Posts Tagged ‘heat’

Israel: From the Desert to the Holy City

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

The night spent in the goatskin tent felt like an eternity, even though we actually slept for about 3 hours total due to our late night jam session. The ground was hard, the air cold and thin, but even through this, it was still a great feeling to wake up and feel surrounded by new-found friends. It really was after that night that I think we all stopped being people on a trip and became friends.

6am. Wake up call. Everyone slowly and regrettably rolling out of their sleeping bags and wandering with blurry eyes toward the bathrooms to try to reassemble our appearances for the coming day. A sea of girls packed the small bathrooms brushing teeth, doing makeup, brushing hair, trying to find all the articles of our clothing; it really made the entire morning process of preparation seem a fool’s errand so early in the morning and with no space to get ready.

Eventually I gave up trying to prep myself to look slightly human again and realized it was a failed effort. The darkness we had woken up to slowly altered itself as the great fiery ball that is the sun slowly lifted itself up from its hiding place to peek over the sandy mountain tops. The sand under my feet, the sounds of the camels and donkeys, and the slow progression of people toward the breakfast area was interrupted when the sun revealed itself. Everyone around me stopped to watch its steady ascent. It was magnificent, bathing the desert land in light, cascading over sand dunes to fill the valley with light.

It was a wonderful morning to be alive.

Breakfast was in a big tent and was very welcomed. Great food, real fresh goat cheese, all assortments of bread and fresh eggs along with their amazing tea. The tea was much needed again because the long night in the cold and the lack of sleep had ruined my health and I felt terrible. It felt like someone set my throat on fire and I could barely speak at all. As we all sat at the table making fun of my hoarse voice and enjoying the awesome Bedouin breakfast I felt something hit me. Looking up I saw a  couple of birds perched in the ceiling rafters and realized to my horror that I had just been pooped on by a bird. Horrified and everyone else laughing, I tried to figure out how to save my only outfit I had for the entire day ahead. Luckily I was able to get a new shirt but it was just such a comically horrifying moment.

After breakfast we all headed back to the buses which were bathed in the sunrise’s glow as well to continue our journey onward.


At 7am we left camp and drove deeper into the desert valley winding our way past sand dunes on empty desert roads. We were headed to Masada, an isolated rock plateau atop a great desert mountain that overlooks the Dead Sea and the vast Judean Desert. This place was once the site of one of Herod’s great palaces which he greatly fortified, but fell under Roman siege ending with the tragic suicide of nearly a thousand jewish people to avoid enslavement at Roman hands. This tragic tale took place on top of this pillar of earth high above the desert earthen floor and we hiked up the Roman Ramp that had been built to over take the fortification


We hiked up in the shadow of the mountain, only seeing the sun bathed desert light peaking around the sides of the great mesa. Coming out between stone pillars, which were thousands of years old to the flatten plain where once a great palace stood, bathed in early morning sunshine, was an amazing sight to see.


Directly under the sun, even this early in the morning, had us all seeking out shade to learn more about this place.


We talked for a while about the history of this place and then set out to wander along the ruins of this ancient place.

The world felt silent from up there, so high above the valley of the Judean Desert, it was one of my favorite experiences on the entire trip. The hot breeze lifting the dusty sand of ancient worlds to twirl around us as we plodded along. It felt like God was in the breeze, suspended in the air all around us, caught between the bricks of each ruined building.


One amazing thing we went and saw was down some ancient worn steps into what used to be the water storage area; a great pit of a room with extremely high ceilings that we all walked down slanted steps to reach the bottom. Light poured in from the outside sunshine and illuminated the room in such a magical way, it was impossible not to feel awestruck.



I stayed behind and lingered there in the bottom of that pit, placed my hand on the square of light let in through the hole high above me. It was an amazing feeling to touch the smoothed out stone that everywhere else felt so cold and hard, but right there where the light touched the ancient wall, was warmed by the sun.

After leaving the water storage area we went back out onto the plateau where we all sat in a huge circle and just meditated for a short while. We sat in silence, just listening and feeling the Israeli sun on our faces. I touched the ground and felt the sand run through my fingers, dusting them with archaic remnants of the past. Listening to the wind brush past us, you could almost hear God whispering in your ear. The wind felt like the breath of God, escaping like a sigh across this place so high above the ground.

