Dallol: The Danakil Desert Adventure III

Erta' Ale Danakil Adventure 1

A highlight of Danakil Desert Adventure. Uninhabited region, roughly 130 meters (420 feet) below sea level. Holds the official record for high average annual temperature of 35C (96F). Dreamlike multihued wonderland of delicate masterpieces of sulfur that situates in the center of the explosion crater – Dallol – Kaleidoscopic, Whimsical and Transcendental

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After witnessing spectacular sunset over Salt Lake – Lake Assale, we head back to Hamed Ela military camp to spend a night out in Danakil Desert. The military camp settled closer to Ethiopia and Eritrea border which seem like the edge of the world.

Small shelters built by assembled dry sticks and finished with straw mat as a roof top. The huts built closer to each other in the middle of the camp area. Wooden, woven beds set up outside around the huts in a circular form to keep us from possible windstorm in the evening while sleeping outside. An interesting detail of resourcefulness I noticed by being in a desert – putting things in circular form.

I remember while watching the sunset over Lake Assale, the drivers park the cars in circular form again for wind protection. They put portable little chairs within the circle. The chairs placed against the cars so that we sit inside a cocoon and enjoy little plastic cups of local red wine while they were entertaining us by cracking local tunes and dancing in the middle as a dance floor – enjoying present moment somewhere in Danakil Desert.

Before dinner at the camp, we provided with container of water to wash up our salty legs from waded in salt lake. Meron (Merry) was our amazing cook, who has been with the group cooking delicious local and western fares. Her energy and resourcefulness for cooking amazing dishes in this harsh environment was truly inspiring and definitely an affirmation that WOMEN ARE CAPABLE OF DOING ANYTHING .

A buffet set up outside and we enjoyed eating dinner out in a desert. Our guide gave us brief description for our next day adventure in Danakil Desert. Obviously after dinner, we were craving something cold to drink, so fortunately there was a military joint within the camp compound.

A fridge freezer cornered at the side of the first room which is built by an evenly assembled dry sticks. Long and thick wooden set up at every corner of the room as a bench. There were few chairs were  military members were sitting on and around small tables having local beer and relaxing. Within the next room there was big pool table were other military members playing around it.

We got ourselves slightly cold local beer and start interacting within a military bar somewhere in Danakil Desert. The group I was in for this adventure was a compilation of people who came from different parts of the country that one common interest brought us together at Danakil Desert.

WANDERLUST brought Israelis friends, Polish couples, Swiss women wanderer  amusing English guy, flexible Japanese guy, core hard traveler Japanese women, Belgian, Russian and American … all at the cradle of humanity: a region where 3.2 million – year – old hominin known as Dinknesh (Lucy) unearthed in 1974 – Afar, Ethiopia. The distance between countries seemed to lessen. A defining moment to rise way above ego (the false self) and to actually be able to see citizens of the universe gather at their great great great… grandmother’s home where it all begins – Ethiopia.

There was no toilet facilities at the military camp for the group to use. Bit further away from the military compound behind little stone hills was where we allowed to take care of nature’s call. Once again comfort in a desert is a state of mind. Another day had to come to an end without taking shower in Danakil Desert at Hamed Ela military camp. Feeling the wet wipe on my skin felt like heaven and actuated me to be present enough to appreciate a sacred experience of feeling all clean and fresh.

It was time to sleep. Thin, colorful and foamy mattresses laid up on the woven bed and sleeping bag. The evening was even warmer than the night we spent at a slope next to the volcano – Erta’ Ale. The sleeping bag did not come to be useful until the wind started to kick off after midnight. Letting go the illusion of sense of security, putting trust on strangers and the universe … was another profound life lesson I obtained while sleeping out in Danakil Desert under pitch black sky with sparking stars.

After a short night, we were awoken by a flashlight and a wake up call coming from our guide 5 in the morning. Sunrise above silvery horizon over Hamed Ela. The camel caravans were already started their journey back to the salt mine looking all energized and this time without loads of salt cubes as it is the double backing journey from Berhale to harvest salt. We had amazing breakfast at the same spot we had dinner. After breakfast we immediately started our last day Danakil Adventure.

