Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Dead Sea Float

We asked ourselves, can the trip really get any more interesting after seeing the pyramids and Petra? Well - it did! Up next was the Dead Sea.  An early morning departure would get us to the lowest point on earth in time for lunch.

Through the desert valleys and mountains, we wound down to the Dead Sea. The driver had obviously driven this route before because he was whipping the bus around the hairpin turns and past the steep drop offs like it was nothing. Luckily he used his horn in a few choice places to avoid other drivers, although it didn’t ease the tension of the drive down.

Once down at sea level...well, below sea level - some 1,378 ft, the road followed the shores of the Dead Sea. We stared down the steep cliffs to the water, where you could see the salt build up and the white rings it left behind. The shoreline is rough, steep and rocky. It’s not a picturesque beach with golden sand but more of a rocky dirt and grit substance with a deep orange color leading to the sea that is a deep teal color.

Locals were out by the side of the road enjoying the day and the sea. It seems so surreal to think about living in this part of the world and a fun day out being by the shores of the Dead Sea.

However, the place we stopped wasn’t quite that basic. It was a built-up swimming area with restaurants, shops, pools, changing areas and most important - easy access to the Dead Sea. After a mediocre buffet lunch, we were changed and ready for a swim, well, a float.

While walking into the water all seems normal. The bottom is rocky and tough on the feet but you trudge on. As you go further in, up to waist level, you lean back, pick up your feet and viola – you float!  Its like sitting in a chair! You can stretch your knees out and you still don’t sink. Its so strange and so smile-inducing. Then you start experimenting. What else can I do? On your stomach, no problem, arms and legs up, same – still floating. Lets try deeper water to stand up straight – yep you bob like a buoy. How Awesome!  Bobbing up and down was Steph's favorite part - she was thoroughly entertained and laughing until we had to leave! Just don’t get the water in your eyes. Ouch - that salt burns!

One other interesting thing about the Dead Sea is that the mud is supposed to have healing properties. You reach down and grab the mud and cover yourself it in. At first its all fine but gradually it starts burning. It does soften the skin and make for some good pictures, but it does sting.

Being able to swim, we didn’t have any fear of the water. However one guy obviously couldn’t swim because in the basic floating position, on your back with knees pulled up, he kept bumping into me. Kindly I gave him a push but I guess this made him nervous because he asked how to stand up. In this case we were only talking about 3 foot of water, maybe waist deep. I tried showing him the trick that is to use your arms to help pull yourself forward then just stand up. Easy right? Well, not for this guy. He just couldn’t do it, so finally I stood up and helped him up. He thanked me then headed for the shore where he needed to be.

Floating was so much much so, that we lost track of time (Steph was still having a blast bouncing in the deep water, but I was too, to be fair!). Our group was waiting on us because it was time to move to the next location, Mount Nebo.

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