09 décembre 2013

Danakil Depression

The Danakil Depression is often described as the most inhospitable place on Earth. It is also home to the nomadic Afar tribe, which have a reputation for being fierce. This is where we went for four days in search of adventure, volcanic activity, desert landscape and cultural encounter.

Since it's impossible to travel independently in the Danakil, due to the volatile security situation in the region (a few tourists have been killed last year), we had to arrange a tour. The party included a guide, three drivers and their Land Cruisers, a cook and various Afar police and army soldiers picked up along the way. We also traveled with Robert and Liz, our good friends from the Simiens Mountains, and four other travelers rounded up in Mekele.

What we were imagining to be a dangerous expedition, turned out to be just a normal tour without any incidents. It took two days to get to the first site of interest: Irta'ale volcano. Although most of the journey was off road on desert track, we didn't suffer too much in our air conditioned vehicles. Even the temperature, was relatively mild this time of year; around 35C compared to the 55C it can reach.

We arrived at the base of the volcano early in the evening, after what was a rather long and boring ride through the desert. Maybe because we have seen arid regions before, we were not particularly impressed with the surroundings.

The climb to the summit was a two and a half hour trek to the permanent lava lake, where we arrived long after sunset. Fortunately, it was incredibly rewarding. We were standing right on the edges of the crater, about five meters above the constantly bubbling and exploding melted rock. At one point, the lava was erupting so violently that we were slightly concerned of being too close and risking to be splashed.

The volcano really did put a great show for us, but it was the last morning of the excursion to the Dallol area that was really worth the trip. We think that budget or time conscious travelers could skip the volcano to concentrate on this part. During that half day before our return to Mekele, we saw a large plain of colourful salt formations, bubbling oil in Martian landscapes and crystallised salt caves. We also paid a brief visit to the Afar salt mine where the men are still working traditionally to carve the dried-up sea and load the mineral on camels.

The cultural encounter with the Afar was very brief and a bit of a let down. Apart from the men we saw breaking the salt crust into blocks, we only spent a few nights in a half village/half tourist camp,  where only a few Afar women and their children where living in miserable conditions. We didn't get much chance to experience their tenacious nomadic culture and we were simply left with an impression of struggling peoples.

Perhaps this trip was not entirely what we were expecting, but the last day sites were incredible, and the experience was well worth it.

Irta'Ale volcano
Dallol area
Afar men working at the salt mine. 

8 commentaires:

tinaliaquebec a dit...

Cool!
Il n'y avait pas de fumée toxique qui était rejetée par le volcan à cette proximité?
Geneviève, j'ai eu ton courriel! Bonne fête! Bisous! Tu es de plus en plus bronzée sur les photos. Je pense que tu ne l'as jamais été autant, même en Asie dans les pays chauds. Le soleil tape vraiment autant? Est-ce qu'il y a des températures où vous avez prévu de ne pas faire d'excursion pcq c'est trop chaud? Des fois la chaleur sèche n'est pas trop pire à supporter.
Ici, tout va bien. Tinalia a fait des bonhommes de neige avec la nouvelle neige de ce matin. Réchauffement climatique oblige, ça a tourné à la pluie en soirée bouh :(.
Victoire essaie toujours de trouver par où sortir. Jusqu'à date, elle n'a pas trouvé, mais ça fait des paysages intéressants sur mon ventre (petites bosses qui se déplacent).
Bisous

leaf (the indolent cook) a dit...
Ce commentaire a été supprimé par un administrateur du blogue.
Marc, celui qui n'aime pas les voyages a dit...

Ok, j'avoue que le paysage en jaune-vert est pas mal cool. Pas assez pour que j'aie envie d'y aller, mais c'est le genre d'endroit où je tournerais un film de science-fiction. Le volcan aussi était impressionnant. Va falloir que j'en parle à mon psy, je trouve ça plus intéressant que les chutes paradisiaques et les panoramas montagneux, je dois avoir des pulsions destructrices refoulées...

Et totalement pas rapport : imaginez-vous donc que nous allons jouer la crèche vivante avec Félix à la messe du 24, ça devrait être drôle de voir Joseph courir après un petit Jésus en avance pour son âge. Xavier et Raphaël vont jouer des bergers, les moutons sont mieux de se tenir tranquilles!

À plus!

Genevieve a dit...

Leaf, sorry, I accidentally deleted your comment and can't get it back... Here it is :
Wow this sounds like a really interesting trip, very adventurous! It's good that you had a safe tour. The landscapes sound wonderful, I like the look of the Dallol area.

By the way, we're still collecting pictures of the food and will publish a full report at the end of our segment in Ethiopia. Stay posted!

Genevieve a dit...

Marc, on a peut-être enfin trouvé un type de voyage qui t'intéresse: les voyages astraux sur l'acide!

Catherine, merci pour le bonne fête!

Pour ce qui est du volcan, on sentait la chaleur sur nos visages, mais contrairement au Kawah Ijen qu'on avait visité en Indonésie, il n'y avait pas d'odeur de souffre et de fumée. Heureusement pour nous, ça fait qu'on peut encore porter nos beaux chandails oranges!

Pour les excursions, on était durant la saison froide, entre 34°C et 38°C, donc pas de problème lors de nos brèves sorties en dehors du comfort climatisé du 4x4. On a même eu un peu froid pendant nos nuits à la belle étoile!

Jeremy Teen a dit...

Oh wow, you guys were right next to a volcano crater?? That's so cool! Must have felt hotter than a sauna? That and those multicolored salt formations, would you say they are the top highlights of your trip so far? Though the ibex from Simien Mountain was really cool too.

Hope you guys will come across more interesting sights, and hopefully less bed bugs. How have you meals been btw? That's something fairly crucial that's been missing from your posts. Hope they are good!

One last thing, HAPPY BIRTHDAY GEN!

André Guay a dit...

Impressionnant le commerce du sel pratiquement comme au temps des pharaons

Pas a dit...

Hello peoples. Sounds like your experiences have been just amazing so far! Glad to see you've been safe too!

All the best for the days/weeks/months/years ahead and do let us know what Xmas + new year is like on that side of the neighbourhood. :-)