Sunday, October 23, 2011

Camel-lot....

Roger was going on a site visit to the project they will be mobilizing to next month, so I got to go along.  He warned me the Danakil Depression is one of the hottest places on earth with temps ranging near 50C, but I was game, and off we went with a great driver, and dependable vehicle.  Both very important for the drive through very inhospitable terrain.
Halle was a fabulous driver and navigated roads that resembled goat paths more than roads

View of Mek'ele from the top of the first of many mountains

Typical village along the way....actually, probably one of the nicer ones

The mining company camp site - Roger's crew will be drilling in November in the surrounding area

The guard shack at entrance to camp.  The sign indicates no guns, khat (a plant that is chewed as a stimulant), drugs, alcohol
These workers are making a traditional dining room that will eventually have a rattan and bamboo roof where everyone will eat.  The next time you think you've put in a hard days work, consider this.  These guys are working in 43C weather, mixing cement by hand, chipping boulders to make the base and putting them into place.  They work from sun up, until sun down --- and despite all of them being incredibly thin, I've never seen stronger workers.

The men liked seeing their pictures, but I couldn't get them to smile.

 

They were hard at work at sunrise, except one of the men waved me away when I tried to take more pictures.  I wasn't about to argue with him!
We slept in a tent like we did in Botswana!

The geologists took Roger to see where they would be drilling.  I decided after walking for awhile that I wasn't a mountain goat and went back to the truck to wait.

This is the driver for the mining company. While we were waiting for the geologists and Roger, I discovered his sister lives in Calgary!  What a small world.
We headed out to the Danakil at sunrise to avoid the heat and ensure we were able to get back to Mek'ele before dark.  I had no idea what to expect....and I was not disappointed.  In fact.  It was a day full  of shock and awe.
After seeing so many children working carrying wood and tending cattle, it was wonderful to see these little ones just having fun and being happy to see people.
This woman was roasting coffee beans
Before we reached the hot springs, we had to stop by a village and pick up a guide from one of the Afar tribes and check in with the army.  Not sure why, but we were glad to have Halle make the arrangements.  It turned out to be money well spent.

We got off the rough road and started driving on the salt/sulphur flats enabling us to go much faster.


We climbed to the top of this salt mountain -- at 9:30 a.m. it was 35C

You could taste the salt in your sweat and the smell of surphur was at times, overpowering

Another one of those -- we can't believe we're here pictures!



As we stood in one spot and looked around, it was amazing to see how the colors changed

We thankfully hopped back in the jeep and the guide then took us to a smaller hot springs.  This pictures shows the water bubbling from the gas -- not from heat as Halle actually put his hand in the water.

Amazing formations

Salt flats as far as the eye can see

This outcropping of salt was all by itself amidst the flat terrain
Before leaving on our trip, I said I wanted to see camels.  The first day we saw a few, and I was thrilled.  But as we kept driving on the salt flats, we saw a scene that would rival any of the amazing sights we've seen before....

We came across a caravan of camels --- hundreds of them along with donkeys preparing to carry salt to Mek'ele -- a journey of about 200 kms that will take one week and take them over mountain ranges that was difficult enough in a 4x4 jeep.
Men preparing slabs of salt that weigh 6 kg

It was incredible seeing so many camels and people
The "beasts of burden" make some pretty great faces

After we left the salt flats, we saw a caravan coming from Mek'ele.  The camels and donkeys were carrying food, water and feed for the animals.  Look at the mountains in the background --- Mek'ele is on the other side.
The camels can carry 200kg
 

Camels are known to be obstinate.  We saw several balk and break loose from the ropes that tied them together
It was Saturday when we passed through a village that was very busy because it was market day.
It took 4-1/2 hours to travel approximately 200 kms back to Mek'ele -- the switchback mountain trails were spectacular and we were constantly in awe of the beauty...the harsh terrain...and the resiliency and strength of the nomadic Afar people. 

Ethiopia has taught me to expect the unexpected...and be prepared to be amazed.

“One thing life has taught me: If you are interested, you never have to look for new interests. They come to you. When you are genuinely interested in one thing, it will always lead to something else.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

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