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Heading to our first stop Dallol was witnessing sand gives way to salt flats. While contemplating the fascinating flatness of the desert, the cars parked under a huge brown mound which seem to be appear by some kind of magic within the endlessness of nothingness and it is the only vertical figure in sight. Dallol is a broad flat –slopped maar formed in 1926, protrudes from the eastern side of a 1,200 km area of windswept salt encrusted flats.

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We had to ascend the slope in order to reach our destination – Dallol.  Our guides advised to take a litter of bottled water with us. After climbing the hill for a little while we were greeted by jaw dropping rock formations and salt structures which sprout like mushroom with smooth marble like table top. These mineral formations has orange, brown, white and pinkish colors and stopped us cold. Half way up and looking back to witness an orange colored desert and the cars parked under the slope now little toys in the vanishing salt and sand horizon.

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After 15 minutes walk, we reached at the top of the hill. Being able to see behind the hill was unimaginable vista. Strange earth formation lead us to another world. Before we knew it while still being mesmerized by the salt structure we walked up on … a live, huge and colorful canvas unfold before us. It seem like stepping into a painting where different kinds of forms, bright and happy colors all over the place.

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Obviously with the limited conscious mind, we would be able to see the scientific facts – colored plain of sulfur deposits, iron oxide crust, sulfur geysers and acid lakes – and all the peculiar colors, shapes and forms all over. Drops, bubbles and smoke. Rock, water, sand and oil.  Yellow, brown, orange, white, green, red and so on.

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Besides being visually stunning, actually being at Dallol is so surreal. We felt the heat not only from the early morning sun of the desert above us but also from the delicate ground of Dallol, and from the bubbling sulfur springs. To make it even more alive the overwhelming smell of sulfur actuated us to be present through our sense of smell.

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Our silent reverie loudly complemented by soft throbbing of water boiling underground, bubble up steaming water of the tiny geysers and from crunching over crystal like formations of the brittle earth with our every mindful but adventurous steps we took within Dallol.

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Dallol had to be visited early in the morning before the desert start baking. It was around 7:30 we arrived there. Though it sounds too early for the desert to heat up we were already sweating. We had to wear hat obviously to protect our skin from the already scorching sun even in the morning.

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No jewelries and it is not because of the adventure but rather to protect your jewelry from discoloration just being at Dallol. Some kind of mask as walking through this whole new world challenges a sense of smell with its intensified sulfuric smell. Trekking shoes as walking within Dallo was a delicate one that one false move leads into bubbling sulfur so being mindful was essential.

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Talking about mindfulness, if you let yourself to see Dallol way beyond the scientific label it putted up on it by scientific facts /logical mind, you can definitely stunned by the inexplicable energy of the universe adorned with breathtaking colors and fascinating details. After an hour wandering around within Dallol, we head back to the cars. Dallol equally impressed us all regardless of our travel histories.

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Danakil Desert is full of strange and stunning earth formation features. Salt hill and canyon was our second stop. We had to literally crawl for two minutes under salt hill to end up in the middle of the salt canyon which was dark so had to use headlight. It was bit challenging but all worth it as we end up being stunned by what we saw at the end.

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Either created by wind and erosion or by the in-explainable universe energy. I choose to be enlightened by the beauty of the details carved on the wall of the salt hill and God lies in details indeed. To get out of the canyon we had to climb up the hill which required a big step, holding on a grip and obviously trusting your own true nature.

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Another magical earth formation of Danakil Desert was our third stop which is named as Yellow Lake. A strange little lake with different colors and yellow potash bubbling. According to the locals it has a healing property for skin aliments. I saw our driver taking the water into plastic bottles and he said it is strong remedies but heals any kind of skin problems.  A miracle in a desert.

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Saving the best for last. Besides being blown by earth formation my Danakil Desert Adventure lead me straight in to a HEART OPENER experience. Our last stop for our last day in Danakil desert was vising the salt mine.

Salt flats in the Danakil Depression, along the borderline between Ethiopia and Eritrea, are located 100 meters below sea level. This huge salt crust often up to 1000 meters thick, goes deep in the earth’s crust. It is where the salt mine is.

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It was 10:00 am when we reached at the salt mine not even mid-day but I clearly recall checking the odometer to make sure as the heat start becoming unbearable and it was already 44 C. The highlander’s Tigray and the lowlander’s Afar salt miners was working harmoniously and with enthusiasm in spite of the inhospitable nature of the Desert.

