Our group was recanting the highlights of our trip our dinner at the Atsety Johannes Hotel when Lauren casually mentioned that the hut where we had slept the night before was where the English tourists had been kidnapped three months before. Seven of us with 2 land rovers, drivers, scout, guide, and soldiers spend three nights and four days in the surreal Danakil.
Our last day we headed to Dallol (the lowest place on the continent) with geysers shooting water and intriguing formations. We them proceeded to the salt lake where the salk is cut from the lake into rectangular blocks and loaded onto camels and transported to Mekele. Today the bars continue to be cut by hand and the camel caravans spend weeks traveling to the market for the salt to be sold.
We rented our vehicles from G.K. Ahadu Tours and Travel in Mekele. They were 1500 Bir per day with driver. They were reliable as were our wonderful drivers Solomon and Heftom. Both of these wonderful people can help you sort out the logistics of the trip. They have been to the Danakil hundreds of times.
Lauren and Lionel organized every aspect of the trip. We rented tents, but they are not needed, sleeping bags for those who did not have them. We bought 2 stoves, cooking pots and food and prepared our own food.
The entire trip for 5 days and 4 nights for 7 people was 21000 bir. An amazing journey!
The first day was spend acquiring our entourage and permissions.
We camped at Hamd Ela and then headed out to see the sulphur hot springs before continuing to Irta’ale the volcano. The Afar people can be as harsh as the landscape in their demands for money. The scout who we were given at the Afar tourist commission in Berahile left our group on the first night after he extorted 2 days pay from us which meant another Afar Scout had to be located and paid upon reaching the permission areas before heading to the volcano. We spend 2 hour negotiating the transit fee. We paid 50 bir not to have a guard and 2 pairs of sunglasses. As we closed the doors and started off a guard with a gun jumped into the car and we ended up paying him for 2 days for protection. What we needed was protection from him.
Upon arriving at the camp site of Irta’ale we had dinner and at 7pm proceeded to walk up to the top of the volcano so we could view it at night. Our scout found the way for us and our Afar guard accompanied us. By 11pm we were almost at the summit and found a soft rock and had a 2 hour nap before heading for the final ascent. The volcano at night bubbles red lava and smoke; after several hours we headed back to the huts which were free of volcano fumes.
At 3am we found the smoothest rocks and were dead asleep for a couple of hours until the volcano could be viewed by daylight and then a 2 hour trek back to the camp site to head back to Hamd Ela for the night