After Day 8 (an attempted day-trip to Jerusalem that ended in disaster), we kept our plans for Day 9 simple. We sought to spend the day gawking through the shuks of Tel Aviv – Carmel, Levinsky, and a flea market down near Old Jaffa – picking up some souvenirs and trinkets for our nuptial witnesses back home.
We stopped in at Benedict on our way for one last amazing breakfast. This time, we shared a plate of dried fruit wrapped in bacon and drizzled with hollandaise, and omelet balls in beet and blue-cheese sauce. So good!
Dried fruit wrapped in bacon and drizzled with hollandaise = delicious! Benedict, Tel Aviv
This was the first time we had to wait for a table at Benedict. Our bodies having finally adjusted properly to Israel time, we arrived right on rush hour. Boo! Luckily, given that it was just the two of us, the wait was only a few minutes.
It won’t come as any great surprise, after our adventures on Day 7 (a road trip to Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee), that we were pretty bloody exhausted and in need of a lie-in upon our return to Tel Aviv. We wanted to shore up our reserves for what we were sure was going to be a fantastic afternoon!
(Spoiler alert: things did not go to plan.)
We had planned to make another sojourn out to Jerusalem, on our own steam this time. I’d been looking forward to checking out the world-renowned Holocaust memorial museum (Yad Vashem) ever since we first Googled “things to do in Israel”. We were also hoping to plant a tree at the biblical land plot, located about 20 minutes from the Jerusalem city centre. Museum entry is free, planting a tree is pretty reasonable in terms of cost, so if we could manage navigating public transport to and from each site, we were in for an awesome and fiscally responsible day!
Where we last left off, our wonderful weekend in Ein Gedi was drawing to a close; the morning of Day 7, we polished off a second buffet breakfast, and set off on our big road trip to Sea of Galilee!
Rowan’s favourite selection from the Ein Gedi resort’s buffet breakfast was the cinnamon scrolls.
Our route: we planned to head north, circle around Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee, before coming back down to Tel Aviv and returning the car at the airport. We hit the road just before 10AM, and – all going well – we were on schedule to comfortably cram everything in before the hire car return cut-off at 6PM.
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. Our friends at Lonely Planet have an amazing guide to Masada and the Dead Sea available here, if you want to know more.
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). Skyscanner offers great deals on car hire, if only we’d thought ahead!
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.