Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mineral Beach: When the Desert Meets the Almighty Sea

After a few false alarms in Thailand (where the beaches are so lovely, anyone could fall in love -- on them or with them), it's confirmed: I'm not a beach person. I enjoy being near one, or above one, with a perfect view of waves rushing in down below, but I have no business being on one.

I spent an entire month living one block away from the Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv, running alongside it for one hour several times a week, but I only stepped foot on the sand once. I was told by the mother of a good friend who is from Tel Aviv that I at least had to allow my entire body to experience the water just once, but she was wrong. Stepping off the shore into water high enough to reach my ankles was good enough for me. I didn't miss a thing.

Don't get me wrong: I love beaches -- but more for the visuals they provide than for the full-on experience of being on one. I'm just not the guy who ever wants to spend all day lounging about in the sun by any body of water, getting blacker by the minute. But give me an 80-minute hot rock/Swedish massage, followed by 15 minutes floating in a hot spring adjacent to the Dead Sea, and how could I resist not going there -- for at least 15 minutes or so of idle shore time?

The weather couldn't have been more beautiful yesterday at Mineral Beach between the Dead Sea and the Judean Desert in east Israel, but rather than plopping down on a towel and letting the sunshine into my pores, I wanted to experience the scenery from as many points of view as possible. At the intersection of desert, mountains and sea, with Jordan visible just across the water (now I'm even more excited about my trip to Amman next week), the possibilities were nearly unlimited.

In the end, I skipped Mineral Beach's supposedly healing mud bath that's a huge draw for so many tourists and sought to maximize my visual experience by roaming the grounds of the resort, then walking a kilometer or two under the desert sun to the bus stop along the main road. That was where I waited for at least one hour for bus 421 to return me to Jerusalem, while taking photos and video (see below) and wondering how Moses did it. How on earth did he and his people wander in the desert for 40 years?

I don't know if this particular stretch of the Promised Land would be worth a four-decade delay, but the one-hour bus ride from Jerusalem (plus the one-hour wait and the one-hour return trip) was such a small price to pay to experience this side of paradise.

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