Erta Ale Volcano - Abaala Village - Lake Assale - Hamed Ela Camp - Dallol, Ethiopia, September 2017
erta ale volcano - abaala Village & how we lost our drone
The sun was in high swing when we were walking back from Erta Ale volcano. We were totally exhausted, so when we reached the military camp where our drivers were waiting for us, we were so relieved! Eyob, our driver, spilt water on our necks and it felt so good. It wasn't even cold but after such a long walk through the desolate area, it didn't matter!
Soon after, the drive started again. We drove back the same rocky way, until we reached the vast emptiness of the desert. It was 45 degrees and we had to turn off the A/C when the car needed more power to get through difficult terrain. Without the A/C in a mere couple of minutes we were dripping in sweat.
We had to wait for other cars from the convoy to catch up with us, so Eyob and one other driver decided to stop for some time. Perfect timing to fly the drone and get the shots of the rest of the group joining us. Even though we were quite worried with how the temperature would affect our DJI, we had to give it a chance. The views were stunning - nothingness all around us and the clouds of dust in the background coming from the rest of the convoy.
The first couple of minutes of filming were fine. We couldn't stay outside the car because the sun was scorching and there was absolutely no shade. We hid in the car thinking there is nothing that our drone may hit, not even a bird in sight that could attack it.
And that's when our phone's screen went black. No signal. No control over the drone. (Story continues below.)
Watch our travel film from the Danakil Depression:
We run out of the car in seconds and started looking up to the sky. We were scanning it in search for the little dot that would be our drone. Nope. Nothing. We had no idea what to do and I have no idea how we found the strength to run around the desert after 4 hours of sleep, a trek, being sick and with the temperature reaching 45 degrees...
The location on our screen was frozen, but it did show that the drone would be somewhere in the radius of 70 metres from us. The place was completely flat so our only solution was to drive around and look for the drone. We set off in one direction but after quickly reassessing that we're not heading the right way, we turned around.
There was a little dried out bush with a plastic bag on it so it caught my attention. Our guide saw something flashing behind the bush so I quickly got off the car. Yes! It was it! We found our drone! It was still filming and it was so hot that it nearly burnt my hands when I picked it up.
abaala village - lake assale
After the drone incident we didn't care about feeling exhausted - we were just so happy to have it back. So when we got to Abaala Village, and on top of our happiness we discovered that we could have a bucket shower, we were in heaven!
The following day we walked up to the local waterfall, where locals have a bath or do their washing. We also spotted camels which came to get some water. Water for all! We didn't hesitate much about jumping in to the little pool with all the kids, we have been so hot for the last couple of days.
The water was freezing and this was exactly what we needed! Little boy, Thomas, who was hanging around the area promised to keep our bags safe - there were a lot of small hands around that really wanted to have a look what's inside our backpacks.
Later in the morning we set off again. This time we were heading towards Lake Assale. We had no idea what it would look like so when we drove once again through the vast areas of literally nothing, we couldn't believe that areas like that exist in the world and that there are so many of them!
It's a strange feeling when you drive for hours and there is nothing in sight. The ground is flat, it's scorchingly hot and all you have is the car and all that's inside it. Moments like these make me think how grateful I am that we decided to do what we do, and that Ethiopia is one of the places we made a decision to come to.
When we got to the salt lake, the sun was low. The wind pulled my hair in all directions but without it, we would be way too hot. As we got off the car, our feet landed on the white ground, and if not for the temperature, I would think we just drove to the North Pole.
There was no water where we stood but after about a 200 meter walk, we were finally stepping on little salty ponds with the water flowing in between them. As we walked further, there was more and more water and we could spot the actual lake not too far away from us.
We really wanted to walk bare foot but the surface was so sharp. Carved by the wind and water, the salty sediment turned into the little round platforms with the pointy edges. The setting sun was now making beautiful reflections on the shallow water moved by the strong wind. The spectacle was stunning!
After the sun hid behind the horizon, it was time to get back to the camp. Eyob asked whether we would like to sit on the roof of the car. At first we were a bit hesitant because the road wasn't too smooth, but hey - have we ever sat on the roof of the car driving through the salt lake?! That's why we had to do it!
hamed ela camp - dallol
Hamed Ela Camp is a military camp that comprises of shelters made from wood, bamboo and grass. There is a small bar, which we didn't explore because we were literally falling asleep standing. But we did hear it, until our sleeping pills kicked in! We decided to have them, because taken into consideration the group of forty sleeping on Afar beds (wooden platforms with leather strings tied in between them) next to each other, donkeys tied up all around and soldiers having fun in the bar, we didn't think we would get much sleep. It was a great night because we just slept through it, and we were woken up, after eight idyllic hours, to see a huge pink circle rising up from behind the horizon. Our beds were facing the sun directly so they may not have been the most comfortable, but they did have the best view!
After a small breakfast, we headed towards the rest of the Danakil Depression. Dallol is the name of the area, where we could finally see with our own eyes the famous mars-like landscapes. Driving through Dallol Desert, and then walking through desolate emptiness for about half an hour, we reached the hot sulphur springs and the Dallol Volcano.
This volcano was totally different from the Erta Ale volcano though. It was the most colourful collection of all sorts of surfaces, some rocky, some extremely dry, and others damp and mud-like. Usually your body knows how to behave in relation to the surfaces you walk on everyday - you know that asphalt is hard, grass is soft and if you walk into deep mud, your shoe will soak into it. This time our legs didn't know what to expect. We would walk onto something that looked solid and hard, only to find out that our shoes would sink a little into the red and yellow mixture.
The temperature quickly reminded us about itself. We were out in the full sun for about an hour now and we could hardly stand it. It was time to head to the salt mountains.
The weirdly shaped mountains of all sizes created a labyrinth of different routes and by now we couldn't believe we were still on Earth. Thanks to our drone, we were able to see the whole area from up above (this time not loosing it out of sight!). It was incredible to see how vast the Danakil Depression was and how many colours and shapes are there next to each other.
All around us the Earth was literally cooking! The bulging sound surrounding us and the water splashed out of little pastel craters.
The views made us really appreciate the world we live in. Right in the middle of the dried out ground, where you would think water can't exist, was a little salt lake reaching deep down under the ground. Then, driving further and further into the vastness, we came across the salt miners working in the midday heat, with no shade around them.
Out of this world
The Danakil Depression was the most unique experience we've ever had. It was difficult, hot and uncomfortable but isn't it the price you pay for beautiful things? Living back in the cities before our travels, we never thought we would find ourselves literally 'in the middle of nowhere'. Sometimes we used to get bored with things around us, thinking there is not much that can surprise us. How ignorant was that?! Visiting places like this only shows us how many things we still don't know and how many diverse 'worlds' there are on our planet. So here is to the adventure! We hope we'll never stop 'adventuring' in places like that.
See more articles, photographs, videos and vlogs from the Danakil Depression: