Day 22: Side trip to Masada

Day 22: Side trip to Masada

Day 22, March 21: Reasonable assumption that it's easy to get from Arad to Masada proved false. At some tourist village, butt-end of nowhere. Will give it an hour then give up and back to Arad. This is [redacted]. Later: Got to Masada, it was very cool. Weather intensely hot. Met Russian bike tourist and American thru-hiker. Now in Arad, will sleep @ another trail angel. But camera broke.

My friggin' cameras always broke, so my pictures from Masada are the last from my camera.

Arad is a fairly major town near the very major tourist attraction of Masada, so I figured it would be simple to get from one to the other and back, by bus. Nope. I ended up getting a hitch down to a little "tourist village" (one of the little restaurant-oases they have there) in the middle of the sun-blasted Judean desert. The road seemed thoroughly abandoned, so I despaired of reaching Masada. Luckily someone arrived before too long and got me there, so I got to at least look at the Dead Sea even if I couldn't go in it on this trip. Masada and all its epic cliff-top construction and Roman-era buildings is great for me with my tendency to geek out on regional archaeology, so I loved seeing it again. Also, I'd had strep throat the last time I was there and spent the whole time wandering around in a hazy, fevered delirium, absorbing little from my surroundings.

Getting back to Arad was a lot easier, fortunately. At the bus stop I met an American guy who was doing the Israel Trail, and told him about the Jesus Trail. He later started it after finishing the Israel Trail and told me he'd gotten sick of the trash partway through the first day and called it quits. He seemed pretty grouchy about it. He was also a really hardcore dude; he'd done the Negev part of the trail with no caches. He'd just set out with a mind-boggling 9 or 10 liters of water and powered through till he found the next place to resupply. Some people do this, but I cannot recommend it. He did have titanium knees, so maybe it was some kind of bionic constitution bonus that enabled him to do it.

Masada is not on nor even near the Israel Trail, but if you travel to Israel just to hike the trail, make sure you allow a free day to head down from Arad and see it. It's spectacular and loaded with great history and archaeology, and you can finish the visit with a hop in the Dead Sea.

Masada's cliffs and view of the Dead Sea

Mosaics were everywhere; here was a favorite of mine

A model of Herod's palace before it fell into ruin, perched on the end of the cliff

The remains of the Roman siegeworks set up against the Jewish zealots who were holed up in the

clifftop fortress. The taking of Masada basically put an end to the same revolt that also wound up with the

Temple in Jerusalem being destroyed

Excavations have revealed the outlines of the structures

Down below, the receding shores of the Dead Sea have left behind weirdly-shaped salt deposits, as the

lowest point on earth gets steadily lower. The ecological issues that are causing this are having even

more catastrophic effects, not to mention humanitarian ones, as Israel uses water (or lack of access

to it) as a weapon against the Palestinians in the West Bank. But that's a story for another place...

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