Nov 19, 2008

Swimming in Chicken Soup?

Drove to the Dead Sea with some friends and was amazed at the beautiful landscapes we saw along the way. On the west side of the Dead Sea is Israel, while on the eastern side you are able to see the mountains of Jordan.

That is my foot but that is not sand on the bottom of the Dead Sea, that's salt. You can literally scoop it up by the handfuls.
As you can see there are chunks of salt that crystallize at the edges of the sea.
I didn't know what to expect upon entering the Dead Sea, people tell you so many different things. Someone told me before going that it felt like being in a pot of warm chicken soup. What do you think after hearing that?! The first thing you notice is that the water feels a little thicker than normal, almost oily, which would explain the soup reference. Then you walk out until you reach mid-chest and that's when it happens, you shoot straight up and start bobbing. Try as you like in deep water but your never able to touch the bottom. You just float, but not like normal water, due to the high salinity of the water(9 times as salty as the ocean!). You
can sit up and float, lay down and float. I was floating and taking pictures, in deep water. You feel completely weightless and I could only imagine that this is what it must be like to be on the moon... The water in the picture above, must have been about 10-15 feet deep, the water is clear so you can see the bottom. Normally, i don't like being in deep water, especially by myself, but nothing can survive in it except for a few bacteria, and you don't sink. I floated as far out as i could, alone, and just enjoyed the mountains of Jordan. A liberating experience and a highlight of my whole trip so far. Due to large scale projects though, the depth of the sea has been dropping rapidly over the past 50 years. If you ever have the opportunity to go, please do.

The desert landscape.
We then went to the Ein Gedi Botanical Gardens, which is the only botanical garden in the world that is incorporated into a private living community.
The gardens are built on a kibbutz that is fed by underground springs. So while driving, this was the only green area in the desert that you could see.

Here is a large Opuntia tree.

Some of the cactus collection, lit up by the desert sun.

They have over 800 species of trees, shrubs and plants.

Architectural palm?f Ficus, which was a very nice retreat from the sun.

How these plants grow in size is nothing short of amazing. The branches which grow up and out, push out from their underside 'feeler' roots. These are visible in the middle of the picture, once these 'feelers' grow enough and hit the ground, they take root. Once these have a hold in the ground, they will swell in size and thickness. This part of the branch eventually turns into its own trunk, which eventually spreads the growth of the whole tree, creating a mini forest of Ficus that is all really just one connected tree.