As our little group huffed and puffed up the baking mountainside in the semi darkness of pre-dawn, I wondered what I was actually paying for here?
Having been whipped into a frenzy of excitement by the hostel guy about this hike and then impulsively spending my entire weeks budget on it, I started to get the feeling that I wasn't going to get what I paid for.
'It's awesome' he promised, 'Mount Masada at sunrise is like nothing you've ever seen before ... it'll literally blow your mind all over the floor!'
Well, then good sir ... where do I sign?!
I went to my mattress on the roof that night (probably quite stoned, not gonna lie ... it was the 90's and I was very liberal, peeps!) in a haze of excitement for the day that followed and by the time I actually dozed off, it was very late.
Being woken before the call to prayer only a few short hours later was a little on a par with having forks stuck into my eyes but I managed to haul my sorry self onto the bus, dragging a huge bottle of water ... as we had been instructed.
It was still dark but the air was pleasantly warm and a slightly cool breeze played around any exposed skin ... I wondered if I should have brought a warmer top.
I needn't have worried ... in about 90 mins time I would be sweating like an overweight rhino and drinking water like it had just been invented!
The climb up the mountain top was gruelling ... I can't remember exactly how long it took, but it seemed like an eternity. In reality it must have only been a couple of hours but when its 3am, you are sleep deprived, dehydrated and not really very fit, climbing a mountain is the last thing you want to do.
As we straggled to the top, we were confronted with the remains of King Herod's castle, a sprawling ruin that stretches away in a cacophony of brown, broken down walls and crumbling buttresses. That was impressive on its own and I stopped to take a look and to drink yet more water.
Then the sun started to rise, and my mind exploded all over the floor ... as promised!
It started as a slight pink hue that grew larger and larger over the sky. The tendrils of sun sneaking through the light clouds to play with the darkness. The desert colours began to become more vibrant with every moment and the browns, reds and terracottas seem to expand before our eyes.
Our group became still and quiet ... nobody spoke and all that could be heard was the twittering of birds and the clicking of camera shutters as everyone marvelled at the incredible sunrise.
It was the second time on this trip that I had been almost moved to tears by the power of the present moment. Our group was completely connected to one another and in that moment we were no longer people of difference. We were simply people, all the same, all together, witnessing something so beautiful that it broke down any barriers there had been between us. We smiled and shared meaningful glances at one another, completely connected by the power and beauty of nature. It was magical.
When I found these photos after many years of them being lost, I got a glimpse again of the power of that moment. It made me realise how often we simply take something as awesome as the sunrise or sunset for granted. These solar movements mark our passage through time and for every rotation of our earth we grow older and, in some cases, more disconnected from nature and each other.
We can't let that happen! We must cherish each moment and revel in the fact that every day we can start fresh. We can watch each sunrise with awe and make a promise to ourselves to grab every possibility or chance that comes our way and we can bask in the twilight and be thankful for all we have lived through and that we have the opportunity to see another sunset.
Whoa, heavy ... sorry guys ... the picture got me all stirred up! But seriously though ... don't take anything for granted!
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Love as always,