Day 6, our second day in Ein Gedi, was possibly the most memorable of our entire honeymoon. It was the day we visited the Dead Sea, and undertook our now-infamous sunrise hike at Masada. An alternative title for this post might be: “the time I almost divorced my husband because we nearly died on our honeymoon”.
Setting Out (Very Early)
If you’re not familiar, Masada is an ancient fortification on the top of an isolated rock plateau in the Southern District of Israel. Its name is a rough translation/anglicised version of the word for “fortress” in Hebrew.
Rowan miraculously awoke early enough to get us out the door in time long before sunrise. The national park was about 15 minutes’ drive from Ein Gedi. We found it no problem (thank you again, GPS!) even though it was dark and eerily quiet. There were a couple of tour groups milling around the entrance (almost exclusively American), but we seemed to be the only ones heading up solo. We paid our 56 shekels to enter, and made our way in just as it was starting to get light.
I asked Rowan where we were headed. This was the moment that things started to turn. My dear husband pointed at the sheer fucking cliff-face immediately in front of us, and said “Up there!” so nonchalantly that I was sure that he was kidding.
He was not.
As you’ll recall, come Day 5 we were due to transfer from Tel Aviv to Ein Gedi for the weekend… but we’d had to make a hasty change to our plans for transit, thanks to the Shabbat. We had sojourned across the city to the airport – risking life and limb – to rent a car for a Dead Sea road trip (given the lack of public transport options).
As we prepared to depart, checking out of our accommodation, the hotel manager dropped a delightful little knowledge bomb on us: apparently, there are car rental services in Tel Aviv city, rendering our entire little drama-filled expedition to the airport earlier that week completely unnecessary. We tried to explain that we had looked online and couldn’t see any places closer than the airport, to which she replied (seeming somewhat, and most understandably, miffed) that we “could have asked her”. Bloody Aussie tourists…
Still, we weren’t going to let it get us down. After all, here we were! Road tripping our way to a luxurious resort at the Dead Sea. This is living!
So, the day of our pre-booked wedding gift tour of Jerusalem finally arrived! This conspicuously coincided with the day that our body clocks seemed to finally adjust to Israeli time – we had to set an alarm to make sure we were up-and-at-em for the 7:15Am pick-up.
We were collected from the door by an older Jewish man who could best be described as “crotchety”. He explained that he was just there to pick us up, and he would take us to a central depot to hand us over to our tour guide. In my usual (hilarious) form, I quipped: “So, you get all the good jobs, yeah?”. He waited a beat, looked at me rather seriously, and said: “No,”.
On we went!
At the depot, the tourists were corralled into buses with typical Israeli efficiency (see: none). It was about 9AM when we finally got on the road.
The tour guide was Hava, and she was great! She gave us quite the geography lesson, and covered quite a bit of Israeli history as well. It turns out, Israel is bloody tiny – 196km from north to south on the west side, and 490km on the east side, so you can basically drive around it in a day. Blew our little Aussie minds.
Our first pit stop was an Elvis cafe (of course!) plonked into the middle of the desert. You really do get ’em everywhere. We milled around, checking out the memorabilia, side-stepping the dozens of roaming cats, and paid a shekel each to use the bathroom before we got back on the road.
Alright, folks: Night 2 is where our honeymoon adventure in Tel Aviv really kicked off, so the next couple Travel Diary entries will be monsters. Grab yourselves a glass of wine, and strap in!
Last we left off on our second evening, we were headed back out into Tel Aviv after a bit of a nap. We retraced our steps to find a couple more second-hand bookstores we’d passed earlier in the day. The first two were a bit of a bust (one stocked only books written in Russian, for instance), so we stopped at a bar – Port Said – to fortify ourselves with a drink and a snack. This was our first opportunity to try our luck with a couple of local beverages: an Almond Arak and a Spritz Said. (Now, Arak is a whole other thing, one with which you should definitely be familiar before venturing into Israel – see my guide to drinking in the Holy Land here.)
After all that, we made it. We landed safe and sound in Tel Aviv, just two more among the 17 million plus international passengers that have passed through Ben Gurion Airport.
The second flight was looooong, and particularly dull: check out our “amazing” window seat view!
I’m sure the view of the Mediterranean underneath this wing is stunning. Hmph.
… and yet, it was still one of the best flights of my life. Why? Because the airline finally got my gluten-free meals sorted!
After months of planning, and a detour via Brisbane for a family BBQ post-ceremony, we were finally there: embarking on our honeymoon! We were in for a heck of an outbound journey, two flights and one stopover flying Australia to Israel.
Flight CX156 was due to depart Brisbane Airport at 12:55AM; the journey up to Queensland before departing was worth it in that regard alone (as the Sydney Airport Curfew Act restricts any departures/landings after 11:00PM, effectively canning your night-flight options). My parents very thoughtfully dropped us at the international terminal around 10:00PM, and away we went.
We strode in: determined, strong, prepared. We knew that this was probably our best shot at attaining that ever-elusive dream of the Honeymooner Perk. It was late at night, after all. We looked tired, and happy. Our rings were only marginally more sparkly than our smiles. Who could resist our charm?