The salt miners were breaking plates of salt out of the ground using  ax. Fitting a set of sticks in the indentations made by the ax.  Lifting the big salt slab using the sticks. Cutting the slab into tiles of standard sizes which weight 4kg. Stacking, tying and loading it on the mules and camels for transport.

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Carving one piece of cube salt fetch salt miners 3 Ethiopian Birr so they try to make as many as possible before the day ends. I learn they can make from 100 – 200 salt cubes a day and that would be an estimation of earning from 14 – 25 $ a day.

They were so focused on what they were doing to the point it seem they were not aware of being invaded by tourists walking around and taking picture of the action of the moment. Evidently the salt miners  get used to the fact being visited by tourists but the very fact they were present enough for the task at hand even surpass the suffering of physical body from the merciless sun and heat of the desert.

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As locally know as Amole Chew – is salt block which once was an exchanging commodity worthy as gold here in Ethiopia. Although money notes has replaced Amole, Salt is still “White Gold” for the legendary Ethiopian Afar people who pay price–from taking off burned flab of skin to precious life.

Seeing an Ethiopian within the group who came to visit the salt mine seem flabbergasted many salt miners a bit as it is not an everyday occurrence. I saw a sense of joy on their face in seeing their own person as a tourist and it made me even happier when they took a moment to look at me in the eye and said “HABESHA” – a recognition of souls in a sense of oneness.

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By some kind cosmic force I was being able to detach from the part of me who was being a tourist in my own country and start to see the actual native and tourist connection. I clearly recall reading this particular wisdom from a book called A SMALL PLACE by Jamaica Kincaid “For every native of every place is a potential tourist, and every tourist is a native of somewhere. Every native everywhere lives a life of overwhelming and crushing banality and boredom and desperation and depression, and every deed, good and bad, is an attempt to forget this. Every native would like to find a way out, every native would like a rest, every native would like a tour.”

Starting with the natives, it is no brainer that not every native is happy with the fact a lenses put up on their face while going through their everyday life especially without their permission and in spite of what the local tour guide say. And being a tourist should be more than seeing places and taking picture rather it should come with compassion and respect for the land and the people being visited.

Arrogance comes when a tourist ask camel drivers while they are crossing the desert to hop on a camel that already carry enough load just to take pictures and saying I have been there. Arrogance comes when not honoring etiquette of the place being visited. Arrogance comes when a tourist thinks the money paid for the itinerary entitled them to do whatever they like – step on culture, tradition, dignity and needs of the natives of the land being visited. Arrogance comes when getting pleasure out of somebody’s misery for the sake of telling a story.

Everywhere in the world, people want the same thing – shelter, food, family, happiness, love, comfort and most importantly we all want to know that we matter that our being here meant something. Seeing people beyond the cover or beyond given conceptual identity. Emitting that sense of oneness by saluting the same soul that abides within all of us can be a heart opener to all of us native or tourist and then we welcome each other with open heart in our own home wherever it may be.

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I packed all the priceless memories and lessons within my heart as my Danakil Adventure has come to an end. Once we reached the city of Mekele which is around 100 km away from the Danakil Depression, the first thing we all wanted to do is dump our smelly and dirty clothes, take real shower, put on clean cloth, have cold drink and sleeping inside and on a bed.

Our car pulled over in front of Ethio Travel and Tours office where it all begins four days ago. At the office we were so welcomed with smile and appreciation. The staff presented us white polo t-shirt – on which JUST DONE IT DANAKIL  words sewed on it with green, yellow and red thread– as a trophy which made us feel a hero. Last but not least, I must say I really had great experience with skilled, experienced, and caring team –from sweet drivers, strong Ethiopian woman cook to thoughtful tour guides of Ethio Travel and Tours (ETT)–whom all made this Danakil Adventure possible.

The End

Posted in Adventure, Afar, Africa, Danakil Depression, Danakil Desert, Erta' Ale Volcano, Ethiopia, Landscape, Photo Essay, Travel, Travel and Tourism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Shopping: Ethiopian Traditional Wedding Dress

Ethiopian Traditional Clothing 1As always here in Ethiopia many weddings are going to take place after Abey Tsome (long lent offering) comes to an end on May 1, 2016 for this year.

