From the Red Sea to the Dead Sea

Feeling guilty from the relaxed past two days, I got up early and did a really long swim in the hotel’s big pool. Then I flopped down on to a sun lounger on the beach and relaxed until check out time. My next stop was a spa resort on the Dead Sea, which was about 4 hours’ driving away.
At first the road was extremely dull – flat featureless desert, no water, trees or hills. There were very few cars and almost no habitations. The sky was hazy – probably from dust, adding to a feeling of complete isolation. It was hard to concentrate on such a monotonous road, so every time I saw a service station (only twice!) I stopped and bought myself an iced coffee to stay awake. I thought about the migration of the Jews from Egypt under Moses, who passed through this inhospitable terrain thousands of years ago, and wondered how they survived.
Finally the road reached the Dead Sea, and became more interesting. The sea itself is not pretty – flat and grey – but is lined on the Jordanian side by impressive mountains and occasional splashes of green where a wadi runs out from the mountains into the sea. I stopped to have a look at one of these wadis.

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The Dead Sea is formed by water mostly from the Jordan river. It is the lowest place on planet earth, meaning that the water arriving there has nowhere to go and can only evaporate in the desert sun, leaving salt behind.

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Over thousands of years the water in the Dead Sea has become eight time saltier than sea water. I drove along the side of the sea, passing a few villages and also factories producing minerals from the sea’s salt, and just before sunset arrived at a place called Suweimeh, where several luxury spa resorts have been built. I checked in to my room; although I had a great view of the Dead Sea, there was no spectacular sunset today. Instead the sun simply faded into a thick bank of grey mist, as if it was tired from its exertions baking the desert. I spent the rest of the day exploring the huge resort, which is built on several levels with an artificial river splashing down through various swimming pools.

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After the dryness of the surrounding desert, the trees and flowers of the resort felt a bit surreal. I then enjoyed Happy Hour and lounging in the various hot tubs and saunas in the spa. Like the sun, I too felt strangely tired and didn’t even feel hungry enough for dinner. Instead I collapsed into bed and slept soundly.

The next day I had breakfast quickly and then headed straight down to the hill to the beach, to try swimming in the Dead Sea for myself. The water feels thick and oily as you wade into it, and the salt stings any small cuts or scrapes you might have. Being a bear I was glad that I didn’t need to shave, because they say the water really irritates the small cuts you get from shaving. As I went in a bit further, the buoyancy of the salty water lifted my little legs off the bottom and I found myself floating on the surface.

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It was hard to find a stable position – when I tried to swim on my tummy the sea would roll me around onto my back and push me up out of the water. Finally I realised that the best thing to do was just lie perfectly still on my back and bask in the morning sun.

 

Unlike normal sea water no movement at all from my arms or legs was needed to stay afloat. All around me other, human, guests were venturing into the water. Some were happily reading their guidebooks whilst bobbing around on their back.

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Others were wallowing and rolling like I did when I first dipped in. Yet more human guests had found some black Dead Sea mud and were smearing it over their bodies, claiming that it was somehow “good for you”. I didn’t believe this and didn’t want to get my fur dirty, so I left them to it.

After I had floated around for half an hour, I got a bit bored. I was tired of watching silly mud-covered humans, and now that the sun was higher in the sky, it was very hot. I left the beach and spent the rest of the day trying the resort’s many different swimming pools, popping back to the cool of my room during the hottest part of the day to write my blog, whilst the temperature outside hovered around 35C.

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In the evening I found a nice bar with a view over the Dead Sea, and today I was rewarded with a proper sunset.

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I enjoyed it with a cold beer, trying to ignore a swarm of flies that seemed to have been following me around the resort for the whole afternoon.

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