Jani's Excursion to

Day 5: Eilat, Maktesh Ramon, Tel Aviv

At long last, a chance to sleep without the obligatory 5 AM amakening.  In fact, jyst lying in bed was so luxurious that I didn't even go for the early-morning swim planned earlier.  While I admired the peculiar geometrical shapes caused by the reflection of the roof in the mirror, my brother concentrated on his favorite aspect of sightseeing.

It was time to get going again.  We bundled into the Mitsubishi and drove off towards Timna Park, half an hour's drive north of Eilat.  Best known as the site of Solomon's copper mines, the park also features plenty of bizarre rock formations...  and, as it turned out, an obscene price tag of close to 50 NIS per head.  Given the abundance of rock in Jordan, the car unanimously voted to continue on towards home.

I've heard a lot of tripe about the "breathtaking", "scenic", "majestic" mountains and views of the Negev Desert, but I've driven through it at least 6 times already and generally speaking I'm less impressed every time I do it.  The Negev Desert consists of sand and rock, colored in various shades of light brown.  No sand dunes, no majestic mountains, just fields covered with rock and the occasional scraggly hill.  The "scenic" spots marked on road maps consist of relatively high places where, as opposed to a bit of rock, you can see... a lot more rock!  Aside from the inhabitants of prisons, IDF garrisons and kibbutzim, very few people live in the Negev and it's no wonder why.

Splat in the middle of the Negev is the tiny little town of Mitzpe Ramon, hugging the edge of a large crater known as Maktesh Ramon.  Despite the name, this crater is not a meteorite impact site, but just an unsymmetrical pit several kilometers wide created by geological forces umpteen million years ago.  Guidebooks wax ecstatic about the multicolored shades of -- you guessed it! -- rock found in the crater, not to mention desert wildlife in its natural habitat, consisting primarily of scorpions, spiders and rats.

As we settled down for a picnic near the visitor center at the edge of the crater, we were soon joined by some authentic and inquisitive desert tamedlife, namely a herd of ibex.  Or perhaps hungry would be a better adjective, as they had long since been taught that tourists equal free food.  They took turns slurping at the water intended for irrigating the trees (nothing would grow here without it) and nipping at our lunch boxes.  Most of the herd were youngsters, but there was one tribal elder with massive, almost 360-degree horns chaperoning the group.  Not for the first time I regretted buying a digital camera too cheap to have a zoom or exchangable lenses.

The rest of the day passed in a daze.  In addition to the lingering flu, I had managed to get a mild case of food poisoning as well, and I dozed fitfully on the way back.  We arrived at home around 4 PM, but I still had work to do, as a group of 20 people from Entropy was arriving later on the same day and I had to go meet them at the airport.  I added loperamide to my drug cocktail and trundled off for a 3-hour session of fare negotiation with intransigent cab drivers and hotel management.   But eventually everything was sorted out and I took the group on a quick tour of the city center, managing to catch a Mediterranean sunset as well.

A litte after 9 PM I hopped aboard a sherut for Herzliya, driven by my old friend The Fat Guy who actually appears to enjoy endlessly driving back and forth between Tel Aviv and Herzliya, implanted at his driver's seat cum communications console.  Once home I proceeded to sleep for the next three days...

The End

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