Welcome to the African-Syrian rift valley! This morning, half of our group embarked on a rugged adventure through this vast basin, surprisingly lush and covered evenly with winter vegetation. This land is scattered with tall escarpements and gulleys, and the ground is very dry. Thankfully, we visited during the winter, so it was not so sweltering hot!

Immediately, as we descended down the entrance mountain, I began to appreciate and welcome the tranquility of the valley, extending such a long distance and yet remaining so silent. Although, there was really no time to reflect so deeply, since the stones and potholes in the beaten-earth road became very frequent, and there was a buzzing excitement in the jeeps for the adventure to come.

Our “safari guides” were very enthusiastic, and taught us many interesting facts about the area. For one, dinosaur and other animal fossils are very common in the alentours of the rift valley, however no permission is granted to start an archeological dig, since it would be located in a national park. These fossils were so common in fact that citizens would dig them up in their backyards and grind them for household usage. The flora is also protected, since the climate here is very unique. Even in the mid-Negev desert, there is a great number of colourful flowers during the winter, due to flashfloods and heavy bouts of rain. You can even find shark teeth below the thin layer of flint atop certain mountains!

We ended our voyage by driving past unused farms belonging to the nearby kibbutz. It was interesting and inspiring to see how the kibbutzim had farms installed in the desert, and how they turned dry ground into fertile soil, good enough for cultivation. I was a little upset that the fun ride had come to a close, but it was definitely one that was worthwhile. Overall, it was greatly rugged experience!

Simon Vaillant