Friday, February 27, 2009

1385 Feet Below Sea Level

The Dead Sea tastes terrible. Nine hours later, relaxing in the spacious Emirates lounge in Dubai, we can still taste the salt from the world's lowest place.

Of course, we were warned: "Do not let sea water going to your eyes & mouth" read the sign. "Swimming on your back is more save." Though slightly fractured English, the message was quite clear -- keep your head away from the water, if you could. But that's not really fun. If you are going to swim in the Dead Sea once in your life, you really ought to swim, just to get the full experience.

The buoyancy is exactly as people describe -- that's Donald floating in the picture. And the salt does really sting. But some guidebooks go a bit far. One suggested, for example, that it isn't possible to swim in the Dead Sea. That's preposterous. Donald did the crawl out to the buoys and back. However, it helps to be gingerly about it. Don't splash. Otherwise the sea water going in your eyes & mouth. Backstroke is definitely more save.

We missed our chance to roll around in the famous Dead Sea mud when a thunderstorm rolled in bringing high winds, rain, and, later, some hail. The first precipitation we've seen in three weeks. Happily, we got out of Amman before the snow came.

On the plus side, our aches from climbing through Petra and Jerash disappeared after 30 minutes of floating. So chalk one up for the healing powers of the Dead Sea.

Readers may remember that Donald and Esther visited an inland salty sea earlier in our sojourn - the Salton Sea near Palm Springs, California. The seas have some similarities -- they are far below sea level and have salt levels much higher than the ocean. But the differences are stark. The Dead Sea is truly dead. The only things we saw swimming in it were Russian tourists and plastic bags. The Salton Sea, however, is full of fish and the birds that eat them. A good reason to make sure that the salinity of the Salton Sea never rises to Dead Sea levels.

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