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Published: February 1st 2020
The local adventure travel group I typically use was offering a 5-day trip to Djibouti: Moonscapes and Whale Sharks. Of course I was on board when my co-worker said I should go. We had an early morning flight on Ethiopian Airlines, meeting up before boarding. We had a tight layover, but made it to the gate in time (unlike the Madagascar trip). The flight to Djibouti was a little over an hour and lots of military type guys on the plane as there are a few bases in Djibouti. Immigration was not too bad, we got our bags, and met our guide, Abdullah. We had two old land cruisers for the next few days and I rode with my two friends, B and S as well as an Italian guy, M. Our first stop was, Casino, the large grocery store, so we stocked up on supplies, such as mixers, wines, snacks and each got a sandwich for lunch.
Then it was time for about a 5 hour ride to our first stop: Lake Abbe. Initially, the two-lane roads were in pretty good condition, but they were just clogged with large trucks driving slowly in each direction. As we travelled further
west, in to more mountainous areas, we saw places where cars and trucks had gone over the slopes in what must have been horrific crashes, both recent and old wrecks. We stopped at a restaurant to use the toilets and stretch our legs, then soon we were on a dirt road the rest of the way, about 2 hours. But it was actually amazing to see the wildlife along the route: baboons, gazelle, ostriches, donkeys.... so cool. Ostriches!! My first sighting of them.
We stopped in a large village, approximately 1,500 people, as our last little break. We walked into a home which had a second floor viewing platform that over looked the town and area. The home had a/c and satellite dishes, and the whole town had electricity, though it is only on certain times of the day. Lots of kids were around and we gave them sweets, but they were not as many as what we had encountered in Madagascar. I found the people in Djibouti to keep mostly to themselves.
As we were climbing into the barren hills, noting the volcanic rocks and ash along the way, we came to an area where we could
over see the volcanic 'chimneys' - the reason we were visiting the area. These are thermal vents that, aside from here, are only found on the ocean floor. Here, these limestone vents still have steam coming out of them in areas when the lake water mixes with the super-heated thermal waters. Lake Abbe has been significantly reduced in the last 40 years or so and is now hyper-saline; our guide said it is due to a dam built in Ethiopia, but it is also due to irrigation practices. We didn't get very close to the lake, instead camping up in the hills with the goal being sunset over the chimneys.
The sunset was amazing. I set up my tripod outside the camp walls and took some really cool shots! There was a herd of goats below us that we watched. After the sunset, we went to dinner which mostly consisted of bread and some very tough kebabs. We all sat at the table and got to know each other; turns out, one of the girls, E, lives not only in my building, but on my same floor! Then they put on a dance, which really only lasted about 20
minutes. S and I joined in a bit, but everyone seemed surprised at the suddenness of the end. We slept in our own individual huts with woven roofs with a cot and mosquito net. It rained that night, and I was ok but apparently everyone else got dripped on quite a bit. E had a giant spider in her tent that she did not see until close to morning and was unable to sleep the rest of the night...
The next morning, we went back to the chimneys to see the sunrise, but it was overcast. However, we got to see the many thermal springs. And got bit by millions of mosquitoes. Yes, if you come to Djibouti, there are mosquitos everywhere. Everywhere. Take your malaria tablets, even though they say here that the mosquitos in Djibouti do not carry malaria - don't take the chance. We could not get a straight answer. But I stress: mosquitos were everywhere!
After breakfast, which was simply bread and tea / coffee, we got back on the road with a rider on the roof of one. We drove past many small villages, watching what was mostly women walking to collect water
in jugs in nearby wells. We stopped at an oasis near the town that was owned by Abduallah's cousin. Here there were a few kids, one of which seemed to be a budding photographer. He took my camera and snapped some photos. And he showed us a cute baby fawn that was just hanging out and apparently never left. We then continued on the road and noted the trash all over the sides. We had lunch at the rest stop from the day before. B and I shared our drinks and I don't remember much of the drive to our next stop, which was to camp in a wadi beneath the stars near Lac Assal. That will continue in the next blog....
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