When we opened our eyes from the meditation each person had a little envelope from their loved ones before them. We had some free time to go be alone, contemplate, and read our letters wherever we pleased. I sat curled up in a nook of the archaic ruins facing over the cliff side into the canyons far below.


After I read my letter, I stood at the canyon’s edge and with a couple of other people, yelled over the sides of the plateau into the valleys below. Our voices were carried far away, filling the crevices of the canyons all around us. Lifted high by the wind, our voices rang out across the Judean Desert. It was crazy to see the power of our voices as they echoed around us.

Afterwards, before we descended via the Snake Path, which is a huge winding trial leading down the other side of the plateau, we all took a group picture, the first that included our lovely Israeli soldiers.



The descent, which most people take a cable car to avoid, was one of the longest hikes I have ever experienced  It took an eternity to reach the bottom, but it was still an amazing trail to hike down. Once at the bottom we ate lunch in a cafeteria area. I am willing to admit I actually ate McDonald’s, just see what it was like and to my great surprise it was actually good. It was nothing like McDonald’s in America, it felt like real food, real burgers, not gross tiny hamburgers. It was huge and really tasty. While we waited for our bus we all played a giant game of ninja and a new game we learned the previous night called Sheep-a-Sheep. It was hilarious and a great way to wrap up our time at Masada

The Dead Sea was our next stop and one many of has been highly anticipating the entire trip; a chance to float in the Dead Sea’s salty waters. This place is the lowest elevation in the entire world at 423 meters below sea level. So we all excitedly went to change into our bathing suits and ran down to the beach for a float. This experience was not at all what I expected it to be.


The color of the water was a beautiful green and blue, which contrasted wonderfully with the red and orange rocks on the shore. The first difficulty we encountered was actually getting into the water itself. It seems benign enough in the pictures, but what you don’t see in this picture are the salt deposits covering every rock, making sharp crystalline structures that just love to shred feet if you aren’t careful.


This is a more accurate display of what it looked like and felt like walking barefoot on these rocks and trying to make it into the water as waves were splashing against our wobbly legs. Once in the water and off our feet, which were now on fire from the salty water getting into the numerous cuts on our feet, we felt the bizarreness that is the Salt Sea.


Everything you hear about the Dead Sea is true; it is bizarrely salty. It feels like gravity has been reversed or you are floating on air. You have to float on your back and once you do it is such a weird experience. It feels like nothing you ever have felt before.


It was really very fun to paddle around and float with everyone out in the water.


However, the salt that makes the Dead Sea such a cool experience is also your worst enemy. The very first thing they told us getting off the bus was, whatever you do, don’t put your head under water or get water in your eyes or mouth. I don’t think I understood how very serious they were. Within moments of being out in the water my lips were covered in crusted salt and everyone could tell something was weird about the water. The water was slightly wavy and would splash little bits of the water on our faces and it burned, literally burned. You couldn’t rub the hurt from your eyes because your hand were covered in the water. There was nothing to do if you got even the tiniest splash on your face. People had to get back on shore and wash out their eyes in a serious way. Most people didn’t even stay in the water very long because the waves kept getting the salt in people’s’ eyes. After a short while everyone was out of the water with bloodied feet and burning eyes. The medic really had her hands full bandaging people’s feet.

It really is an amazing example of the beauty and danger of nature. It was extraordinarily beautiful and I am so glad I did it but everyone was pretty ready to get very far away from the water after only a short while.


We all ran to the showers to get the burning salt off and headed back to the bus with new battle wounds but satisfied in having this very cool, if not slightly disastrous experience. Once back on the bus one of our peers actually passed out because he got so dehydrated from the salt. It is funny looking back on how much of a disaster it actually was, but I don’t regret it for even a single moment.

Tired from the already really long day (remember we had been up since 6am after a 3am bed time) and having hiked in the heat, swam in the salt, we were all pretty exhausted. However we had no time to rest, Jerusalem, the Holy City was out next destination.

