Monday, September 01, 2008

'What? You Went SOUTH?!'


Contrary to 95% of the country, our family actually went to visit Machtesh Ramon (the Ramon Crater) in the Negev for our end of the summer getaway. I kept feeling like I had to justify it beforehand, as I encountered the inevitable "You're going to the DESERT in August? You're crazy!" Hey, it was hot, but at least it was dry heat, as opposed to the steam bath otherwise know as Tiberias at this time of year.

We took this deal that Isrotel's Ramon Inn offered, that included two nights at the hotel and entrance to all kinds of attractions in the area for a great price (pretty much the same as a tzimmer up north.) The room turned out to be a two bedroom suite with a full kitchen and living room (the hotel is actually a renovated Amidar building, so this was basically a fixed-up low-income apartment). It was clean and nicely decorated, but there was only one a/c unit in the living room that was a bit noisy. The rest of the rooms had ceiling fans.

[As a side note, I have only had great experiences at Isrotel hotels. Their food is always great, the atmosphere is generally low-key and relaxing and any entertainment they provide is actually tasteful and enjoyable. Not that we go away all that much, but I pretty much will only stay in their hotels when we do.]

Anyway, the place was packed with lots of other crazy families from the Merkaz who took this deal. But unlike Chayei Sarah's vacation experience , these Israelis were so well-behaved, the only people who drove us crazy at breakfast were our own kids.


The first day we checked out the Visitor's Center, which is a really great way to take an air-conditioned tiyul to the crater. They have a nice sound and light show about how it came to be and exhibits and explanations of the different types of rocks found in the crater. They also have a nice panoramic lookout. My three year old daughter did a great interpretive dance in front of the window, which topped off our trip there. (Since we don't even have a camping/packing list for the kids to burn, I can't even show you pictures because we stupidly forgot our camera!)

We also got a great map from the center that directed us to all the cool spots in the crater. So that evening, we took a drive in to the crater, did a very mini tiyul (like 20 minutes) to check out the ruins of an ancient inn and the spring it was next to and then had a barbecue at a SPNI campsite. Unfortunately, we got to the campsite after dark, which threw a bit of a wrench in our bbq plans due to the limited outdoor lighting (duh, it's the desert!). I just kept praying there was no salmonella in our chicken breasts. Of course, the pple next to us brought their own light and extension cord (apparently, there are outlets at these places) and pretty much set up a make-shift kitchen at the picnic table next to us.

On the drive back, we got to see a skyfull of stars, Milky Way and all. It was gorgeous, but the moonless darkness thing freaked the kids out.

The next day, we checked out the local alpaca farm, which was fun, but the alpacas were a bit aggressive. They had llama rides for the kids and all kinds of nice indoor activities with wool and stuff.

On the way home, we tried to stop at some kind of Negev nature center at kibbutz Revivim, but it was closed by the time we got there. But we did stumble on this great JNF park on the way out, Golda Meir Park that was beautiful, green and even had a nice lake! And bathrooms! and playgrounds! You know you're traveling with kids when it's the last two things that really excite you. It also has some nice bike trails that we tried to explore on foot/stroller, but I had the wrong stroller with me to really enjoy it.

We had a fantastic time in the DRY 40 degree heat. We cooled off in the hotel pool as needed and actually did stop at the Nitzanim beach in Ashdod on the way down. (Great, well-cared for beach with beautiful water.) Very recommended trip, and I'm sure in the winter it's even more gorgeous with the wildflowers in bloom.

BTW, an even cheaper way to experience the crater is to stay at the Har Hanegev Field School, which I did as a camper and madricha on this Israel trip as a teenager. That was even more breathtaking because you're right at the edge of the crater. They can also organize all types of hikes for you, jeep trips, etc.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

20 comments:

Baila said...

That does sound like a great trip. Maybe for Chanuka.

DoubleTapper said...

The Ramon Crater is a favorite training ground for IDF Officer Cadets. I spent many a moonlit night navigating all over the area.

Join the IDF officer corps and night navigate one of the lowest places on earth.



DoubleTapper
DoubleTapper@gmail.com
DoubleTapper, blogging on Guns Politics Defense from Israel

rutimizrachi said...

Who needs the Israeli Tourism Bureau? Visit enough folk in the non-existent blog community -- poor Gil. will he ever live this down? -- and one learns more truly useful information about where to travel/what to eat/the best hotels/how the inhabitants behave/where the bathrooms are...

Thanks, guys, for planning my next several summers.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Abbi: My wife and I were just talking about Mitzpe Ramon...we were there a few years back with some of the kids and we had a blast.

Nu: What did you think about srugim tonight? :)

QuietusLeo said...

