Tour of Fall 2014. Photo-report, part 2 – Danakil desert

Time: 15.09.2014-30.09.2014
Location: Northern and Southern Ethiopia

The Danakil lowland and Erta Ale volcano – the world’s hottest spot

1. Having completed the first part of our expedition to the Omo valley, we started moving up north towards the Danakil lowlands a.k.a. the Earth’s hottest place. The drive was long and tough, but the real adventures began when we arrived to the center of the volcanic desert crater filled with salt, hydrogen sulfide and boiling lava. During our travels to Danakil, we are always escorted by a small Ethiopian army to protect us from any possible threats from Eritrea (we were near the very border), and also by our own truck filled with the camping gear (tents,sleeping bags,pillows, tables, beds, tableware and the like to be able to survive in the real middle of nowhere), a cook with assistants to cook us awesome meals three times a day, and also few tons of food. There is absolutely no infrastructure in Danakil and your comfort totally depends on what you bring with you. I strongly believe that at 48C it can become too uncomfortable if we skip on amenities, so we always go for the maximum possible comfort.



2. To entertain themselves, the most heat-resistant travelers climbed to the top of our vehicles and watched our tour caravan from there.



3.Here is our cross-country truck with the gear and the Ethiopian army.



4. Driving to the Erta-Ale volcano, our first stop in Danakil.



5. We have just arrived to the volcano’s base. We need to hike around 8 km with 600 m of elevation change. It’s around lunch time, so it’s too hot to go and we wait for the sunset. Meanwhile we are playing games, having lunch and taking a nap. A little bit later, we are joined by several camels who will carry water, food and camping gear to the top, as we’ll have few hours to rest on the volcano’s top before going back down.



6. Erta Ale is an unique volcano. It’s not only alive and active, it allows the curious travelers to approach the mouth of a volcano and literally sit on the rim.



7. I call this “to gaze into the eyes of hell”.



8. While it’s still dark, we began our descent to make it to the breakfast in our base camp. After improvised shower from the canisters and food, we begin moving towards Dalol, the world’s hottest place.

N.B. Find a human at this photo.



9. This lava desert is a home for the Afar tribe, one of the toughest and most serious tribes of Ethiopia. They are Muslims, they dig salt and build their houses out of lava. It’s better not to mess with them.



10. Having spent the night on the road, the next morning we have arrived to Dalol. This is a volcanic crater, with the sulfur and andesites forming its really extraterrestrial landscapes.






12. Here we are also escorted by the personal army.



13. Hydro-thermal activity in Dalol doesn’t leave you any chances. 49C, sharp and pungent smell of sulfur and and the land that is constantly bubbling under one’s feet makes the bravest ones meekly accept their fate.












17. But we are awesome, so not only we spent two hours strolling around the lake, we even made pictures.









20. You can’t stop looking. You are hot, you’re feeling sick, but you keep going.






22. As I said, the salt digging is the main trade of the Afar tribe. They cut the skin off the salt lake, cut it into pieces, load them on camels and take them to the city to sell.



23. The Assale lake is the white saucer of Danakil. In the dry season, everything here is smooth and flat like a mirror. There are only two colors – just the salt and the sky.






25. Some Afars dig their salt like this.

Danakil Depression, Ethiopia

 P.S. Going to Danakil, I’m always prepared to be tested, along with my group. This time I was excited and surprised that everybody not only powered through the full three days in hell, but really enjoyed it! Danakil became a favorite among our group due to its unearthly landscapes and the giants might of the Erta Ale volcano.

Thank you everyone, and follow the next part of the photo-report on Lalibela, Gondar and the Tana lake!

Published on 25.10.2014 in Travel Diaries

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