Thursday, November 19, 2009

Route 40 - The Road to Mitzpe Ramon

Useful links:
Google Map of Israel

Route 40 is the only road that leads into and out of Mitzpe Ramon. Except when it enters Ramon's Crater, it looks pretty much like this for its entire length: a well paved two lane highway wandering through a dun colored desert landscape of rolling hills and plateaus.

Route 40, heading north towards Be'er Sheva

Route 40 as it descends into Ramon's Crater

For some reason, I find desert driving to be completely exhausting. Perhaps it is the heat or the sun's glare, but a drive from Mitzpe Ramon to Be'er Sheva, approximately 1 hour, completely exhausts me and leaves me wrung out. I hope I am not getting old.

The View Along Route 40

One of the sights one sees along Route 40 is the occasional orchard. You will be driving along through a complete waste land, when all of a sudden, a patch of green appears on the horizon. It is an irrigated strip of land, usually bearing fruit trees or grape vines. Israel, of course, is a pioneer in techniques of desert irrigation, but what puzzles me the most is how even irrigated plants can gain a perch in the rocky desert soil. I will have to find out more about desert agriculture.

An Orchard Along Route 40

Also ubiquitous along Route 40 are the high tension power lines, which sing incessantly across the desert landscape.

Power Lines Along Route 40 with Desert Totem

Another common sight are the Bedouin shanty towns which line Route 40 for many miles from Be'er Sheva toward Mitzpe Ramon. They seem to grow in size and number every time I make the trip, and about which we will write more later.

Bedouin Shanty Town Along Route 40 Outside Be'er Sheva Toward Mitzpe Ramon

One also sees signs of agrarian and pastoral Bedouin life along Route 40. In the afternoon sun one can see a Bedouin shepard bringing his flock of sheep home across a dun colored hill, the close animals making the hill look like it has come alive with rippling life. On one trip to Be'er Sheva we saw these Bedouin boys on donkey-back tending their small herd of sheep.

Bedouin Boys Tending Flock Along Route 40

There is much to be seen in the desert, if you only have eyes for it.

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