While getting to travel to the different venue sites, we often do not take enough time to really get acquainted with the culture and learn about the place itself. This time around, we were convinced differently as we were so close to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, a once in a life time opportunity! After finishing up the Israeli nationals, placing 4th, we jumped in our rental car along with the Australian Team and headed on a journey south. Our eyes were glued to the windows of the car as we got a taste of what the “real” Israel was. We were taken aback by how diverse the landscape was, driving though barren desert one second and green fertile land the next. Some highlights of our travels were seeing non domesticated camels, the biggest guns we have ever seen and a text message saying “Welcome to Jordan” making us immediately question our navigator!
Once we arrived to the Dead Sea, our convoy stopped to take in the view, it is incredible not only how large the sea is, but the landscape it overlooks. The sea itself has receded almost 400 meters leaving massive mountains on either side. Sink holes can be seen due to the presence of industry, extracting salt and minerals from the Sea as well as massive date farms alongside of the road. After stopping by the Dead Sea scrolls and realizing how many baths were taken and how red wine was consumed, we headed down to get our float on.
The sensation of walking into the water is intense; your legs feel as though they don’t want to touch the ground, similar to trying to push two magnets together. Once you get deep enough, slash brave enough, you let your feet go and you pop up like a cork. Your skin feels slimy and your body is weightless. Our group ventured out to where you could not touch ground and found that not only could you not touch ground if you tried, but you could also hold your hands above your head and have your face not even come close to the water.
After about an hour of being in awe of how light we seemed, we decided to give the mud a try. Some in our group were keener than others to lathering our bodies head to toe, but with some slight convincing we managed to cover everyone. After letting the mud dry, we headed back into the Dead Sea for a final rise before hopping back on the road.
The way back home, we had planned to have some time to walk around Jerusalem, but due to some recent violence and closing of some gates to the Old City, we thought better of it and choose to drive around instead. It was incredible to think about all of the history that had happened in that one city. The ancient walls stick out quite dramatically as opposed to the rest of the city. One of the Australians in our group was a history major, informing us of all the historical significance of a lot of the structures as we drove by; Thanks Amelia! Some of the highlights were, the Dome of the Rock, Mount of Olives and driving by the ancient walls.