How Do You Drive This Thing?
If you ever want to feel like a badass, drive an ATV through the desert. That's what I did yesterday.
My group went into the Judean Desert just east of Jerusalem. (Yes, we were in the West Bank. No we were not harmed by terrorists. Please stop worrying, family.) We drove ATVs around for a while and explored the desert. We walked inside an ancient water cistern and saw Jericho and the Dead Sea from above. We saw the world in shades of red and brown.
The act of driving itself was not difficult. What was difficult was keeping my eyes open enough to see where I was going. The dust kicked back from the wheels of the ATVs in front of stung my eyes and made a film on my glasses. I kept my eyes scrunched up the whole time. It was the only way to see. When I wiped my fingers through the corners of my eyes, they pulled away clumps of dirt. When I licked my lips, my tongue came away dusty. Such a thick layer of dust covered my body that my usually pale skin looked almost tan. My thighs slipped on the seat of the ATV as they became covered in sweat.
At one point we drove past a bedouin tribe's camp. Makeshift buildings interrupted the desert landscape, and a young girl waved to us as we drove past. They live mere miles from Jerusalem, yet they choose to make a life in the desert. Israel is an incredibly diverse place, full of life you don't often here about.
After driving through the desert we cooled off in a natural spring nearby. The water was freezing, but it felt amazing after the feeling of the sun beating down on us. We all tried to rinse off, but even after getting out of the spring, we could still feel the dust on our bodies.
Once we cooled off we headed back into the desert for dinner. We ate at a wonderful, environmentally friendly village whose inhabitants worked the land and created a spot of green in an otherwise red world. They cooked us a homemade meal, which we ate on pillows on the ground.
A long day in the sun and stomachs full of food invited exhaustion, and we all slept in the van on our way back to our apartment that night. It was a great start to this trip, and I can't wait to see what these five months bring.
Here are some photos from the desert, but be sure to check the images link for more photos throughout my trip.