My alarm went off at 2:30 in the morning the first day of my independent travel week. I went to bed at 1, missing the last game of FIFA that night but I knew I should get some sleep as I was about to hike up a very high and sandy cliff (I like to call it a mountain) at 5 am. Did I mention I am not a hiker? Although I had four weeks of ‘hiking’ up and down the hills in Jerusalem, I slightly doubted my ability to make it to the top of Masada.
I packed up my day pack and walked 10 minutes to Abraham Hostel where I caught the bus to Masada, a UNESCO site. Two hours later I had arrived and was told I had about an hour to make it to the top if I wanted to catch the sunrise. The tour guide said that the hike should only take about 45 minutes, but I knew I was going to take longer.
The hike was up what is called the ‘snake path’. I stood at the bottom and looked up, like I mentioned before I was filled with doubt and really did not think I would make it to the top.
It was already so hot, the sun wasn’t even up yet and it felt like 100 degrees. The path is a mixture of some crafted steps and added handrails and a free for all, watch your step kind of terrain. I did not see any snakes, in case you were wondering.
Masada has a story behind it, as most of the areas of Israel and Palestine do. It is located in what I thought was the Negev but apparently it is the Judaean desert. I’m pretty sure they all just flow into each other though. First Masada is home to ruins of buildings from King Herod’s time which dates back to about 37-31 BCE (thank you Jewish Civilization Class for those dates). Second it has another significance around 70 CE. During the Roman invasion a group of Jews fled into the desert and sought refugee on top of this structure which had been of use for a while. This group managed to live up there for a few years but the Romans eventually came and decided to build a ramp to get to the top. The Jews decided that rather than be captured and killed by the Romans they would take charge of their own lives and thus a mass suicide took place.
Okay so that is kind of depressing but it is still a really cool experience to hike up there and watch the sunrise over the desert. It is an experience I will never forget and I am glad I pushed myself to make it to the top, even though I contemplated turning around and going back quite a few times.
When I got to the top I was kindly asked to play photographer. The girl handed me her camera and exclaimed “You made it! The Lord is on your side!”. While I am not doubting God, I like to think that it was more my own perseverance and ability to conquer being outside my comfort zone that got me to the top.
The sunrise was a beautiful soft pink and orange hue and I felt the most serene feeling sitting among ancient ruins, high over the vastness of the desert.
I should mention that there are cable cars that start running at 8 am, but I think you really get an experience if you make the climb yourself.
After that beautiful, albeit exhausting hike, our bus took us to Ein Gedi. We got there around 8 am, which I think is the best time to go as it is not crowded with people and you can really hike through the nature reserve in peace. We only had a short amount of time, so I took the short trail that was an hour round trip.
I saw little rodent creatures, which I later learned were called Ibex, They were so cute!
The trail I went on was called Waterfall Trail and there were some very pretty waterfalls, which you may think is strange to find in a desert.