"Hey, Lady....Laaaaaad-y...yes, you in dee RED HAT floating out there!! I ask you now to come in. Yes, come iiiinnnnnn..... You are floating way too far out there, lady. Toooooo faaaaar! I can't let you float to Jordan! Sure, ok, do what you want....float to Jordan...if you want to die! I promise you, it's better here. We will not shoot you from here."
--"Avi", my favorite life-guard on the Dead Sea
"Giggity, giggity, giggity!," I semi-sang when the bus that took us through the desert finally came to a lurching halt. My bladder was in a very bad way, and even though I had no idea what to expect, I was ready for some Dead Sea action. With our day-packs filled with swim suits, towels and bottled water, we ran like American middle school children to the front of the bus before the doors could snap closed again. From the narrow aisle, I hunched over and strained my neck in order to take in what looked like a few palm trees next to a lone, cement outpost in the middle of the desert. It resembled something more from the American Southwest than what is typically seen on postcards of the Middle East. The only difference was that instead of paying a quarter to take a ride on at the "Last Living Buffalo in Buffalo Bill's Herd", for roughly $5.00, an especially adventurous soul could ride a camel.
Somehow, I pictured something bigger, perhaps more tranquil or spa-like. Instead, it just looked like we were being left to our doom in the middle of the desert.
I stalled for a minute, not fully panicking, but also not fully prepared to be let off without water right before the peak of the day's heat. "Is this the Ein Gedi beach resort?," I asked the driver.
Ever the abrupt and short-tempered Israeli, he replied: "Yes, Ein Gedi beach. Now get off!"
Ah, yes, Welcome to Israel, I reminded myself. But at any rate, who cares about that guy! I'm at the DEAD SEA!!
Ein Gedi is a public beach along the Dead Sea, equipped with it's own version of Israel's finest "life" guards, who sat in a hut along the water, overlooking the activity of the tourists. The irony of the Dead Sea, of course, is that it's actually quite hard for anyone to drown, since all you can do is float (and absolutely marinate) in the thick, hot water of the mineral-rich Sea. With the border of Jordan on the other side it is theoretically possible to get across, although, in all likelihood one might die of dehydration first before realistically arriving on the other side.
A few funny things happened at the Sea that day. First, it was hotter than hell, and the sun was piercingly bright. No one remembered to bring sun screen, and yet no one got burned. I later found out that this is because the Dead Sea is not only the lowest place on earth, but it is covered in a layer of ozone that protects from the sun. I got some hella tan lines, but no burns, which was wonderful.
Second, aside from the phenomena of floating (which is so incredible), one cannot fully predict how intense the acidity of the salt will impact one's "nether regions". I was warned ahead of time not to shave anything on my person for about two days before my introduction to the Dead Sea. The boys also didn't shave their faces. But, what no one anticipated was the BURNING SENSATION ON OTHER AREAS!!! YIKES!!! While the burning wasn't so unbearable for me, what was truly comical was seeing my two companions, two otherwise strong and extremely masculine men, completely break-down from their individual ass-burns. Ultimately, this led to the titular quote of the day: (only done best in an Israeli-accent)
"My ass is burning, Avi!!! It's burning!! It's on hot lava fire..."
Between the burning, the floating, the rapid dehydrating, the giggling, and marinating in the lowest geographical point in the entire world, this pretty much sums up the day. We feasted on sugary ice drinks from the cement snack stand, and showered in the public stalls that cost 2 shekels for access. The skies were clear, the water was tranquil. Except for the intermittent verbal blasts of the beach life guards, one would never know there was a war going on. Meanwhile, I was the girl in the bikini, covered from head to toe in Dead Sea mud, doing handstands and cartwheels on the sand dunes of the Sea...