Ethiopian brides to be, go shopping for Ethiopian traditional wedding dress usually starting from 2 – 1 month earlier of the actual wedding day as the dress is custom made with many colorful details to be honored, very overwhelming and elongated processes to go through – from picking the textile to the final touch of the designer. 

I would like to share with the world a sneak preview of my very own experience via photo essay.

  • Usually the first step is visiting traditional clothing local market – Shiro Meda!

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  • Choosing textile from drawers of little shops situated next to each other at the local market.

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  • Being overwhelmed by contemporary traditional clothing designer’s Business Cards.

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  • Window shopping for inspiration – my favorite part from the overall experience.

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  • Playing with my imagination. Here is my imperfect sketch of the traditional wedding dress.

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  • Visiting traditional clothing designer’s shops.

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  • Choosing the design and embroideries of the dress.

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  • Apple green, neon green and golden resonates with my soul as they are my favorite colors.

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  • Last but not least, via this exciting process, I could not help having a great sense of respect and appreciation for all the creators of this beautiful art – who usually appear to be behind the scene but are the foundation to make it all happen – Shemane!

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Good Luck … To All Brides To Be!

Posted in Addis Ababa, Africa, Culture and Tradition, Ethiopia, Photo Essay, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

What’s Out! ADDIS

What's Out Addis

What’s Out! ADDIS Magazine April 2016 issue 

Addis Ababa’s very own and highly celebrated What’s Out! ADDIS magazine, brings out one of my most liked blog posts about Ethiopian Easter Holiday – Fasika on its April 2016 issue.

It is an honor to get recognition for my work and be published on my all-time favorite magazine which is all about my home turf –ADDIS ABABA.

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My Collection of What’s Out! ADDIS magazine!

Happy Reading!

Posted in Addis Ababa, Africa, Art, Book, Easter, Ethiopia, Events, Food Travel, Holidays, Travel | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Why I Believe Visiting Africa Is Essential for Self-Growth

It is my privilege to introduce an inspiring guest post about AFRICA by Amy Goldsmith who is a business assistant from Melbourne. Her job allows her to travel a lot, which also happens to be one of her greatest passions.

As a proud African, a sense of joy enthralled me reading this article and actuates me to share it with my esteemed readers. I truly hope you enjoy it and most importantly let it inspire you to visit this fascinating continent – my root and my home – Africa.

Africa 1

I have recently visited Ethiopia, Zanzibar and Mozambique, and during my African adventure, I learnt many precious lessons about myself, people, different lifestyles and life in general. The encounter with an environment and culture that are diametrically opposite to the ones I am surrounded by every day in Australia helped me broaden my horizons, conquer my fears and become more flexible. If you ask me, everyone should visit this incredible land at least once in their lifetime: outside of the comfort zone is where true magic happens and a starting point for personal growth. Here are a few bits of wisdom I brought home from my exploration of Africa – hope you find them inspiring!

  1. Connect with a different Culture and People

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The locals I met there were friendlier and more hospitable than I could ever hope for (I admit, my expectations were based on Western stereotypes about this part of the world, and I am a wiser person for ditching those). I was impressed by Africa’s vibrant culture: each region of this fascinating continent cherishes a deep connection to its roots, and I had a chance to see a kaleidoscope of Africa’s cultural heritage first-hand while attending a few music festivals during my tour of the three countries.

2. Experience the Adventure of Your Lifetime

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I knew I was in for an adventure when I decided to head off to Africa – but I never expected it would be half as amazing as it turned out to be! I fell in love with the pristine beaches at first glance, and I visited a few national parks such as Gorongosa, Bia and Kakum. What left a great impression on me is The Rift Valley in Ethiopia and the Blue Nile Falls. Those places should be on every tourist’s bucket list!

Wild species here are successfully spiting urbanization, and lions, elephants and leopards seem unfazed by the sight of man, their biggest enemy, in their natural habitat. Take it from me – paradise does exist, and it is called Africa.

3. You Learn New Things About Yourself

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I never knew I could be resourceful and spontaneous until I landed in Africa. Over there, you start to adapt and act spontaneously within a single day: plans are made on the fly, without long-drawn hassle and needless delays, and interactions with the amiable locals brought out the best in me. I learnt to trust absolute strangers and see silver linings everywhere, without needing to control everything to feel safe, and I must say that is a side of me I did not knew even existed.

