The Dead Sea is along the road to Jericho in the occupied West Bank of the River Jordan. It is the lowest point on earth below sea level and has one of the highest salt concentrations of any large body of water on the planet. Think of it as a mud puddle left over from the Great Flood of Noah although science will of course say that it's been around a lot longer than that. Biblical, metaphorical or seismological, we didn't care as the plan for the day was to drive our rented car down the hill to the Israel side of the Dead Sea for the sole purpose of swimming in it.
Floating, more like, as the famous salinity has been remarked upon as being the consistency of a good Italian salad dressing and able to keep even the heaviest of men above water with little to no effort at all. It was a relatively quiet period in the everlasting peace process and running count of ceasefires in the region, we were assured by tourist officials, with the one exception of Jericho itself. We and the car were on our own, they said, if we ventured there but otherwise we had free run of the country.
Down the hilly road to the lake we went, following the well marked signs to the nearest beach head from where our hotly anticipated once-in-a-lifetime dip in the dregs would begin. None of us expected the experience to be refreshing along the lines of a Caribbean swim or even a romp in some backyard pool. That wasn't the point. We wanted to float, plain and simple. Oh, and play in the mud, too, famous the world over for its skin revitalizing properties.
It was October, the Sun was up and the temperature on the warm side which helped us strip off in the changing areas in the blink of an eye.
The wife of a friend took a little longer, of course, because her shoulder length blonde hair had to be done up high enough to stay as far above the water line as possible. For the other two guys in the group it was like watching a seagull take to the air as they began an ungainly long-jumper's dash and skip down the runway for the greatest velocity to launch themselves headfirst in to the sea.
It would be untrue to say that the lightest one of the two of them bounced off the surface of the water but it was close. The larger one did manage to submerge completely but his head was up before his feet went under; skipping one big long-legged rock came to mind at the sound of the "sploosh" he made going in. No matter. They both "Ahhhh'd" themselves contentedly on to their backs, folded their arms over their chests and pointed their feet skyward, mugging for the camera likes kings of the world.
After the mud fight that ensued it was back in the car towards our hotel in Jerusalem following a quick side trip to the Cave of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was a hole in a hill. I bought a couple of bars of Mud Soap for souvenirs and we made it back to town in time for dinner at a Russian restaurant.
Our skin was back to normal - dry and peeling - in two days.