We spend the last two weekends in February exploring nearby places that are just too hot and dry to enjoy during the arid summers here. The first weekend, we went down to...
The Negev Desert
Vision: Emotionally fulfilling stargazing and life-changing desert sunrises.
Reality: Overcast skies, dull clouds, freezing winds, and light drizzle.
Before we left, when we confirmed that the forecast was going to dash our star-gazing dreams, Prince Charming asked me if I thought we should still go.
"Yeah," I said. "We'll go and have fun despite the weather."
And we did. It was cold and the skies were lugubrious, but there was something charming about the town of Mitzpe Ramon, Israel. It's a small outpost that has attracted a combination of hikers, outdoor enthusiasts, and eccentric artist types. And you know how much I love eccentric artists types. Charming and I always feel comfortable in places inhabited by eccentric artist types. And I also love outdoor enthusiasts. So I felt right at home.
I took this picture in Mitzpe Ramon. It's a bicycle (outdoorsy type thing) that has been covered with white fuzz and turned into a permanent art display (eccentric artist thing to do).
Here's the rest of that art installation:
I think it's impressive that Mitzpe Ramon has attracted anyone at all, considering that its claim to fame is a hole. A very large hole in the ground. We couldn't find the hole at first, so we drove around, asking each other do you think the hole is over there? Could it be over there by those nice apartment buildings? Maybe if we follow the sign that says "visitor center."
Then, after a frigid walk/jog up an incline, we came upon the hole.
According to TouristIsrael.com, this hole is the world's largest erosion makhtesh. Makhtesh is often translated as "crater," but that is misleading since this hole wasn't caused by an explosion or the impact of a celestial body.
A better translation of makhtesh, perhaps, would be "erosion circle," or, "big ol hole." Geological forces created this superlative wonder some 220 million years ago.
It was pretty chilly on top of that hole in February.
Here's a photo (from the Shalom Israel Tours website) of the hole on a better day.
We stayed at a desert-hostel-camp rather chillingly called "Silent Arrow." The place was so hipster that it had an ironic jacuzzi.
It also had a friendly owner and volunteers, and a great vibe. We stayed in one of these tents:
The next weekend, we decided to do some hiking in one of the longest and most famous valleys (wadis) in Palestine: Wadi Qelt. To hike the whole thing from Jerusalem to Jericho takes about 10-12 hours, depending on the weather, your speed and your fitness level. We wanted the gentle stroll version, so we just drove around until we found an entrance (we knew because there was a tour bus, a camel, and some bedouins) and started walking around. We started at the top of the wadi. By the way, my vision is that I can always get my dog to look at the camera. Reality:
After photos, we drove down into the wadi. That is, Charming and I rode in the car, and we made Jelly run behind us. She needed the exercise.
Once almost to the bottom of the wadi, we got out and hiked around. At the very bottom of the valley, we heard the delightful sound of bubbling water, and followed it to this narrow aqueduct:
We found a green spot amidst the brown for a nice picnic lunch.
One of the most famous spots in the Wadi Qelt is St. George's Monastery. But by the time we got back to the car and drove to the monastery, we were tired. We quickly became discouraged about the amount of energy it would take to run the gauntlet of hyper aggressive bedouin jewelry sales representatives at the entrance to that section of the park. So we went home. We'll have to save St. George's for another day, or just enjoy photos of it online.
Most of the time when traveling, things don't turn out the way you think they will. Although neither of these trips turned out perfectly, they had unexpected joys.
What about you? Do you have a traveling story where things didn't turn out quite like you expected? I'd love to hear it in the comments.