We arrived in Jerusalem on a hill that rose above Jerusalem and from it we could survey the whole city. At the overlook we were greeted with a huge welcoming party along with many other Birthright buses. There were drummers who gathered our attention by blowing on horns made out of actual horn. They began to sing and drum as everyone stood and watched; their shadows cast on the ground around their feet.



It didn’t take long for everyone to join in singing and dancing in a giant circle around the drummers a top a mountain that felt like the seat of the world in the holy city of Jerusalem.




After the short festivities were over, the dancing and singing stopped and we were officially welcomed to Israel and Jerusalem by the breaking of Challah and sharing it between every single one of us as we watched the sun set over Jerusalem.





To stand above the city of Jerusalem at last, after coming so far, and having seen so many things already, I could feel my heart expanding knowing: I had made it to Jerusalem. We could see the Dome of the Rock in the distance and the Western Wall (Kotel) along with all the winding labyrinthine streets that created the thatch work masterpiece that is this holy city.



The very first thing we did in Jerusalem was go and visit one of the expansive open air markets. It was a truly amazing experience. It is one of my all time favorite things to visit market places in destinations that I have never visited before because it provides such an intriguing glimpse into the actual essence of this newfound place.



We all split up with about an hours time to explore wherever we pleased throughout the giant market place, which was a series of intersecting streets about four streets wide. I split off with Plia and my friend Tia to explore. Since Plia, being from Israel and having visited this very same market several times,  knew exactly where to go, what to see, and what food to eat.



She was a fantastic guide and made the experience so much more special than it already was, being able to watch these Israeli natives communicate in Hebrew together. One of the very first things Plia showed us was Halva; an odd sesame snack that is kind of like a flaky fudge that has a large variety of flavors. This picture below which looks reminiscent of cheese is actually a large variety of flavors of Halva ranging from coffee, chocolate, cinnamon, poppy seed, orange, vanilla, and all kinds of flavors.



She even showed us this wonderful character, the Halva King who runs this stand. He is there almost every day wearing his little crown handing out samples of his Halva. It was so interesting and something I had never experienced. I loved Halva (I even brought back some with me to the United States) but it really is something you either love or hate. It is very difficult to relate it to anything I have ever had before, it is just Halva.



We wandered the streets of the market listening to the vendors yelling out about their wares, Plia occasionally translating so we could understand. Each stand was full of so many amazing things from pastries, to spices, to tea, or trail mixes. There were numerous candy stands selling all sorts of chocolates or suckers.





Plia took us a little off the beaten track and showed us her favorite place at the market; a tiny little coffee shop down one of the side alleyways which she said had some of the best hot chocolate around. It really was some amazing hot chocolate, all three of us got some and it was one of the richest things I have ever tasted. It had at least three little chocolate bars melting at the bottom fo the cup. It was nice having this brief little glimpse into her world.

As we were leaving the alleyway a tiny restaurant was handing out free samples and they basically chased us down trying to give us free food because they could tell we were americans. We finally agreed and the food was not only amazing but the people were hilarious. They asked us where we were from, both Tia and I said California and suddenly the owner just disappeared. We were a little confused and worried we had offended him when suddenly he comes running back and the speakers of the restaurant start blasting out Californication by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was hilarious and I really wished we could have stayed and eaten there but we were running out of time. So we walked away from the market with Californication filling the market streets behind us.




It was a truly incredible experience and it felt like we really got a taste of life in Jerusalem. We all reluctantly came back together and late at night drove to our hotel which would be our home for the rest of the trip. The hotel was gigantic, called Rimonim (means pomegranate  but we were all too tired to really care. We got our new roommate assignments and went upstairs to sleep after one of the longest days of my life but also one of the best.



Bootjack or Bust: Day One- Gila Bend

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Today my mom and I left for our third adventure across the USA in our car moving towards (albiet on a somewhat random and very indirect course) our final stop in Upper Michigan, Bootjack where we will spend the summer. This years course is a very different one than in our past. We have really out done ourselves this time. We will be heading out from Santa Cruz on a nearly two week excursion across the very bottom of the US all the way until New Orleans and then heading almost directly up, through lower Michigan, to our final destination.

That being said this is either going to be the best trip ever… or the longest one.

