Travel Diaries:1970s Palestine. Episode 29
Saturday December 18th 1976
Couldn’t sleep, got up at 04.00. Instead of leaving at 05.00 as planned -there were a few false starts- we eventually got on the road at 06.00. The truck even went the wrong way, backing further into the Kibbutz grounds. One comedian acted like a tour guide pointing out relevant if boring Kibbutz features, while another suggested a few of us run around holding up cutouts of camels, palms and dunes instead of actually travelling south. a third acted out the five anticipated sunrises before getting off the truck as if we’d just arrived back. Six days with this lot will be amusing at the least, if not educational.
The road to Sa’ad was flanked by a row of trees, with bee hives among them. It was misty, with blue valleys and a smokey blue horizon, above which was a rose flushed dawn sky. The colour of the retreating hills paled in intensity compared to those nearest us. So beautiful.
As we neared Beersheba, the sun rose blood red and the uninteresting town skyline was in silhouette, like a modern painting. We moved on to Dimona, then Yotvata, through fascinating scenery until we reached Eilat several hours later.
Eilat is a flat industrial port town. Thirty or so large ships were sitting in the gulf, some bound for Aqaba (Jordan), others waiting to dock here. We drove through this bare settlement and followed the road hugging the east Sinai coastline, stopping for a swim at Coral Island. It’s a desolate and very lovely spot, with an island crowned by a crusader ruin about a one km swim off shore.
An older Dutch woman and I made the swim, noting a fair sized fin emerge from the water when we about half-way across. Yes there are sharks here. What to do. May as well carry on with the plan. And so we did, and walked around the ruins breathing in the history of it all. By the time we arrived back, lunch had been served and eaten. Oh well, back on bus.
Our first camp for the night was to be at Dahab. On the way I saw many strange rock formations, bedouins with flocks of goats, and strange little ‘weasel’ type animals in the rocks high above us. We passed through Nuweiba, a bedouin settlement of palm leaf structures, and passed a Moshav on the shore among palm trees. It’s all like something out of a nineteenth century lithograph. Same colours, same lines. I can’t absorb it fast enough.
Dahab has nothing here but a bedouin settlement and an army camp. The clear Red sea is full of coral and colourful fish, a wonder-world. Four bedouin joined us around the fire and were invited to eat with us. Later, a couple of soldiers offered to drive us back to Nuweiba, to see the phosphorescent creatures during a night swim.
Late at night I tried to read more Lord Of The Rings, lying face down on the sand. Around the base of my candle was curled a large sand spider, and I noticed they were everywhere. The warm sea was a good place to spend the night, soothing wave sounds around me, and the brightest stars above. On shore, the candle burned down on my abandoned book, marking the page, linking that story forever with this one.