Another adventure ahead – a three day trip in the Danakil desert. A scorching hot and arid area around 100 m below sea level. Barren – the few people of the Afar tribe whi live here rely on the governmental water and food supprt. So why did we go?
We wanted to climb an active volcano and peek inside its ever active caldera, into the bubbling lava, into our earth’s inner life. We hiked up the volcano during the night and reached the top in the early morning hours, but were only but greeted by biting sulfuric smoke, making us cough and cry. Still, even the smoke rising from the caldera, walking on ground covered in lava from the last eruption a few years back, all this was already worth the trip.
Then we drove on across the salt plains and came by the camel caravans, carrying back the salt that was being mined by hand from the ground. The hardest work under the scorching sun. It seemed crazy, a few Afar people sitting in the middle of the salt lake, cutting salt boards and loading them onto the camels. At least 100 years out of time. There was no shelter, no refuge from the burning sun.
We finally reached the Dallol area where potash and other minerals were mined. Sulphur and other gases were in the air. We were warned to stay an hour at maximum. Move swiftly from one area to the next. Avoid the clouds of toxic smoke. The ground was covered in mineral crystals. The smell was toxic. Coughs. An explosion of color. Out of this world. Yellow. Red. Orange. Some green. Some blue. We couldn’t stop taking pictures. Our guide urged us to move on. Maximum one hour, he said. Were we on planet Mars? Is this still of this world?
An epic desert adventure – we had little idea of what we were up to when we booked the trip- We had seen some pictures, we had read some reports but nothing prepared us for the experience. I was sure the pictures I had seen were photoshopped, the colors amplified. They weren’t – the colors are that bold. The smell gives you some lightheadedness, it certainly is toxic. The whole area seems so hostile – yet there is life, the proud people of the Afar tribe life there and have found their ways to cope with the environment. The region experienced a lot of tension at the border to Eritrea but hostilities ceased thanks to a new contract of peace between the two governments. There is new hope for the people of this region. Roads are being build by the Chinese. Trade through the desert over to the Red Sea is being established – a new gateway for prosperity.