3am wake up- out of the driveway by 4am, we like to start early and end late. Sunrise to sunset everyday. As we made our way through Gilroy at 5am, the smell of garlic was thick around us. As gross as it sounds somehow even then, before we had eaten breakfast, or let alone woken up yet, the smell of garlic was mouth watering. What can I say, I am a Gilroy girl. Anyway, besides trying to take pictures of barns in the dark and relentlessly googling questions that we had always wondered but never had time to ask but now have all the time in the world to wonder about, we didn’t do much in the morning. By the afternoon when we had left behind the traffic and smog of Los Angeles, my mother had a request, a single request: to go see the dinasaur park near Palm Springs. So of course, we did because road tripping without odd and unrelated stops every so often is rather boring. So the dinosaurs, a gigantic, plastic T-Rex, and a hollow Brontesauras that you could climb in, where our first real stop on our adventure; they were fantastic in the best, most childish way.

After that brief but joyous stop we headed down towards the very bottom of the state via a road that went along a little known (at least to me) lake called the Salton Sea which is actually the biggest lake in California. It is also saltier than the Pacific Ocean, similar to the Great Salt Lake but not that salty, Salton Sea is an odd and somewhat mysterious place. We past it and decided on a whim to drive into a tiny little RV town called Salton Sea Beach. This little detour was very worth while.

This odd sign was just the beginning to this strange detour that actually wound up being rather creepy and eerie. Driving slowly down this sole road lined with trailer homes that were either being lived in with no present sign of life, abandoned in a state of hollow dishevelment, or burned. There was no one around. At the end of the road was a turn into a section of only abandoned and burned down trailers that was extremely creepy. It felt like if we left the car, people would slowly begin to emerge all around us, all waiting to attack. I am not paranoid, it was really kind of scary. Only when another fellow tourist (possible lost) drove up hesitantly obviously feeling the same way did we get the courage up to get out of the car.

First thing I noticed upon getting out of the car:

  1. It was 111 degrees out and I was dying of heat
then began a slew of other realizations:
  • it smelled of death and decay in a horribly fetid way
  • there was no sand just a mixture of dried, dead coral, and bones from fish that had been left to wither, dry and die in the desert sun.

Needless to say, I was horribly intrigued by this place and wandered around taking pictures of this mysteriously eerie place. There was furniture ripped and worn on the beach and extremely large tires lodged in the ground. It was the oddest scene I had seen in a while.

The furniture strewn on the beach obviously had been stripped from the graffitied and burned buildings behind us that seemed to lurk like ghosts just beyond what the sign had called a “marina”.

Other odd and baffling things like this boat where strewn about. This faded pink motorboat which was buried halfway in sand amidst a palm tree grove seemed to sum up the atmosphere of this place rather well.

Regardless of the eerie feelings, paranoia, and other shiver inducing things we found in this odd place, it was beautiful in an eccentric sort of way. The blue water nestled below the jagged mountains in the back ground as pelicans and great blue herons flew around, all made up a very pretty scene.

Leaving behind the sea we continued all the way to the bottom of the state as far as you can go before hitting Mexico and then turned for the beginnings of our eastward journey. We saw two interesting things: Sand Dunes, and the Center of the World.

Odd, I know, I didn’t really get it at first and I still don’t really understand. So apparently this town, if you can call it that, with a population of four called Felicity, is the certified center of the world. A man, one of the four residents, is a writer who made up  a children’s story about a dragon who lives under the center of the world or something which is Felciity. And somehow, he convinced several nations including China and France to help him certify Felicity as the Center of the World. And they did.

This pyramid marks the center of the world… and I was there.

We also made a pit stop in the newly booming town of Yuma as we crossed over into Arizona. Right on the Colorado river this town, featured in the movie 3:10 to Yuma, is a historic gold mine, not literally but figurateivly 🙂

With the old prison yard and railroad systems, Yuma was once a huge crossing where prisoners where sent. It was seen as Hell. The cells looked like it too, six men to a room and just the length of a single cot and the width of maybe three, seems like Hell to me. It was great poking around this old city and seeing the historic areas and crumbling adobe facades of century old, or older buildings.