4. Face Your Fears of the Unknown

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One more note about Stereotypes: I heard that Africa is a cradle of crime before I departed from Australia, but from what I have seen, the streets here are actually safer than in most Western countries I had visited so far. I was not even insulted: I was surrounded by smiling faces at every step and the people I met were more than willing to help me find my way around town. I did not catch a single sideways glance or hear an impolite remark behind my back.

5. Return Home With New Priorities

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I enjoyed my trip to Africa very much, and I am planning my next trip to Ethiopia in a couple of months. Life is too short to stress over things beyond our control – my priorities for the future are crystal clear, and they involve active living, tasting life to the fullest and exploring the world whenever possible, instead of over thinking everything to the point when I give up on my dreams just because achieving them sometimes involves a bit of hard work.

6. African People Inspired Me to Be More Motivated

I learned to dismiss all my stereotypes and saw Africa as it really is – a continent with a lot of potential and hard-working, ambitious people. I have always been an ambitious person, but in Africa I realized the most important thing is in life is to believe in yourself. This way everyone else will believe in you too! For example, e-commerce is well developed in some parts of Africa. Kupatana is a business that proves e-commerce is successful and popular in Western African countries like Tanzania. And there are many more companies that prove my initial conclusion!

My trip to Africa was a major milestone in the way I see and respond to new experiences, and I found the journey both educational and fun. I will be coming back to Africa soon with my family – I think the continent has a lot more to teach me!

Find out more about Amy travels on Twitter.

Posted in Africa, Ethiopia, Travel and Tourism | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Honoring All Women Behind Adwa Battle Victory!

While celebrating the 120th anniversary of ADWA Victory Day, it is my privilege to salute the altruistic and brave souls of all women behind the victory of a battle for FREEDOM. Indeed we are all free now because of YOU.

Etege Taitu





Posted in Africa, Ethiopia, Travel and Tourism | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments


Timket – Ethiopian Epiphany is going to fall on January 20, 2016. Gondar is one of the best places to celebrate Timket. Ye Hager Libs – Ethiopian traditional clothing – is a genuine way to be embellished with on Timket Celebration as an ETHIOPIAN.

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There is locally famous Ethiopian saying which emphasize the deep and intimate connection between these eloquent pieces of Ethiopia – Timket Celebration and Ethiopian Traditional Clothing.

It is at this time of year the saying beautifies Ethiopian conversations among locals. It intensified specially at traditional clothing local market. The traders use this particular saying in order to sell and at the same time it remind us all the importance of this Ethiopian exotic detail for the celebration.

If it is not for Timket celebration … then for nothing!

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Here I come GONDAR.

Posted in Addis Ababa, Culture Festival, Ethiopiia, Events, Festival, Gondar, Timket, Traditional Clothing, Travel, Travel and Tourism | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Lake Assale: The Danakil Desert Adventure II

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Lies at -115 m (- 377 ft.) below sea level. It is one of the SALT LAKES in the northern end of the Danakil Depression. Lake Assale (Asale) is an ex harbor of the Red Sea, also known as Lake Karum – CATHARTIC, ALTRUISTIC AND ILLUMINATING.

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Our stirring transition – from witnessing the flaming LAVA LAKE – Erta’ Ale –, to the snow – white SALT LAKE – Lake Assale – within the Danakil Desert, went through a convalescent overnight stay in Abala village.

After a challenging day and an overwhelming night out in a desert. On our second day Journeyed to Abala village to soak in the desert life via mingling with the locals in one of the Afar regions. The road trip from Dodom – entry way to visit Erta’ Ale – to Abala was mostly about processing our Erta’ Ale experience. Reflecting. Going through pictures from last night.

After a while the desert heated up devastatingly. It hinted us that the last time we had cold drink either water or soft drink was the day before in Mekele – getaway to Danakil Desert. Once in a desert, the water we kept drinking was literally lukewarm and tasteless. Realized even room temperature kept water tastes like heaven and sounded priceless at that very moment.

