Djibouti - Part 3, Ardoukoba Volcano

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January 27th 2020
Published: February 8th 2020
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We woke up on the shores of Lac Assal, wind beaten but ready for our next adventure. While we waited for another breakfast of bread and coffee (I grabbed one of my granola bars), some of our group talked to the local people who had set up our camp and made our dinner. One of them was a young girl, 8, and her father lamented that she was getting old and needed to be married off by the time she was 9 before she was too old. It breaks my heart that there is still child marriage - her childhood would soon be over forever. The city seems to be a bit more advanced, but the rural areas still practice these old customs, and many have little if any access to formal education.

After taking some photos at the lake before we left, and watching camels trek to gather salt, we drove about 10 minutes before our guides let us out. We then started our 5 hours trek. Abdullah said we had to be able to make this trek if we decided to go because there would be no one who could come for assistance - it was very remote and inaccessible - no helicopters, cars, etc. We had the option to ride with the cars and get delivered to the top of the volcano. I debated because of my ankle and cramps, but knew I would kick myself if I did not go. So, we started across what looked to be hostile terrain: desolate, barren lava flows, with views overlooking Lac Assal. We went up and down little hills for most of the first 2 hours before we caught sight of the volcano. We took a short break at a very discernible lava flow where we ate oranges and caught our breath. The guide also showed us a lava tube that went from the top of the hill down to near where we had started.

Soon, we started to go more steeply, straight up. B had been bummed that the sun had not been out because it meant that the photos would not turn out too good; I was happy because it meant that we would not get too hot on these treks. But he was right - the photos are not as incredible without the contrast of colors that we were able to see. However, as we started up the steep slope, wouldn't you know, the sun came out. It started to get pretty brutal and the hike up was steep and pretty constant. What frustrated me was that we did not once stop even for a minute, so it was about an hour straight up, in the sun, with my ankle and cramps. I thought to myself, the closer I got to heatstroke, the less I felt my other aches and pains. Soon, we were scrabbling down a steep slope where everyone caught up and helped each other down. It was at this point I ran out of water (I had started with 2.5 liters). I was wondering how much further, as it had only been 3 hours when they said, that was the volcano right there and here came the cars! Thank god. Yes, I much prefer overestimating the time. Such a relief.

The cars arrived with nice cold water and then we made our way to the crater rim, which was about a 15 minute walk from the cars. We were able to leave our packs and make our way over. An easy walk down and then a quick steep climb and there we were! At the rim of the Ardoukoba Volcano, which erupted in November 1978, soon after the country was officially formed. This was the first eruption of this new volcano, formed in the area of the a rift zone, between three tectonic plates. It was highly active with basaltic lava flows going towards Lac Assal (the ones we had earlier crossed) and ones toward the sea, which we would see afterwards. The views from the rim were spectacular and we were all proud of ourselves for making the trek.

After we returned to the cars, we drove down the other side of the mountain towards the sea, making a stop at a very interesting point. Here we could see a large crack in the lava flow, parts of which were still steaming. The crack was pretty wide and continued all the way out to sea. We walked into a lava tube and enjoyed walking along the lava flow formed just over 40 years ago. It was pretty amazing. Well, for me and B.

Then we continued down the curved road toward the sea, stopping at a small beach resort area for lunch. The resort was located on the Ghoubbet-el-Kharab, which is basically a little cove from the Gulf of Tadjoura, the "Gulf of Demons". Here, you are surrounded by steep cliffs and other small calderas. It is a great sight. We had a lunch of goat with our delicious spicy tomato sauce. It was nice to relax after a couple of arduous days. Then we continued onto Djibouti City, stopping along the way at a few spectacular view points, which were also selling souvenirs. We had stopped here the other day, which I did not completely remember. But now I could take some unimpeded shots.

Additional photos below
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14th February 2020

There is more going on in Djibouti than I realized.

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