May 1, 2009

From Mountains to Sea- Our Last Day In Eilat

April 20 - Hiking Har Shlomo
What is a trip to Eilat without a hike in the mountains? Amir and I had regained our strength, bought a hiking map and some seriously large water bottles. We asked Donna and Alan to join us, and by 5:00 the next morning, we were ready to go.

We drove out in two cars towards the Eilat mountains and dropped our two oldest children in one spot on the Har Shlmo trail. The two cars then continued up the mountain road for miles until we found the other end of this trail. We dropped one car off and headed back in the first car. I am sure Alan and Donna were wondering what they had got themselves into.

We started our hike in early dawn, hoping to see the sunrise from the summit. We climbed and climbed, having to use our hands and feet as if we were ibex. It was craggy, it was high and a little scary at times. But we kept to the trail and the scenery was spectacular. The silence was deafening.

At one point, I saw three people hiking across the top with a large Israeli flag billowing in the wind. The sight was so majestic. We later ran into them; three Israelis who had just finished the army and who were determined to walk the length of the country from south to north on the ‘shvil Israel,’ a path that criss crosses the entire country. They had camped overnight and had just started out.

The woman with the flag told us that she takes her flag everywhere with her when she travels and that this flag had even been to Poland with her. We wished them well and continued on. The sun rose milky and soft, revealing overcast skies. Perhaps a sandstorm was brewing in some corner of the desert.

We finally made it back to our cars and headed to the hotel district, where people sat caressing cappuccinos. I wonder how many tourists in Eilat get up at 4:30 and experience the rugged hiking side of this place.

Swimming With Dolphins
From desert mountains to a sparkling sea reef - how many places in the world offer such an array of scenery? We ended the trip with our dolphin swim.

Scuba gear on our backs, we entered the cove where eight dolphins live and play. There as also a coral reef there complete with black urchins, fat sea cucumbers, a large sea turtle and beautiful coral fanning in the sea.

My daughter, who somehow decided she had dolphin phobia (is there a word for this?), overcame her fears, and to her amazement, dolphins gently brushed up against her. They must have sensed her apprehension.

As for me, who has no dolphin phobia, but a general all-encompassing fear of scuba diving, I only saw two dolphins who swam past me quickly. Guess they had better things to do. But it was still a spectacular experience. And yes, I would do it again.

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