I love the desert! So when Ram suggested we take a trip there, I was all in! A little over an hour into our drive the grass fields and lush trees faded to hills of sand and rocks. We snaked our way down to 400 meters below sea level to a that highway runs alongside the Dead Sea. One black strip of road between a blue sea and an empty white desert.
We pulled over to explore and take pictures of the Sea. The ground is solid salt crystals and the water is so saturated with salt it’s slimy and stings like hell, especially if you have even the tiniest little cut. It also tastes just like Epsom salt, ya I tried it…. The spot we explored looked like low tide at the ocean with tide pools in old volcanic rock, except this water is nine times saltier and the rocks are sharp salt crystals. The ground is so prickly that when I put my palm down to gently drop off a small cliff my palm felt like I was pressed down on a hundred thorns, after which my palm burned like crazy until I washed it off. Ah, the wonders of the world.
It was still several hours before dark so on our way to camp we decided to take a little detour. and Not far from where we were camping is a place called “flour cave”. Ram remembered going there as a child and said it was pretty cool. It really looked like the whole canyon was made of flour. White chalky canyon walls were full of swirly layers of white dirt. It looked like layers of plaster board and crumbled like it too. The cave entrance had a do not enter sign next to it but we went anyways. It always amaze me how different the air is in caves, it so much cooler. We walked through the cave and crawled through some tunnels until we couldn’t get any farther. We were a little nervous and cautious because the tunnels and caves aren’t solid and there were several places where you can tell the ceiling crumbled or the wall crumbled. I was relieved to get out without anything falling on my head.
We continued down the canyon and took a side drainage to try and climb out. It looked like we could get out so we scrambled up a very powdery hill. It was so soft that we had to force our fingers into the dirt like claws and our feet into the dirt like you do in snow. But, once we got to the top we were faced with a wall of crumbly dirt, it was impossibly to climb with any confidence, it could easily crumbly under your weight. If it was solid rock it would have been no problem but it was like soft chalk. So we slide back down the hill of powder and continued on down the canyon to what the map said was an exit spot… it was no exit. It was more like a dead end but we tired to get out. If the map said it was an exit then we figured there had to be a semi okay way out right? Wrong. Our attempt to get out is on the very top of my list of the scariest things I’ve ever done.
It was a maze of steep chutes and cliffs. To get into the first chute we had to jump up a ledge about five feet from the ground. With a boost from Ram I could get a grip of the “rock” and pull myself up to a flat area then shortly after climb up a not so bad ramp. The slit we were in went straight or to the right. Straight ahead was all around cliffs of fifty feet but to the right looked maybe doable. It was a twenty foot chimney, then another chimney/almost straight up hill. We managed to climb it all just to realize there was no way out. More straight up crumbly cliffs. From below it looked like we could get out but its impossible to know sometimes until you’re there. So after all that, we had to go back down it all. As I sat at the top of all those climbs I thought “I am NOT going back down, NO WAY”. To me going down is three times more terrifying than going up. There was nothing to hold on to and anything I held might just crumble under me. I was frozen and Ram was down and out of site. I realized after a few seconds of paralysis that “staying isn’t really an option… I HAVE to go down, all of the most terrifying climbs on chalk walls!” So with my heart pounding out of my chest, my whole body trembling in fear, I started down slowly inch by inch until I had to drop six feet into powder below. As I dropped I let out a scream/yell because I knew it was very possible I could break something on the impact. I made it past the first cliff now onto the second… the chimney. I looked down and just thought “oh my god…” and turned around to face the cliff. I had to push my forearms into the sides of the walls and my legs the same because there wasn’t really anything to grip. I was so tired going down that at one point I decided on a new strategy to have my back on one wall and my feet on the other so my arms could rest. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before, I guess because it’s kind of hard to get anywhere that way. When my feet hit flat ground again I was so relieved. My whole body was shaking, I was completely out of breath and my muscles were exhausted and shaking but I had two more places to get down. Luckily the last two weren’t so bad. I made it, not sure how, other then with pure LUCK.
After that traumatizing experience, all in vane, we decided it would be best to hike back the way we came. The sun was setting so we booked it. Once we finally made our last climb out of the canyon and saw the wide open desert glowing in the light of the setting sun I was so grateful to be okay! Both of us were completely out of breath. We turned to each other and with deep breaths of relief, hugged.
The Dead Sea
The only picture we got of trying to climb out. This was the place I call a chimney. It doesn’t look nearly as bad in this picture.
Pictures of our hike out.