from a snowy walk in the Rattlesnake, Missoula, Montana

Monday, December 21, 2015

Danakil Depression (Days 15-20)

Up next on the long road home....Danakil Depression! Or the most inhospitable place on earth. Or the hottest place on earth. Or one of the coolest places I have ever been too!! Please feel free to utilize Dr. Google for more information on the Danakil.

Day 14 was an uneventful day in Addis. Except for eating Ethiopian food. Always amazing. 

We woke up bright and early on Wednesday to catch a 7am flight to Mekelle where we started our tour. Ethiopia has got to be one of the prettiest places to fly over. The landscape is....breathtaking to see from above. 

Our trek was a 4 day three night adventure going through the Danakil and ending up sleeping a top a volcanic rim. Our ladies only trip was crashed by our new Brazilian friend, we lovingly called Kolo (after an Ethiopian snack) and led by our wonderful driver. 

I am having a hard time finding the right words to describe the landscape of the Danakil and the Afar region. It went from one extreme to the next. After driving through mountain roads and creasting mountain passes in the clouds we drove down....

And down....

Some 100 meters below sea level down. As the land flattened out--it reminded me of the vastness that is Botswana. 

We set up camp in a....settlement? Essentially it was a passing through place for the men who work in the salt mines. That evening we drove to the depression which was underwater (it rained the day before). We watched the sunset and men return from the salt mine with their camels loaded down. 

We woke early the next day to drive to the sulfur springs. We drove through the salt lake--it was like an endless puddle as long as the eye could see and in the distance you can see the hazey mountains. 

The sulfer springs. Were....simplely put. Amazing. Spectacular. Unreal. It left me wondering if this was what Venus or some planet is like. We pulled our cars up on a rocky bank and walked through rocks colored red and yellow then hit salt mound that looked like mushrooms. 

Then we saw them....

It was like Yellowstone on major steroids. Bubbling sulfer springs. Heat rising from the ground that you can feel from the bottom of your shoes. Rock colored by the minerals and chemical reaction. 

After the sulfer springs we drove to the salt mines. It takes camels 7 days to walk to the mines and 7 days to walk back. Men earn 45 birr for each 3kilo block of salt. The salt is dug from the ground with sticks then chiseled into blocks and loaded onto the camels and donkeys back. 

The entire experience was neat. However it was very much like we were at the zoo. Just watching men do back breaking work in 100 degree heat. Then white people walking around with cameras. Or climbing on the camels for a laugh. 

Several years ago, tourists were killed and now every tour is watched over by men with guns. Which made the experience even more zoo like. 

After the salt mine and sulfer springs we drove to an active volcano. After we left the paved road we drove 80 kilometers over the worst road--they say in the world. It was partially deep sand and partially driving over a hardened lava. The 80 kilometer drive took 3 hours. We eventually pulls up to a Ethiopian militia camp and started walking 10 kilometers to the rim. It was 37 C when we took off as the sun was setting. 

When we drove up all you could see was smoke rising from the top. As we hiked closer and the sun set a red glow appeared. Three hours later we reached the top. 

It was truly unreal. Standing at the rim watching a lake of lava bubbling and steaming. Also a little unnerving...

The next morning we hiked down and returned to Addis for a quick shower before I am headed off to Morocco. 

Until next time. I will be eating my way through Morocco.  

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