Biking 2016 - Palestine/Israel/Jordan Day 2

by Fred Schlomka - 
- Day 2 - 14th June -
- 37km. - En Gedi - Neve Zohar -
- 91km. Total biked -

Pretty uneventful day. I slept fitfully due to the gusty wind, but managed to get up at 3.30am. Took an hour to make coffee and break camp. Sunrise was OK, but I’ve been spoiled by those sometimes spectacular Jaffa sunsets. An easy ride for the most part. Paused near Masada for an obligatory photo op. Cars and trucks all steering well clear of my billowing flag.

I arrive at En Bokek - tourist haven - land of McDonalds and overpriced hotels. I can’t resist, so park myself at an outdoor restaurant table and proceed to make my breakfast, almost daring the staff to get rid of me. However it is only 8am. Few are up and about, so I am left alone as I cut up my apple and orange and have my granola.

I have plenty of water but it’s warm, so I splurge on a chilled sparkling water from the restaurant. Bliss. Small pleasures are what it’s all about when tramping on the road. Then the kitchen help comes out and starts splashing water everywhere to clean for the coming day. Time to go.

I’m pretty well done biking for the day but go the additional 8 kilometres to Neve Zohar, hoping to find a beach to camp. I do, at southernmost part of the resort, just past the checkpoint. I had passed a nice manicured public beach with signs everywhere stipulating ’NO CAMPING’ along with a list of other things one should and shouldn’t do. Just one cafe on this beach too, and everything seems about double the prices of Tel Aviv. Ah monopolies!

It starts to get really hot so I decide to find an air conditioned space to work for a few hours. No luck. Getting into a hotel around here is like trying to enter the Prime Minister’s office. I couldn’t get in the door. I even put on my Green Olive Tours hat in a futile attempt to look respectable.  The worst one was the Leonardo Club Hotel. Never stay there! Two guards at the door barking in Russian at everyone. I think my Hebrew was even better that theirs. If you didn’t already have a room you couldn’t get in.

Feeling a bit dejected I started biking back towards En Bokek even though I had no interest in doing that stretch again. By now it was 11am and the tar on the road seemed like it was softening up.
Definitely time to get off the bike. Then I spied the Premier Spa Boutique. A couple of busloads of Taglit Birthright kids were being disgorged so I locked up the bike, pulled my Green Olive hat on tight, and walked in with the group, chatting to one of them as we passed the stern guard-lady at the door.

Ah bliss. Air conditioned comfort, plus the added bonus was the changing room and showers. Feeling bold I went back outside and brought in my towel and a change of clothes. I got clean. Did some laundry. Worked for about five hours. Surprise - They also provided one of the best salad bars I’ve seen for a while. Everything was home
made, including three, yes three types of eggplant salad. I left in the late afternoon when they started stacking the chairs on tables. Great place highly recommended.

Back at the ‘camping’ beach it was still too hot - no shade trees - just a gravelly beach - nothing else - Desert by the water -  so I chilled out at the too expensive cafe. The Dead Sea has become a really unfriendly place for camping. There’s an opportunity here for a dedicated entrepreneur. All accommodations and food are super expensive. It seems that few independent budget travellers stay here - certainly not campers except a hardened few.

I go back to the monopoly beach bar and consult with the Bedouin at the counter. He suggests another spot so I go and check it out. It’s a strip of ground sandwiched between the road and the sea. But it has some tree shade and a couple of benches. The Dead Sea is crusted white with evaporated salts, looking like a semi-frozen artic landscape. It’s a bit surreal but I set up the tent, cook dinner, and crash for the night.

_____
Fred Schlomka is the CEO of the Green Olive Collective. He spends months adventuring on the road with his bicycle each year, while managing the organisation via phone and laptop. If you are interested in joining Fred on one of his adventures, please contact him through this link.

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