Finally, someone came to visit in my back yard. We of course went up north. It was a great vacation but I was glad to get pact to the perfect Negev air.

Commenter Abbi said...

baila- as they say back in the old country "It's worth the trip!" (which commercial was that anyway?)

doubltapper: yes we passed Bad Achad on the way down and my husband related some fond and not so fond memories.

ruti- glad you found this useful!

jameel: I'm plotzing once again!! I thought the inappropriate yishuv security guy was a bit much but I think Amir and Yifat are a great idea! He's adorable! What's not to love? And I what happened with Avri and Hodaya? I even watched last week and I'm still confused. Where can we get a soundtrack? The music is great.

QL: Yes the negev air was great, but I had to drink several glasses of water overnight because every time I woke up to nurse, I felt like i just finished fasting I was so dehydrated.

The Rebbetzin's Husband said...

I am wildly jealous, לא תחמוד and all. It's a good thing the Torah didn't include וחופש אשר לרעך.

Erachet said...

When I was in Harova, our madrichot compared the crater to a krembo. And then everyone got to eat krembos. Too bad I only like the cookie at the bottom, though.

mother in israel said...

We went once on Chanukah.
This trip, my son took about two dozen pics of the Banias waterfall before the battery ran out.

Safranit said...

Thanks Abbi, I've seen their deals in the paper and wanted to go..now with a car it is feasible!

nikki said...

you forgot to mention that at night, mitzpe ramon cools down so that one can actually sleep very comfortably with the windows open! we went last year, same time as you, and were amazed how the weather at night felt exactly like autumn in new york... beautiful.

Rafi G said...

sounds nice. we have not been down south in a while. last time we went to the crater area, we went to an alpaca farm just south of the crater....

Lion of Zion said...

"as opposed to the steam bath otherwise know as Tiberias at this time of year."

i was on kibbutz tirat tzvi (not far from tiberias) after high school. i remember stepping off the air conditioned bus in mid august and having to swim through the humidity to get to my room

Anonymous said...

does anyone know of a list of places in israel where one can take a sleeping bag and camp out for the night? (and not get dragged out of bed by police or park rangers, or harassed by local bums)

harry said...

The Negev and I have a contemptuous relationship. I did my basic training near Eilat (Bislash) and at first absolutely hated the desert, but after four months of training I learned to respect it. Nothing like a absurdly hot desert breeze while fully clothed in a dark green uniform. Had a nice face tan though.

rickismom said...

I was at Machtesh Ramon a few summers ago. Beats the Bnai Brak humidity! Awesome scenery!

A Living Nadneyda said...

I just love it there... when I look at the crater, I get this vast feeling of peace and calm. Seriously, I could just look at it for hours, mesmerized.

Driving down into the crater has its own levels of beauty -- the multi-colored rocks and sand, the amazing rock formations, the fossils. It's better than Disneyland... and it's ours! No oil, no water, but heck, we have the largest naturally-occurring crater in the world! What more could we want?

Anonymous said...

One of the most beautiful and wondrous sights I have ever seen in my life is the stars on a moonless night in the machtesh! My wife and I were driving through one night about 10 years ago and we just had to stop, turn off the car and all the lights, and just stare up at the shamaim for a few minutes.

Mark

RivkA with a capital A said...

Machtesh Ramon -- Definitely one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I would love to go back... Totally understand the appeal of the dry heat, even though I don't think I would do it by choice. My family lives in Phoenix. I used to joke that I was the only person in the entire USA who flew to Phoenix in the summer!!

S'rugim -- Agree that sleezy yishuv security guy was... yuch (and so unlikely in a small yishuv, wherer there are no secrets. the guy's marriage would be over in a second)

Amir & Yifat... nice. But clear that Nati will mess with their heads, the same way he did with his previous girlfriend.

Avri and Hodaya -- she broke his heart... twice. He really loves her. He would marry her in a second. But he can't take the ups and downs. He can't open his heart again and let her destroy him. Even if Hodaya gets her act together (which is doubtful), she would have to convince him that this time it is for real, that she won't run away...again.

Lurker said...

RivkA: S'rugim -- Agree that sleezy yishuv security guy was... yuch (and so unlikely in a small yishuv, wherer there are no secrets. the guy's marriage would be over in a second)

But yet, such things have happened on yishuvim. In particular, I'm thinking of a case where the yishuv's rabbi behaved in this sort of manner. I think you know the one I'm talking about...

RivkA: Amir & Yifat... nice. But clear that Nati will mess with their heads, the same way he did with his previous girlfriend.

Absolutely. I can see it coming from a mile away.

This will almost certainly mean the end of Amir's friendship with Nati, too.

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