Our final stop before settling in was a little rest stop called Dateland. Not for dating but the fruit dates!! I had never actually eaten a date before but I love stops like this that are just weird and fun. This place is world famous for its date shakes. Yes… smoothies made from dates. So I went from never having eaten a date to being a date veteran in a few minutes. It was so much fun and surprisingly good! It had a nice cinnamon like flavor and was delicious. A fun must do 🙂

Our last stop today is a special little spot called Gila Bend. This little hell hole is notoriously the hottest city in the US, it is so proud of this title it often likes to inflate its temperatures just to maintain its title. It is supposed to be near 120 degrees tomorrow. Yippee for me! We are staying in the Space Age Lodge… which has a space ship on top of it, no joke. Oh and a train that runs right outside our window every hour… also no joke. LOVE IT!

Sarcasm doesn’t read well on the internet. But another 4am start tomorrow as we continue on ward towards Las Cruces New Mexico to see some of my lovely relatives!



Utah Trip: Grand Staircase Escalante Part 2

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

You thought our day was over? Nope, not even close. We then headed over to the next part of the national park to go try and see some more slot canyons called Peek-A-Boo Canyon and Spooky Canyon. From the top of the trail it was pretty unassumming.

Little did we know that we had to climb far down to reach the bottom of a canyon in one hundred degree weather only then to reach the slot canyons. It was brutal sliding down the cliff knowing that later I would have to climb back up them with the sun beating down on my back.

We then reached the first slot canyon which was Peek-A-Boo and realized we were unable to do it. With a combination of clumsiness and heat exhaustion we were unable to climb into the canyon. Obviously I was extremely upset about this when faced with the possiblity of having come all this way for nothing.

After a long deliberation we decided to push on and go see the other canyon, Spooky. It was amazing. Spooky is a true slot canyon meaning it is a claustrophobic persons worst nightmare. You have to duck, crawl, and squeeze your way to advance in these canyons but they are so worth it.

The sculpted walls of the canyon are beyond art and beyond all other natural creations. Sometimes it is hard to believe that they were sculpted not by mans hands but by something else.

Like this one for example, the kissing rocks. These two sculpted walls from the right angle look like people kissing. How could that be an accident? The answer? Mother nature is amazing beyond all words

It is quite the experience squeezing through this tiny little gaps. You can feel ever line in the stone, the coolness as you brush your fingertips along it, and you can hear the breeze passing through the canyon’s corridors.

It really was amazing and a must have life experience. They are so unique and marvelous, it is amazing to think that these formed naturally and are not actually pieces of art sculpted by who knows what.

Our day however didn’t end happily, we were stuck on the side of the road in one hundred degree weather with a flat tire. We were going to have to wait but a wonderful person came and saved us! So we are behind schedule now but not by much. We got our butts kicked by these amazing hikes but it was all worth it in the end!


Spring Break: Route 66

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

Today we started out our day in Lake Havasu City, there I happened upon the strange Gabriel species again. This one was giant, he dwarfed a lighthouse that was on the edge of the beautiful lake.

Another strange and rare sighting of the Gabriel. After that we headed over to the famous London Bridge. Yes, the real London Bridge in Lake Havasu City Arizona. Strange right?

So apparently the original London Bridge was becoming old and ruined so they decided to rebuild it. This left the old bridge nowhere, so they put it up for sale. Lake Havasu City bought it, shipped it, and then rebuilt it right here on Lake Havasu.

Next on the day’s agenda was Historical Route 66. My dad and brother were going on a long bike ride up route 66 and my mom and I were going running.

I had never been on Route 66 before and it was quite the experience.

We ran along a Wildlife Refuge’s lake that was very beautiful but extremely hot. We also saw a coyote but sadly I didn’t have my camera with me.

Then was the long drive around a beautiful hilly valley that really gave us a taste of what Arizona is made of. There were towering monoliths or red craggy rocks, hills full of yellow wildflowers and cacti, and long expanses of open countryside.

All along the way were interesting sights. Mostly things people would consider eye sores or trash but they were really interesting and amazing. A lot of old rusted out cars, old houses broken down, and well, trash.

Probably the most interesting part of our day was visiting the tiny town of Oatman. It was full of local color, tiny shops, and of course, donkeys. What quaint little towns isn’t ruled by donkeys?

