Monday, February 27, 2012

The Ultimate Israeli Weekend Roadtrip

553 km/344 miles. All 3 major cities- Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa. The Dead Sea. Masada. The Negev. 1 weekend left. 0 plans. Complete Epicness.

View Driving directions to Tel Aviv District, Israel in a larger map

So last weekend was kind of a bust as far as traveling goes due to weather, so obviously I had to go big and make up for it.  Plus this was my last weekend in Israel and there was so much ground left to cover.  Definitely my best weekend yet, which is good cause it's the last.

I set my alarm for 7:45am on Friday morning, so naturally I woke up at eleven.  Unfortunately missed the amazing hotel breakfast and feeling pretty lethargic from Thursday night.  (So the weekend here is Friday and Saturday and the work week is Sun-Thurs, so Thurs, Fri, and Sat and every other day of the week are the big party nigths here).  Decided to walk to HaCarmel market for breakfast. OMG, overwhelming.  This is what I think of when I think of Middle Eastern bazaars.  Super crowded, extremely narrow, noisy, all this bargaining and money exchanging, Hebrew (and maybe Arabic?) being shouted at me and most of the stuff being sold is pure crap ... and this is coming from me, I love crap.  Anyways still pretty cool.  Got a great marzipan croissant and hamentaschens for breakfast, escaped the market craziness and headed back to my hotel to start the journey.

Floating in the Dead Sea!
So I finally got my shit together and off my ass at 12:30ish and hit the road.  Btw I don't have a GPS and didn't bother printing directions, waste of paper.  At first the lack of GPS was a problem, involving my 30 min drive from work taking 3 hours.  But my general attitude has been "Fuck it! I'll figure it out" and well, I have.  Just like I strongly believe eating dirt as a child has made my immune system stronger, not having a GPS has made my navigational skills and Israel knowledge better. 

After getting a little lost in Jerusalem (missed a turn) and heading towards Ramallah, I finally figured shit out and fortunately was able to get gas at station on the Highway 1 that actually goes through the West Bank as my tank was almost empty and empty tank + desert = fun times.  It's funny cause every gas station has a camel as well.  Really wish I rode one, might have to go back!  

So I made it to the Ein Gedi public beach and the Dead Sea is soooo amazing.  You really float! The public beach was great cause it wasn't touristy or crowded at all and it was free.  But let me warn you, that shit STINGS (when you splash it in your eye) and TASTES DANK! Met two really nice girls who were studying abroad in Jerusalem from Canada and the US and ended up staying in a hostel with them in Ein Gedi and having a great dinner there.  Food never tasted so good!  Then we went to a concert at the Kibbutz down the road where they sang old American songs haha.

Made it to the Dead Sea, Finally!

Rock Hyraxes at the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve

My Little Mazda2 in Front of Masada

Then at the crack of dawn I drove to Masada and climbed it as the sun rose!  So peaceful and spiritual!  No one around to ruin the serenity, best thing I've done yet here with the Dead Sea a very close second.  I explored the ruins and climbed down.  Then it turns out the road back was closed til 11 for a race and the officer didn't speak English .... awesome.  So I just drove.  Stopped in Ein Bobek to see the resorty area of the southern Dead Sea and used the Le Meridian's private beach on the sea.

Ruins atop Masada

Then I drove on hoping I'd eventually see signs to Tel Aviv.  Lots of scenery but it's the desert and I had to go to the bathroom and well, good luck.  Finally stop in Arad and man on Saturday it's a ghost town minus a few old Russian ladies.  But I did learn the word for bathroom, sherootim, super necessary.  Finally beg the lady at some cheap motel to let me use it, as if Arad is so crowded.  Then I continued through the desert and Be'er Sheva, up through Asdod and back.  Saw lots of cheap and Bedouins!  And these...

So I finally make it back and try to go back to Be'er Sheva to skydive but it was too windy :S but nothing stops me from having an adventure, so I called a co worker and drove to Haifa!  Such a cool city built up a hill, reminiscent of SF.  The Bahai Gardens are beautiful!  So many levels that it looks like the city was built around the gardens.  Then we ate awesome hummus at Abu Shaker.  On the ride home, we stopped in Caesarrea to see the Roman ruins in the coastal town.  So beautiful and serene!

Bahai Gardens
Then back in Tel Aviv for good at 7pm, ready to crash and get ready for work Sunday (the work week is Sun-Thurs) and then I get a call from my coworkers that we are going out, no excuses.  So we raged and sang karaoke and raged some more and then got pizza.  Back at 3 am, only to run into another coworker riding home from his evening. So we went out for another drink....  Then I went to work the next day. Yea that's Tel Aviv for you.  Sunday was rough.

More adventures to come, fingers crossed!  Cheers!


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