Monday, February 27, 2012

The one where we float in the Dead Sea

We lunched at Qumran, visited the ruins, and saw the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. In the days when the Essenes lived here the Dead Sea (more than 400 meters below sea level) would have been so much closer, but evaporation over the years, and more recently damming and irrigation by Israel in the north, has had a devastating effect.

A channel has had to be constructed to keep water flowing to the southernmost reaches, where a large cluster of hotels and health resorts offer treatments for just about whatever ails you.

In my panoramic shot above, which I took from our hotel room in the late afternoon, you can see across to the hills of Moab in Jordan, a gorgeous shade of pink at that time of day, and to the right of the picture the little beach where some of us went for our Dead Sea float.

By the time we arrived at our hotel the sun was low and the light was poor for photo taking, so I've played around with this shot of Bev, Catriona, Peter and me to make it a little clearer.

The water has 33.7% salinity and feels oily. The lifeguard on duty would never be needed to rescue people from drowning because that's just about impossible as you bob like a cork on the water.

His job was to tell us exactly how to float so we didn't swallow any water. Once in the water - a feat in itself because of the tiny pebbles underfoot - you sit or squat, and then your legs just rise to the surface!

What you should never do is try to swim, and the guard was quick to come down on anyone who did. Once you get even a splash of water in your mouth you realise why. The hyper salinity combined with the heavy concentration of minerals makes for a vile-tasting cocktail that will do serious damage to your gastrointestinal tract (the ambulances were standing by!).

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