Does the village with a population of four thousand people can be a sufficient excuse to travel? That’s what happened in my case. Almost a year ago, I saw somewhere a picture of a guy sitting on the edge of the cliff, beyond which the desert was stretching over the horizon. Besides, there was nothing. Tracking that place took me some time, but finally, I found out that it was Mitzpe Ramon in the middle of the Negev desert in Israel.
It turned out that the hole in the ground is Makhtesh Ramon, which in Hebrew means simply the crater. It is 40km long, 10km wide and 500m deep. Furthermore, the view while standing on its edge really makes a spectacular impression. The name itself its wrong, because after some time there was discovered that geologically it is not a crater, as it did not arise as a result of volcanic activity or meteorite impact, but erosion caused by receding ocean. Here the fact for geology fans – Makhteshes occur only in this place on earth! Isolation from the world and infinite space is clearly breath-taking. There exist trails that allow wandering deeper into the crater. The village is a true oasis – within a radius of 50km there is no major city. However, the main road from north to south crosses the village, so you can easily reach it by bus from Eilat, or Beer Sheva (from the Tel Aviv side).
The road through Negev is simply magnificent. It goes through the desert along the border with Egypt, so through the bus windows during the whole way you can see the barbed wire separating one country from another. The route is 150km long, but it takes almost 4 hours because the driver stops next to the military units stationed every few kilometers. At the beginning of the route, the group of about twenty years old boys and girls entered the bus, because military service is compulsory in Israel, accordingly 3 and 2 years. Therefore, there was me and full-armed soldiers with machine guns, dressed in good-looking (beige or khaki) uniforms. It was Sunday, so they were returning to their units after the mandatory day off, which for Jews is the Sabbath. By the way, there was also Michael, whom I met on the way to the station in Eilat. When I presented him my plan for the day, he ran to his hostel, packed in fifteen minutes and joined.
The crater is located in the Ramon Nature Reserve, but there is no entrance fee. You may stroll and enjoy the sandy landscapes to your heart’s content. The viewpoints are close to the bus stop, additional trekking is not needed. There is the tourist center around, but in my opinion it is not worth to enter – includes only the exhibition of village and rocks.
Another wonderful thing, which can be found in Mitzpe – alpacas and lamas farm! The place is about 4km away from the village. Although there exists the asphalt road, no public transport goes there. If you do not have a car you are forced to march through the wilderness. It is important to take a bottle of water. However, during march you will not suffer from the lack of attractions. We met several Bedouins grazing sheep and goats. Bedouins are 10% of the Arabs living in Israel, so more or less 200 000 people. They inhabit mainly the Negev desert. The entrance fee to the farm costs 30 shekels. Luckily we reached the place less than an hour before sunset, so we were able to enter for 20. The time was enough to enjoy the free walking Andean animals. After this visit I find alpacas the most charming and gluttonous animals in the world! Beside the lamas and alpacas there live also some camels, donkeys and horses – about 400 animals in total. To entice them to approach you get the bag of food. Be careful – they spit.
Where to sleep in such a back of beyond? It is possible on the alpaca’s farm. Unfortunately, this pleasure will cost you 500 shekels – option only for rich ones. You can find there also camping and hostel. Anyway, I did not take advantage of any of these options, because I benefited from my weird luck and laziness. Not wanting to march back to the village, I decided to wait until one of the visitors will come back by car. The name of the guy who picked us was Noam, the former sniper. He lived for some time in Mitzpe, so after a spectacular sunset he arranged for us the accommodation in his friend’s flat. It turned out that we are all couchsurfers. Well, just an accidental couchsurfer’s meeting in the middle of the desert.