They were everywhere. All over the streets, walking up to cars, people, and trying to get food from everyone. They were adorable; there were babies all over the place but it was so hot they all were taking naps.

It was quite the sight, watching all these donkeys just wondering around the town in search of shade and food.

It was a good day on Route 66 and there will be more adventure for tomorrow. Tonight we are bedding down in Flagstaff, tomorrow…. the Grand Canyon!


Road Trip 2010: Las Vegas

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Day one of my journey to Michigan by car began today at 4:30. I miss the rest of my family already and my dog. The first day of our trip ended in Las Vegas Nevada. First thing I am going to say is this: IT WAS 111 DEGREES OUT WHEN WE ENTERED NEVADA!!

I thought it being sunny was brutal but this heat was unbearable. I kept seeing cars on the side of the road overheated and I felt so horrible for those people and grateful at the same time because if we hadn’t gotten the new car that would probably be us on the side of the road. Our trip out was relatively uneventful but fun. I watched the Hangover in the car to prepare myself for staying in Cesar’s Palace.

These hotels on the strip are so amazingly cool in my mind because last time we went to Vegas we spent a majority of the time in an R.V. park. So in comparison it is amazingly nice. Sadly I didn’t feel good at all for the first part of our time in the Hotel. I had to get over feeling bad though because my favorite part of Vegas was coming up. Eating at the Bellagio buffet. Sad I know that I look forward to food so much but this buffet is the best thing in the entire world. My biggest regret last time I was in Vegas was not getting to  try the desserts because they looked amazing.

Naturally I fixed that this year by taking every type of desert they had and taking one bite out of each. It was fun but to say that I was stuffed by the end is a gross understatement. So much fun! We spent some time walking around the Bellagio and checking out there cool gardens which consisted of animal sculptures made from flowers and giant glass flowers.

The frog was my favorite out of the bees, lady bugs and snails. After the Bellagio we went back to Cesar’s to do a little shopping. It has been a long day and tomorrow is going to be a longer one. Stay tuned for more stories about the rest of the trip!

P.S. I will be posting more elaborate stories on the parts of this day in later posts when my schedule isn’t so hectic.


Post Summer Heat

Friday, August 28th, 2009

People think I am strange for not liking the sun, it is true that it is a little weird to say that. For me it is just the plain truth. I am not the sun’s biggest fan, that doesn’t mean I don’t like sunshine every once and a while or some good weather because I do like that.

The problem is living in Scotts Valley basically, that is all there is. I enjoy diversity of weather, not heat, heat, heat, then fog creating an everlasting chain of uncommitted weather. Let’s face it Scotts Valley is a pretty regualer place when it comes to weather. There is almost no rain, it only gets remotely cold, and it is almost always sunny. So as I said, I enjoy the sun, sometimes. Not ever day for my entire life. I love rain, seeing fall leaves, snow, and some nice sun. But here there is just sun and fog.

Not to mention the strange placement of the little weather that actually happens. So today and yesterday have been hotter than Hades and you could fry an egg on the pavement at my school in the 100+ degree weather. It is ridiculous. The worst part is, I might have actually minutely enjoyed this weather if it was during summer when I needed it!! But of course, no, the hottest days of the year fall right when summer ends so we are stuck in boiling classrooms wishing we were at the beach swimming. It was so hot yesterday I got heat stroke out on the golf course. Not only do the hottest days of the year here fall not in summer but when summer is over, it really doesn’t get cold until around feburary or march if it gets cold at all. It bugs me because I can never tell what todays weather is so I just assume sunny.

What are you supposed to do when it is this hot anyway? Go to the beach is the usual answer but typically right now, I don’t have the luxury of time to indulge in such whimsy. Nor would I particularly want to go with the crowd swarming there, it really bugs me when you can’t really go swimming in the ocean because everytime you move you fear stepping on some little toddler as it floats by with little arm floaties. Ugh, claustrophobia to the max on hot days at the beach. Besides swimming in overly crowded pools or beaches what is there to do? I mean it is too hot to even cook dinner right now. What is there left but boredom.

Oh well I guess we are left to suffer in the heat of an unforgiving sun beating down on our backs. I will hide out in the shade and pray for rain, if you see me doing the rain dance outside your window. I tell you, do not be afraid.

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