Suitcase and World: Day 16. The Dead Sea.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Day 16. The Dead Sea.

From Karak, we continued north on the Kings Highway, motoring under menacing skies. I kept hoping that the skies would clear up as it would truly be disappointing to spend time at the Dead Sea under dark clouds.

We were chattering up a storm until someone caught view of the deep turquoise blue water that is the Dead Sea. Then, we all fell quiet as we soaked in the view.

I know the Dead Sea for three things:
  • It's the lowest point on earth...420 or so meters below sea level,
  • It's one of the saltiest bodies of water on earth - nearly 9 times saltier than average ocean salinity. The Dead Sea is fed by the Jordan River but has not outlets so water evaporates leaving mineral deposits behind.
  • The Dead Sea scrolls which were discovered in caves along its shores of the sea.
...but on this trip, I what I really wanted to find out was whether or not it's true that you can't sink when you're in the water!

We wound our way down the mountain switchbacks and the sun finally burst through the clouds. Yay!!

Soon we, found ourselves driving right alongside the Dead Sea. At points, I could see the white mineral deposits that rim its shores.

We made our way to a seaside resort and the group concensus was to eat lunch before we went for our dip in the sea. Daniel took us to a nearby resort hotel that served a stupendous buffet lunch. I can still taste the roasted leg of lamb (so tender, the meat fell off the bone), rice and selection of mezzes and salads. I passed on dessert to have another bite of the lamb.

Happily sated, we headed for the changing rooms to get into our swimsuits.

A view of the Dead Sea from the swimming pool area at the resort.

Lei and I enjoying the view before changing into our swimsuits and taking the plunge!

Everyone but Sandy went into the water. I wasn't going to come all this way and not go in so Lei wrapped up my cast in a blue plastic bag and I waded into the water with the rest of the group.

Of course, the first thing that everyone did was float on their backs. Unlike the "regular" sea where floating requires you to position both your head and body parallel to the sea floor, you can basically float in the Dead Sea as if you're sitting on a lounge chair - your head and upper body at a 90 degree to your legs! You can also float on your tummy - arms outstretched, head up and knees bent. How cool is that? At one point, I headed out to deeeper water and as hard as I tried to push my body down into the water, I could not sink deep enough to touch the sea floor. I was bobbing up and down like a cork!

I'm in the lower left hand corner of the picture - the one with the blue plastic bag wrapped around her left arm. Despite my best efforts to keep it dry, my cast got thoroughly soaked. I would spend hours later in the day trying to dry it.

Everyone took their turns trying to float and or sink themselves. Daniel found a mineral encrusted rock and put it on his chest. Under normal saline conditions, he would have sunk into the water but here, he floated effortlessly.

Lei did the "reading a newspaper while floating" test.

I decided to take a teeny, weeny sip of the water and was in for a very unexpected taste sensation. It's horribly salty and surprisingly, also a bit bitter. I really wished I had some fresh water to wash out the aftertaste that lingered in my mouth. Yuck!

You know how when you've been in water for some time, the skin on your fingers start to wrinkle? Well, I found out that the "time to wrinkle" is much shorter when you're swimming in super saline water. It couldn't have been a half hour so, if not less, before the fingers looked liked wrinkled prunes. I headed to shore, took a quick wash under the outdoor shower and then headed to the changing room to get back into my "street"clothes.

We had a few minutes to enjoy ourselves before we had to hit the road. From the pool area, we could look across the Dead Sea and see the West Bank of Israel. According to Daniel, from where we were standing, if we looked north, across the water, we would see Jericho. If we looked south, we would see Jerusalem. Looking northwards, we could spot what looked like a city and that turned out to be Jericho. I could not see Jerusalem with my naked eyes and for some reason, it did not dawn on my to use my binoculars.

As my hair dried in the warm wind, it took on a greasy, stiff feel. I'm guessing it was residual minerals from the Dead Sea.

Soon, it was time to leave the Dead Sea. What a fun and memorable experience it had been!

We piled back into the vehicles and headed for the short drive to Mount Nebo.

So did Lei have as much fun as I did in Dead Sea? Check out her blog posting.