treatments, which we opted not to pay for but we did visit the sulfur pool (not realizing there was a 55NIS charge, which we didn’t pay because someone let us in). By the time we returned to our rooms and showered, it was close to five, so the girls and I went to Aroma for some drinks and Internet access while Chris went for a run.
Then it was off to dinner at the same restaurant from last night (tuna salad for me, St. Peter’s fish for Chris, and two pizzas for the girls, along with an appetizer platter and two beers – I’ll have to check with Chris as to the cost). Followed all that up with gelato and then back to the girls’ room where we watched UP (squirrel! – Again, if you don’t get that, well …)