Danakil Desert is one of the most unique places on the planet, according to some sources is the hottest place on Earth. One of the attractions of the desert is the volcano Erta Ale. It’s a Crater volcano that has a lava lake, which over the past few decades has had "passive" eruption.

In this story, I talk about my journey to the heart of the Earth, to the lava lake which is located in the crater of the volcano Erta Ale.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a country of beyond time

I've been wanting to make a trip to this country, but Ethiopia somehow bad was aligned with the countries that I visited during his travels. In September, I fulfilled this dream. I landed in Bole international Airport in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia and the surprises started there. They use a different time convention. While going to the immigration and passport control desk, I saw a poster on the wall written “Happy new year”. Ethiopia is probably the only country in the world that lives according to the Ethiopic calendar, which was approved the Queen of Sheba, about 3 thousand years ago. The Ethiopic calendar has twelve months of 30 days plus five or six epagomenal days which comprise a thirteenth month. The sixth epagomenal day is added every four years, like leap year on the Julian calendar. In fact they have a slogan for tourists, "13 months of sunshine."
Together with my friend Mikhail, we visited the tribes who live along river Omo. After that I had to go visit the Danakil desert so that I could see the volcano Erta Ale. Start the journey and visit the tribes of the Omo river valley here.

Erta Ale volcano

Visits to the volcano Erta Ale was after traveling in Ethiopia's tribes leading a primitive life in the valley of the Omo River.

Erta Ale volcano, located in the remote region in northeastern Ethiopia in the Danakil desert. According to some sources, the desert is the hottest place on Earth. The air temperature may reach 63 ° C Soil - 70 ° C. Erta Ale volcano is one of five volcanoes in the world has the lava lake and the only one in the world which has two lava lakes. There is a semi-nomadic group of people that live in this area. This group has "interesting" customs. As a wedding present to his bride, a man should present the penis of his enemy or a stranger.

Before visiting the volcano, I had to go to the city of Makele which is a 13 hour bus ride from Addis Ababa.

 Ethiopia Mekele

Mekele Ethiopia

In this city, there is a sufficient number of travel agencies that organize tours to the volcano. I had purchased a two day tour in advance from Russia for $ 500. To pay for the same independently would be too expensive since you have to pay for expedition guides and armed guards.
But in this article I will tell only about the trip to the volcano and temporarily omit Dallol and Lake Asal. The full version of the journey in the desert Danakil you can see in the video at the end of this story.
To go the volcano, you need at least 2 jeeps in case one breaks down, they must also be air conditioned. Danakil is a lifeless place under the scotching sun with no phone reception.

Journey to the heart of the earth

At 8am, we left the hotel, we would go to the place that I had long dreamt of. There was a car outside waiting for me. We bought water and food, and went on the road. After one hour of driving, we stopped at one of the villages where we had breakfast. We were joined by the other participants of the tour who were mostly Germans, Belgians and Japanese. Japanesе had traveled for half a year. Houses in the village largely represent themselves, shacks covered with different materials, and flies flying around.

Ethiopia

Ethiopian village

Ethiopia

In spite of the living conditions, the children looked very happy and were happy to pose for the camera. The place not spoilt by tourists.

Ethiopia

 Ethiopia

We for another 5 hours, we drove through the desert stopping only to relieve ourselves. Coming out of the air-conditioned car, you feel like you are burning up. You eventually understand no tour agency can go on this route with only one car. The sun is sizzling around the lifeless desert. God forbid, if something happened to the cars because chances of survival are very minimal.

Our next stop was the village of Afar.

Ethiopia
Here we had a little snack.

After the snack, before embarking on the journey again I needed to go to the toilet, I asked the guide to show me which he did but he stepped aside. The boys of Afar follow you and while you’re doing your business, they angrily shout “give us money, this is the land of Afar”

The village people of Afar
The village people of Afar

Ethiopia
Before leaving, we were joined by 5 armed guards. One guard looked very fashionable. The Germans laughed at him.

Armed security forces are need in the event of a terrorist attack, because in these area has been cases of hostage-taking by boys from the neighboring Somalia. The tribes here have strange customs.
The road went through the desert with rocky rapids heights of about half a meter, I was actually surprised how the cars overcame this.

After a few hours we stopped at our base camp, where we were supposed to go to the volcano from. The volcano is only seen at night to avoid the heat and sun.

Ethiopia

Everyone began to do their work, preparing dinner for guides, while the tourists rested. Guard took their posts. 

Ethiopia

After a hearty dinner, we waited for sunset, after which we would hit the road on foot.

Ethiopia

The road to the volcano takes about 3 hours. All along jokes were made about my poor command of English. I thought that after seeing the volcano we would return to the camp, and just brought with me 1 liter of water, but midnight would still find us there. Luckily at night the temperatures are at 35 so I would drink my water at least after every 20 minutes. The guides advised me not to drink a lot. I had a very hard time. The thought of spending the whole night there and wake up to a 10 hour the next morning made think that I would die. One Japanese guy was falling on the ground, apparently because of the heat. And guides had to hold his hand for an hour until we come to the volcano. When we got to the volcano one Belgian guy learned that I had run out of water and poured me half a bottle. To me the crater was spectacular! I sat there looking at it and thought that this was certainly the heart of the planet...

Erta Ale volcano 

Erta Ale volcano 

Ethiopia

We slept about 300 steps from the crater on a mattress in the open air. I hardly slept as all kind of thoughts were running through my mind from the fact that the volcano has some impact. Later, the rest also told me that they hardly slept too.

In the morning before heading back we went to the volcano to take the last photos.

Erta Ale volcano

Erta Ale volcano

The return journey had to start early before the sun begun to burn mercilessly. The road passes through the hardened lava of the volcano.

Erta Ale volcano

Erta Ale volcano

Erta Ale volcano

When we got back to camp we were treated to watermelon.

Already coming back to Mekele, I once again realized that where he had been, and despite the worn and tired legs from the heat got a great moral satisfaction. We headed back to Mekele, I realized that even after all the exhaustion and being worn out, i could not compare the experience with anything. After all, life is short and no one knows about tomorrow. A man with his "still have time" does not know what he is missing.

A short video about the trip to the desert Danakil musical version.

Video full version travel to the desert Danakil

 
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