Crossing the Danakil Depression
The Danakil depression is located in the extreme northeast of Ethiopia, on the border with Eritrea. It is an arid and desert region known as “the land of the devil” for being one of the most inhospitable places in the world. Several of its areas extend more than 100 meters below sea level and have an average annual temperature that makes it the hottest area on the planet. In this desert and wild area, dominated by still active volcanoes, salt lakes, lunar landscapes, endless salt plains, bizarre rock conformations, and inhabited by the mythical Afar people, wonderful naturalistic attractions pushed us to arrange our adventure in Ethiopia. The Danakil desert is not a journey for everyone. You have to be motivated and know how to adapt. You must realize what you are getting yourself into. There are no hotels, there are no comforts, you travel on arid and desert dirt tracks for hours and hours without meeting a soul, and it is very hot. Too hot. Despite this, you will be rewarded by the beauty of nature that has created something unique in this remote and extreme region. At the end of the journey, you will carry it in your heart along with all the difficulties you faced, happy you saw an incredible land as inhospitable as wonderful.
- Logya – Lake Afrera
After leaving Logya, a tiny dusty town on the border of the Afar region, we head towards the village of Afdera, where the Danakil depression is said to begin. The road that connects Logya to Afdera traces a desert landscape where we meet only a few trucks carrying the salt. During a break after several hours of driving, we make our first meeting with two Afar guys. This population is well known for being the only one able to withstand the high temperatures that plague this remote region throughout the year and are known for not being too friendly. The two young boys come up to vehicles intrigued by our presence, but we notice a thing that leaves us a bit worried. They carry an AK 47 over the shoulder. Despite their serious faces, they are friendly and try to communicate with us, asking us for a cigarette to smoke. To take the edge off, as it is not nice to have two unknown people in front of you with Kalashnikovs, we ask to take some pictures together. Happy for that, we take some shots with the guys before they go on with their trip in the middle of nowhere.
A few kilometres from Afdera, we begin to glimpse the great salty Afrera lake, and along the way, we finally meet some people. Despite the scorching sun, several groups of workers are intent on extracting the salt from the many salt pans created right along the shores of the lake. Obviously, the main activity in this area is the extraction of salt, which is loaded onto large trucks to be then taken to Addis Ababa and sold. We stop for about ten minutes to visit a couple of basins and take some pictures. The thing that strikes most is the incredible salt formations in some points where the water has not yet dried up. Working in this heat is extremely tiring, but nothing compared to what we will see in the next few days in the vast salt plain in the northern area of Danakil. Here, on the shores of the lake, a light breeze blows, making a little bit “more bearable” the temperature.
Afdera is just a small village with a few tin shacks where the numerous workers spend the night before returning to the salt pans. Without wasting time, we immediately head to the mythical Lake Afrera, also known as Lake Giulietti, a volcanic lake of saltwater located more than 100 meters below sea level, fed by underground streams in one of the earth deepest depressions. The name “Giulietti” was given by the Italian explorer Ludovico M. Nesbitt who crossed the entire Danakil depression in 1928, in memory of another Italian explorer, Giuseppe Maria Giulietti, killed by the Afar south-west of the lake. This in front of us is a very picturesque landscape, and it is interesting to visit and walk between the basins where the Afar people get their salt through the evaporation of the lake water.
We set up our tents near the shore, near a point known as “hot springs”. In this small bend in the lake, you can relax after the long trip immersed in the warm water that flows from the rocks. We enjoy a beautiful sunset resting in hot water, then we set up the camp and cook dinner. Tomorrow is going to be a tiring day as we’ll climb the legendary Erta Ale volcano!
- Our journey to Danakil – days 2 and 3;
- Our journey to Danakil – day 4;
- Dallol, the hill of spirits;
- The salt plain.
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