I can hardly believe that I have now landed back home in Brisbane, Australia. The last 22 days have swept by so fast and left behind so many incredible and colourful memories. Now to go back and summarise the last week!
We set off early on Monday in Jerusalem, with a plan to visit the Holocaust Museum then follow with a tour of Massada after the drive to the Dead Sea. We were lost for hours in the Holocaust Museum; when we saw the time was 4pm as we were leaving, it was hard to believe we had been there for over 6 hours. Unfortunately skipping the visit to Massada, we drove to the Dead Sea and arrived at our hotel later that night.
The Dead Sea is so incredible! It reflects exactly the sky and horizon above it - it is a perfect mirror that can be ice blue and white in the morning, deep blue during the day, and all the pinks and oranges of sun set in the afternoon. Ran and I spent a leisurely and relaxing day at the Ein Gedi Spa, bathing in hot sulphur pools, covering up in the magic mud and floating in the water. It was amazing how light you feel as the water instantly pulls your body to the surface. Ran even had his thongs floating next to him while we lay in the saltiest water you could EVER imagine!
After a full day of relaxation, we jumped back in the car for the drive back to Tel Aviv for a dinner with Ran's friends before heading off again on Wednesday, but to the north this time. I did manage to fit in some extra shopping time in Tel Aviv (I must say I'm getting quite good at shopping with all the practice on this trip!) and we had some delicious bourekas which were baked while we waited. I have never tasted something so fresh straight from the oven! We arrived at our Bed and Breakfast in the evening, and had a traditional Israeli dinner in Tiberias, and walked along the Kinneret (The Sea of Galilee). Our B&B was in a Moshav, similar to one where Ran grew up, with cows next door, and all the sights, sounds and feel of the country. It was very peaceful and relaxing.
Thursday, though, was a day booked to the max with as much as we could fit in! We met up with a couple of Ran's friends, and their two month old daughter, who are from a *relatively nearby* Kibbutz. We had an early breakfast of more delicious goods from the bakery (there are SO many good ones in Israel!) on the beach next to the Sea of Galilee. A quick dip in the fresh water - well, Ran and I only made it in to our knees because the water was cold! - and we were off driving through the hilly countryside. We stopped and went on a short hike through some old ruins (the photos show how amazing this was) all the way down to a natural spring. It was hidden in the greenery, without another soul in sight. The hideaway came complete with a rock swimming pool 2 metres deep, tree swing, wooden seat and even a couch! From there, it was back up to the car for a modern history lesson during the upward drive through to the top of the Golan Heights. These are extradordinary high cliffs, and are originally part of Syria. We were racing the sunset, pacing ourselves to reach the nature reserve to witness thousands of cranes migrating from Europe to Africa. We hired a motorised golf cart, and rode through the picturesque reserve spotting otters, wild cats, and all types of birds as the sun set. Our timing was perfect and we managed to capture some of the magnificance in our photos. Next stop was a highly recommended steak house, where the couples shared massive porthouse steaks cooked to perfection. Yum! No rest for the wicked, we then drove another hour or so after dinner to a hot spring, which had pools of varying temperatures and was packed until closing time at 10:30pm. The warm water relaxed away our exhaustion until we (well, Ran actually!) were ready to drive the hour and a half back to the B&B. I welcomed sleep very quickly that night!
On Friday, our last full day, our intention was to visit Haifa on our way back to Tel Aviv, but with the terrible fires there, we instead went to Mount Arbel and walked to the top. The views from the top of the cliff face were absolutely incredible - I took some panoramic shots of the full 360 degrees to capture it all! Ran took me to where he grew up, and we also managed to squeeze in some olive oil and wine tastings! We reach Tel Aviv just in time to have dinner with Schmulik before heading out for a few farewell drinks with Ran's friends.
After packing up and getting ready to go, Saturday was again filled with food and farewells before we headed to the airport. We were running a bit late, so it was fortunate that Ran's flight was delayed for an hour or so. After he left, I thought I had a few hours to kill, however it turned out I didn't have much time to relax and shop as it took me a while to get through security! You would think I would have had more trouble getting in to Israel rather than out, but that wasn't the case! None-the-less, after being checked and questioned a few times and rearranging my luggage twice, I made it through to the gates! The rest of the 30 hour excursion home went smoothly with lots of movies, spare seats, and even a few hours sleep which was a new achievement for me (thanks for the sleeping pill mum!).
It is nice to be home, but wow, what a trip! I can't wait for the next one...