A day in the desert

Monday February 19: What a wonderful day we had.  Several weeks ago our airbnb host Guy was giving us tips on what to do, where to eat and sights to see.  He suggested that we rent a car some day and drive to Mitzpe Ramon which is a town in the Negev desert of southern Israel.  It is located on the northern ridge at an elevation of 860 meters (2,800 feet) overlooking a sizable erosion cirque known as the Ramon crater.  He told us that it had beautiful views, colored sands and wonderful hikes into the crater.  We rented the cheapest shitbox that we could find, of course it had manual transmission, and headed out at 8:30 for a purported 2.5 hour 102 mile drive following instructions from Waze in Hebrew.  This was Jim’s first time driving in Israel and he did spectacularly well thanks to Sandy and Waze’s navigation.

Funny roadside warning.
IMG_5513 (1)
Not so funny roadside warning.

The drive actually took five hours thanks to some unexpected detour opportunities.  We were 35 miles from our destination when we saw a sign for David Ben-Gurion’s desert home at Sde Boker which is a kibbutz where Ben-Gurion and his wife Paula had a second home.  In an earlier blog on Ben-Gurion’s home in Tel Aviv we alluded to the fact that he lived there off and on.  This is referred to as his retirement home but he actually died at his home in Tel Aviv.  The desert home was also willed by Ben-Gurion to the state as a museum.  Of course we had to tour the house and grounds.

The simple interior of the house.

As we were leaving his house we noticed a plaque which referenced Ben-Gurion and Paula being buried side by side nearby in which he asked that no eulogies be read and no salvos fired over his grave.  Of course we had to view their graves.  It took a lot of dead ends, bad leads and even walking right by their graves once before we finally found them.  The reason we missed them the first time was due to some visual distractions.

This was the first distraction
and this was the second.
Paula and David Ben-Gurion’s graves overlooking the Zin Valley.

The Zin valley forms part of the longest Wadi (Arabic for valley or ravine) in the Negev stretching over 60 km.  It is quite reminiscent of the Grand Canyon.

We finally arrived in Mitzpe Ramon at 1:30pm.  We cruised this small town on the rim of the crater and elected to walk up to the Camel lookout first which we later regretted as it would have been the perfect place to be at sunset.

Camel lookout over the crater.

Never the less, the views of the crater were beautiful although not as spectacular as the Zin valley.  Our next planned stop was the visitor center but we got distracted with more views, interesting sites and play.

There were a lot of “wild” Ibex just hanging out.
Stopping to admire the view.
Sandy sitting on the edge.
Should a 68 year old man really be doing this on an unstable rock?

Sandy had her sights set on seeing the Ilan Ramon Museum and Memorial.  Opened in 2013, this memorial has a fitting setting, overlooking the unique lunar- like landscape of the world’s largest makhtesh (Hebrew for erosion crater), the Ramon Crater for which Ramon changed his name earlier in life due to his love for this part of the Negev Desert.  Dedicated to the memory and presentation of the life of Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first and only astronaut, who tragically died in the 2003 Columbia disaster when the shuttle disintegrated upon re-entering the earths atmosphere along with Christa McAuliffe a teacher from Concord New Hampshire.  His son also died six years later during his service in the Israeli air force when his F16 jet crashed not far from the Mitzpe Ramon crater.   Unfortunately we arrived too late to join a tour or even get in to see the movie presentation of his life.  Oh well, now we have a reason to return here some day.

We then drove down into the crater and collected multi-colored sand for the grandchildren.

Colored sands.

IMG_0343 (1).jpgAfter a long day of driving and sightseeing we stopped at a luxury hotel overlooking the crater for an early dinner and drinks.

Cocktail hour overlooking the crater, and yes it was quite chilly.

Unfortunately the hotel faces east so the sunset was not visible.  After dinner we headed home in the dark arriving just about 12 hours after leaving.

9 responses to “A day in the desert”

  1. THESE ARE MY MOST FAVOURITE OF EVERYTHING.!!! WOW what spectacular beauty! And of course I was really impressed by that young man who took on those MIGHTY ROCKS. He was a bit hesitant at first but then burst up and conquered them with a loud “HIYA” that was heard round the world. I love that the car was a standard shift. They are fun to drive. And how brave of you guys to drive through the zone that says “SHOOTING ON BOTH SIDES”. I joined you for those yummy looking drinks vicariously. xxoxoxoxo I love you guys so MUCH

    1. That young man looked old going up those rocks. That was one of our best days so far. So many surprises and so much beauty.

  2. Great pics and history…..who knew the “Grand Canyon” of the Middle East??

    1. It was pretty amazing and it came out of no where. That canyon wasn’t even our destination and we had heard nothing about it.

  3. If you want to go back, Dick and I are game.

    1. If we drive to Eilat en route to Petra we go right through there.

  4. Kathleen von Pohle Avatar
    Kathleen von Pohle

    Delightful desert colors. I so enjoy the Grand Canyon.

  5. Spectacular views, and courage! Try not to drive into Syria before we arrive.

    1. I would love to go to Lebanon but we cannot drive across that border.

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