Ever had one of those crazy experiences where you woke up somewhere strange with not idea how you got there? It’s one of the weirdest feelings…

I’ve had this a few times, but this one particular incident I’m going to write about happened in 1999 in the Judaean Desert in Israel.

Why am I writing an older story?


I get asked a lot about older stories from my travels and I started this blog in 2013, so there are a hell of a lot of old adventures, in fact some of my best, that aren’t told.

The fact that the past year I’ve had a pretty chilled out time hanging out in cities in Europe means that there have been no real crazier new adventures to talk about. But hey I’m 38 and starting to chill out more…

Why this particular story?


I was telling it last night and woke up today and figured I would write about it. Fresh in the mind and all.

I was telling it because some people I met were talking about that kind of stuff. This one sprung to mind.

How the fuck did I end up in the Desert?


It all started with a drink in the capital of Israel, Tel Aviv.

I had been travelling with an Australian guy for a while and was hanging out in Tel Aviv, just drinking and partying, which is mostly what the city is about. Well back then anyway at least.

We were drinking cheap vodka in the hostel, as budget travellers do to save money, and joining us was a Jewish American guy from New York.

One shot down, then another, then  another. Loose tongues started to flow with travellers tales. Yeah we were starting to get pretty fucking wasted.

“So why Israel”? The Aussie asked the American guy inquisitively.

I can’t use their names it was so long ago I can’t remember! In fact the dialogue is just a rough approximation of the parts of the night I do vaguely remember.

“On a spiritual journey to discover my roots as a Jew” he replied.

Another shot of vodka…

Ok from this point on it becomes basically a series of flash memories that came back late the next day. All the stuff in-between was filled in by the others. Yeah a rough night ahead.

Apparently the American guy started talking about wanting to see the sunrise from atop of Masada, a spiritual place for jews located in Southern Israel in the Judaea Desert atop a rocky plateau. It’s where the jews took a stand against the Romans but eventually were taken over.

Myself and the Aussie took it upon ourselves, fuelled by copious amounts of alcohol, to help him fulfil his wish.

Problem was it was already late in the day.

Nether the less we said fuck it and went for it. Taking the vodka with us we headed to the bus station and grabbed a bus heading south, eventually getting off by the side of the road heading up to Masada.

I have to say I have almost no recollection of what happened next.

Seriously wtf, a weird adventure was had and the only memory I barely remember is looking up at all the stars in the desert…

Anyway we somehow got to Masada and started to walk up the ramp that the Romans had built, but apparently there was security or someone saying that it was not allowed to go up there at night.

We were stopped in our tracks.

“Fuck it”!

Adventurous travellers don’t give up easily. I had smuggled cigarettes into Singapore in the past (another story to tell), we could do this.

We decided to try walking around to the side and see if it was possible to go up another way. By this time all the vodka was gone. We were seriously wasted.

Oh, we had smoked loads of weed as well. You know heading into the desert on a spiritual journey smoking some weed only seemed appropriate.


This fucked up state of mind might explain the rather stupid thinking that was now going on. If the Romans had to build a large ramp from the earth to get in, how the fuck were we. I mean seriously what  being fucked up does to ones critical thinking.

The fact it was situated high on a rocky plateau was not going to help.

So we walked around to the side and tried to see if there was another way up somehow. But the stars and the deep meaningful feeling of being high as fuck in the desert were calling.

This was apparently when I gave up to my mind, realising the pointless effort of finding another possible way.

I lay down for a bit saying to the other 2 that I would catch them up. That I just needed to rest for a minute. The only real full memory I had later the next day was of this moment.

I have to say that I had a warm jacket with me so could handle the cold of night in the desert, as uncomfortable as it was.

Bright light, bright light! – To quote the gremlins.

Yeah my head was killing, my brain fuzzed out to destruction and back. Dust all over me. A sore back.

Where the fuck was I?

From this point on I remember everything that happens.

I sat up and looked around. Yeah I was in a fucking desert. Wtf.

I knew what Masada looked like from seeing photos, and there it was. Hey, at least I got to see Masada no matter what had gone on before this. Glass half full and all that. Look on the positive side.

Time to get up and start walking. Now I think it was a bedouin style camp or something like that. Even though I have memories they are still a bit blurry being so long ago.

I headed over to the signs of life and found the Aussie and American there. They had been worried about what had happened to me.

They started to fill me in on all the previous nights experience and with that some vague flash memories came.

The great news was the American had made it to the top and saw the sunrise!

Not so long after me the Aussie had gone over to where the people staying near Masada were and had given up himself and crashed.

The American didn’t give up and went on alone and talked to the security or whatever and had blagged his way in.

Awesome. Mission accomplished!

We went back to the main road and waited to get a bus back to Tel Aviv, with a short but bla bla bla story to tell.

Yeah man it was weird as fuck waking up in a desert of all places and not knowing anything.

A seriously surreal feeling.

But I love those kind of weirder adventures.

I haven’t been back to Israel since January 2000, but it’s thanks to a travel agent in Tel Aviv that on a random one night stopover in Amsterdam I ended up living in Amsterdam for a very long time.

But again, that’s another story to tell…

What about you?

Any weird places you have woken up in?

  • The photos in the post are from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia as I had no photos of the desert in Israel.



Jonny Duncan is a travel blogger and freelance photographer. He specialises in adventure and budget travel with over 20 years of experience. He started blogging in 2013 to give advice for other travellers. He has lived in Japan, Amsterdam, Kiev, and more.

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