After bumming around Jerusalem for a few days, I ran into two people I had met back in Tel Aviv, Jon and Jahan. Jon was on a mission to get down to Eilat for some diving in the Red Sea, and Jahan was looking for an adventure to fill her last few days before she flew back home. It was pretty easy for them to convince me to come along. (Actually they snuck into my dorm room one morning, stared at me until I woke up, and basically said “Are you in or what?”) Road Trip!
We spent the day pricing out some rental cars (turns out they’re one of the few things that are cheaper in Israel than the States) and planning our journey. Neither of my new companions had been to the Dead Sea yet, and I was happy to go again, so we decided we’d stop there on the way.
We headed to Mahane Yehuda Market to stock up on snacks for the road: mixed nuts, lychees, dates, assorted pastries, halva, and a giant bag of freshly popped popcorn. If everything went sideways, at least we wouldn’t go hungry.
We picked up our car the next morning and headed out, and after some brief navigation and phone charging issues we were on our way. We made it to Ein Gedi Nature Reserve in almost no time, but the heat was unbearable and none of us were thrilled to do much hiking. So we just did the easiest trail, a small loop around a few waterfalls and pools. We just waded in the first one we came to, but a little ways up the trail we came to a rather secluded pool with no one else in it, so we stripped down to our skivvies and just lay in the water for a while. The water was COLD and amazingly refreshing on such a hot day.
We finished the loop and got back in the car to drive just down the road to Ein Gedi Beach, the free access point to the Dead Sea. Having previously been to one of the nicer resort beaches, I was a bit disappointed with this one. It’s very rocky on the shore and there isn’t any mud or any salt deposits lying around (something that I thought was so cool last time I went), and the water had a strange oily feel that I didn’t notice before. Even more annoying was that the access to the water is down a big, steep hill with the showers up at the top, so if you get saltwater in your eye (or even if you don’t), it’s a really difficult, slippery climb back up to rinse off. My feet kept sliding backwards out of my flip-flops the whole way up!
Also, the bathrooms and changing rooms cost 2NIS to use, so we just changed in the car.
I’d definitely recommend spending a little money to go to one of the resort beaches. This one is very bare bones.
It was already late afternoon by the time we got on the road again, and as it was Friday we knew we should stop for dinner before the shops closed for Shabbat. Over mediocre Aroma sandwiches at a roadside mall, we checked Hostelworld and figured out a few options for the night’s accommodation. Onwards!
We were nearly to Eilat when we got pulled over for speeding. We actually hadn’t seen any speed limit signs (that we recognized — we figured out what they were later) and the road was practically deserted so we couldn’t match anyone else’s pace. We were just going over the crest of a big hill when we spotted a police car lying in wait in the median at the bottom. Of course, we couldn’t slow down fast enough and sailed right on past him… immediately the siren went on and he pulled a u-turn to follow us. Shit. “You’d better put your pants back on,” I said to Jahan, who was sitting in the back seat and had put them in the sun on the back window to dry.
Jon pulled over on the shoulder and the car pulled up along side us… on the passenger side? I rolled down my window so he could talk to us.
He gave us the once-over. “You are tourists?”
“Yes,” we all replied.
“Okay,” he said. “The speed limit in Israel is 90 kilometers per hour. Do you understand what that means?”
“Yes! We’re so sorry! We didn’t know!”
“Okay. Have a good trip,” he said, and drove off without another word.
We kept to 90 for rest of the drive, which was really only twenty minutes or so. Unfortunately the hotel we tried first was fully booked, so we used their phone to call another one just down the road, Corinne Hostel. They had plenty of vacancies, and we soon saw why.
Corinne Hostel is without a doubt the most bizarre place I have ever stayed in, and just may be the weirdest hostel in the world. It’s not bad exactly… just incredibly strange. The entire lobby and courtyard is covered with crazy art and other decor, some of it cool, some highly disturbing. Plus they don’t allow alcohol (probably because the place would be terrifying to drunk people), have a ridiculously early checkout time (10 AM? what is that?), and a whole bunch of other weird rules.
The man at the front desk was a slightly curmudgeonly old fella who kept calling me “the beautiful one” and lectured Jahan and me for about 10 minutes when we realized we accidentally left our room key with Jon and needed to get in to use the bathroom. He also made Jon use headphones to watch tv when there was no one else in the lobby. We were bemusedly shaking our heads for our whole two night stay.
But seriously, just look at this place: