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2017 - Ethiopia: Danakil Depression ·
click on image to view the Danakil photos...

The Danakil is the lowest point on the African continent at around -125m below sea level, and is the hottest place on earth when measured by daily average temperatures, with an average daily maximum of 41°C and average annual temperature of 34°C. It only reached a maximum warmish 39°C during our visit.

It was an amazing trip - camping under the stars by an erupting volcano, swimming in a salt lake, wandering round vast salt pans, breathing in fumes from psychedelically coloured sulphur pits, walking with salt laden camels... Only 4 days, but it was a packed trip.

I went with our friends Joanna and David from Addis Ababa, with whom we have been trekking before (see the Ethiopia 2015 gallery), and the trip was organised (magnificently!) by (the highly recommended!) Tefsa Tours. And while I'm name-checking, I need to say a 'uge thank you to Rashida for passing up her opportunity to visit the Danakil in order that I might go.

We flew into Mek'ele in the north of the country from Addis Ababa and then headed east into the Danakil Desert. We visited Erte Ale, a basaltic shield volcano which has had a lava lake at its summit since 1906. During our visit the volcano was more active than usual. Indeed, a couple of days later a new vent opened further down the flanks of the volcano which depleted the lava lake in the summit crater. After the exertion of climbing Erte Ale - at night to 1) avoid the heat of the day and 2) better experience the visually spectacular eruptions - we travelled a short way south to Lake Afrera where we swam in the hypersaline waters and visited the salt pans.

From Lake Afrera we travelled north to Lake Asale (AKA Lake Karum) another sub-sea-level salt lake with extensive salt pan. Both lakes are continually supplied by springs, fed by the Red Sea which is less than 100km to the north - and 100m higher. Salt is also abstracted from Lake Asale, but the extraction method hasn't changed in a couple of thousand years: manually dug from the exposed lake bed and transported on camels to the nearest town. A fearsome task, especially in the desert heat. Also at Lake Asale is Dallol, a breath-taking place - not least because of the sulphuric acid fumes in there air - made up of vibrantly coloured sulphur vents and pools.

Here are some links in case you want more information:
February 2017
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