Touring Ashdod Pt. 2: The Big Dune

After our morning presentations and visits to the Russian and Orthodox quarters, we found ourselves in a much more hands-on exploration of Ashdod. Our bus landed near the train station, at a spot I’d rode by many times before by bike, on my way to a weekend trip. We climbed down from the main road, down into a vast expanse of sand and arid landscape.

Trekking up a sand dune - still in our conservative clothes, on that matter!

Trekking up a sand dune – still in our conservative garb!

 

Our tour guide, Shahar, explained to us the variety of ways that Israel both works with the environment, and against it, to make city life work in what is essentially the desert. I was fascinated by the immense concept of Development vs. Nature that surrounded our journey.

Now, for a quick, but important note:

I was thinking a lot of a very special friend today, who I knew would have loved the trip as much as I did. It just so happens that today(ish, November 10th) is his birthday, so I’d like to dedicate the rest of this post to him…Happy Birthday Billy!!! I miss exploring and learning about nature with you, and I hope the leaves are extra colorful for you today!

For you Billy, we started to learn about native and invasive species! The first we approached had these fig-like, low-hanging fruit.

Any guesses on what tree this is?

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It’s a sequoia! (Not native)

Shahar showed us how to choose a ripe fruit and open it, in half, with your fingers. “Then, you check the insides for bugs,” he said, “since the inside is very soft and nice for them.” Then, we took a taste…and they were really nice. The texture  and taste reminded me of a very mild peach. I’m going to be looking around Israel for more of these…

As we continued walking over the hills of sand, Shahar pointed out to us the different creature tracks in the sand. They were everywhere. We found those of small birds, lizards, gerbils (and other rodents), and even fox tracks. I was struck by the collage of so many natural tracks, also were ridden with traces of man and machine.

Tracks on tracks on tracks

Tracks on tracks on tracks

Guesses on whose tracks these are?

You can tell because the feet pull in slightly at the end of each track, covering what would be the trail of the shell on the sand.

You can tell because the feet pull in slightly at the end of each track, covering what would be the trail of the shell on the sand.

It’s a tortoise! Probably.

At one point, Shahar pulled out a big bush of flowers, declaring “These are invasive – they’re not nice!” Between that and the proud smile here, I’d say I’ve found Billy in Israel form.

A little different from the knotweeds we pulled in Pittsburgh...

A little different from the knotweeds we pulled in Pittsburgh…

Shahar clearly loves nature very much, and I feel like my friends and I fed off of it and had a blast. Here, he showed us “the plant of his childhood,” lovingly nicknamed the “digdig” or “tickle” plant. “Because,” he said, “you can touch it without getting pricked. Like this!” And he threw his whole body onto the plant for a big nature hug.

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Then there was a huge sabra plant (cactus). Yes, sabra, like the humus.

Cactus selfie

Cactus selfie

I’ll conclude with my favorite photo of the day:

As we leave the dunes

As we leave the dunes

(Please keep in mind that in Israel, narrative images are read from right to left, just as in Hebrew.  On the right, the bounty of nature, and to the left, the gas station and road full of parked cars, just before the train…and, us, walking between the two…)

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