By mid-day the scorching sun already started baking the desert. Stopped at one of the villages for lunch. As if by some kind of magic, the little coffee shop in the desert had an actual godsend – one of human creations out of necessity. Guess What? Fridge-freezer! A cue formed instantly to get cold soft drinks as if we have never had it before. Maybe all you need is a Fridge freezer in a desert to thrive, I thought.

The cold drinks were double the price of the city but was all worth it. I could not wait for the shop keeper to hand me the cold drink. I was just embracing the bottle with both of my hands to soak in the priceless cold feeling from the bottle. The thick soft drink bottle was caressed with little drippings of melting iced water. I kept it towards my face so it gives my sweltering skin a moment of relief from the fire – waft which I became friend with in order to survive in this callous environment.

That lukewarm water we have been drinking in spite of it all, did not quench a thirst and obviously won’t be able to give that cooling effect from inside out. I felt every tiny bit of the cold drink’s taste, texture and movement passing through till it’s very last drop as if for the very first time – another divine moment to be present in the midst of Danakil Desert.

Our stay at Abala village was affectionately pleasant. Took bucket shower with naturally warm water – no need of a heater here. Walked through the village which suddenly overflown by Abala’s charming children who were excited to see strangers. We had delightful Ethiopian traditional coffee even in a desert. Divinely scrumptious regional delight – stir fried goat meat. Deliciously succulent orange were among the many we indulged ourselves in Abala village.
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We stayed overnight at the village in one of the cement built local houses which seem turned into an oven by the heat of the desert. We slept on the foamy little mattresses laid on the cement ground. Even in the evening and with the windows open the room was too warm to sleep, but it was good enough for our recovery from our first day challenging adventure in the desert.

On the third day with in the Danakil desert, the intriguing road trip from south – west to the northern end of the Danakil Desert, to witness the live spectacle of sunset over Lake Assale, started around 8:30 a.m. After half an hour drive, we stopped at the view point to relish in amazing landscape which truly dreamlike.
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Spectacular road trip at the edge of the Danakil Depression as it was driving through Berhale –fascinating town at the edge of the Rift Valley escarpment of the Danakil Depression.

A large town located in the administrative zone 2 of the Afar Region in north – eastern Ethiopia. A town lies at an attitude of 639 meters above sea level. A town made up of two interesting combinations – the characteristically Tigray stone houses and the plain Afar huts. A stopover town for the camel caravans that bring salt from Lake Assale before proceeding to the market of Mekele in the highland.

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Berhale is an interesting town which exist in between two different worlds which gives it a unique charisma – not so much of a highland and not so much of a desert either – hence a treat of enthralling landscape in the valley.

The asphalted road in the desert lead us smoothly through the stripped and brownish twin mountains. It seemed like going through spellbinding transition between two natural kingdoms – highland and desert.

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Lake Assale Danakil Desert Adventure 8After a while, I started to realize why it is said that this is where the Danakil Depression actually starts. Hardly see people along the side of the road but be able to witness the movable Afar house of the nomads constructed somewhere in this barren environment.

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Leaving the mountains way behind, headed to the other village of zone 2 of the Afar region – Hamed Ela. Another Off – road ride following the rough caravan track but this time on the other part of the Danakil Desert where all sand in some expanses, and rocky in others. Passing sand and rock dunes thrown here and there by the universe for beautiful details in a desert.
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Hamed Ela is another small Afar village which exist in the ascetically beautiful desert. It is a village which lies 48 km east of Berhale. An overnight stopover for camel caravans coming from Berhale before proceeding to the salt mine in the morning. Hamed Ela is where we will spend the night sleeping out in the desert in a military camp as it is a springboard village for visit to Lake Assale.

Once we are at Hamed Ela the temperature already soared up to 42 c. The 8 km drive to Lake Assale from Hamed Ela, mostly seem like entering into a wide open space, making your own path leads to nowhere and entranced by the endless horizon.

We stopped in the middle of nowhere and get out of the car into the baking desert and walked through the thick heat towards a spring water. It was about three minute walk and we were already melting. The wide open space actuates you to realize the tiniest place you occupy in this vast universe as the edless desert has the power to make everything looks small.

An oasis in a desert. The spring water proclaims a miracle somewhere in the Danakil desert where existence seem impossible. The naturally created small pool, with interesting salt pattern at the age, contains warm salty water which provides a marvelous opportunity to feel the pacifying energy of water in the Danakil Desert.
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Almost all deserts hosts some kind of camel caravan. Here at the Danakil desert,camel caravan is the harmonious bridge between the highland and the desert through a livelihood commodity – SALT. The caravan was coming out of the salt mine with skillfully hand cubed salt from the ground, loaded up on the camels and mules. The caravan was moving toward Berhale in late afternoon when the sun was not at its strongest but for me I was not able to see the difference as it was still hot.

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“I can learn something from the desert too. It seems old and wise.” – A profound verse that reveled itself in my mind at the Danakil Desert while being captivated by the caravan from one of my favorite books of all time – THE ALCHEMIST by Paulo Coelho. I saw determination, stillness and presence on the faces of the nomads – Afar camel drivers. I felt the enlightening energy coming out of the Danakil desert crossers which was too strong to expand my horizon.

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Could not help to be transported to another era and being lead to the source of the livelihood commodity of the Danakil Desert caravan traders. The still existing traditional salt mining. The historical journey of the caravans following the footsteps of their ancestors who brought wealth to the Axum Empire way back then via the once major trading commodity SALT.

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It was the sound of the wind, the hoof beat of the animals, and the groan of the camels that were breaking the utter silence of the desert. My eyes followed the camel caravan until which seems at the edge of the horizon and its silhouette upon the abstractedly seen silvery mountain ranges. Suddenly, the captivating image covered by the sand dust that the cars were producing. It was about time to head to Lake Assale.

Unlike the other salt lake in the Danakil Depression – the emerald green lake Afrera. Lake Assale produce different kinds of hypnotic colors. One part is blindly snow white. The other part gives an illusion of golden hues on sparkling salt due to the brown sand.

In remote times, this part of the Danakil Depression was intermittently submerged by the Red Sea which eventually left behind larger amount of aquatic salt accumulated to layers of several hundreds of meters deep and turned into the now salt Lake. Lake Assale is part lake and part salt deposit.

Most of its places covered by thick salt crust that even support vehicles. Our car had to stop at some point in order to avoid sinking in. We waded into the lake feeling the salt crust beneath. Heading further in, then felt the warm salty water on my feet. I tried to imagine Lake Asale overflown with water when it rains in highlands as it hardly rain in the Danakil Desert.
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The brightness of it all was soul ILLUMINATING. It was powerful enough to make you step out of the limited physical realm into the blissfully unlimited spiritual realm for a brief moment. Stepping on the sparkling salt crust suddenly became intimidating out of a sense of respect, which stirred by the camel caravans I witnessed.

Being at its source, I could not help to contemplate salt as I was surrounded by it. A sense of appreciation for this particular element invaded me. A moment of realization that Salt is more than a flavor enhancer of my food which confined within a tiny salt shaker placed at the kitchen cabinet or dining table. Rather, salt is a livelihood of the desert people.
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Obviously Lake Assale is ALTRUISTIC as it has been mined for many years and still is. Conversely, the life changing experience emanated from witnessing the materializing process that comes with a price – the sweat of the salt miners and camel drivers in this harsh desert. The still existing salt mining activity moves seasonally and we were scheduled to witness it on the next day – the last day of our Danakil Desert Adventure.

CATHARTIC indeed. The anticipation of standing on a salt lake that once flooded by the Red Sea was a grand moment as it seem like it was not only salt but an everlasting energy that it left behind. Seeing my reflection on the clear salt lake was priceless as it was a moment of clarity that my adventure of discovering my own country was actually discovering MYSELF!
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Looking up. From a distance part of the lake embellished by the dreamily seen mountains. Part of it provides a fascinating scene of an endless sparkling horizon. Part of it dashed with brown sand which seemed like a painting.

The sunset over the sparkling Salt Lake – Lake Assale. The sky slowly turned into a huge canvas revealing collection of colors being portrayed before us in the desert by the universe.
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The glowing sun slowly moves behind the luminous clouds and swallowed by the silhouette of mountain ranges from a distance. The snow white salt lake turned into pink for an ephemeral moment.
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Another honored day ended at the Danakil Desert.
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To be continued…

Posted in Adventure, Africa, Danakil Depression, Danakil Desert, Ethiopia, Travel and Tourism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments