Swimming in Salt, Roof surfing and doing a Top Gear


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Africa » Ethiopia
February 6th 2020
Published: February 6th 2020
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We had to get up at 03:30 to meet our guide in his car to drive us to the Cradle of Humanity, we would pick up our armed guard on the way as the Afar tribe are in dispute with the Ethiopian government so it is mandatory to have armed protection to visit the region.

We followed a tarmac road for a surprisingly long way into the middle of nowhere as it got dustier and hotter. Along the way the sun came up and we stopped for breakfast in a very small cluster of huts in the middle of nowhere and at the same time picked up a man with an AK47 rifle that looked a little antique but he would be our guard.

With our guard and car in the 4x4 in front we drove on to sand flats and very quickly realised we were doing exactly what the Top Gear guys did on their Ethiopia special! The surface soon became smooth and we headed toward Dalal where the land is 120m below sea level and the inner workings of the earth come to the surface.

We walked on massive sulphur plumes and crazy formations bubbling away (unfortunately no liquid magma) and in fact we walked all over the place and ended up getting surrounded by Sulphur fumes and politely speaking choking! We then saw a bubbling lake of water that smelt of fuel and certainly was oily, don’t think it was good for drinking.

We soon moved on to see Salt Mountains and then perhaps the highlight which was taking a swim in a small salt lake in the salt flat. The water was so salty we couldn’t sink, we just floated on top, and it was quite weird.

We then headed to see the local “friendly” Afar people who were cutting up and extracting blocks of salt and loading them on Donkeys to ship and export. It was over 40 degrees and apparently as the hottest (on average) place on earth the temperature can get to nearly 55 degrees so we were lucky there were a few clouds in the sky blocking the sun.

We then engaged in what we would call roof surfacing. We all took a go, Nick and Alain on the Hilux and James riding on the guide’s car. It was very flat and lots of fun, but don’t try this at home.

After great fun we headed off the salt flats and stopped for lunch in a town which had quite possible the most offensive toilet I’ve ever seen. Whatever you have in your head it was worse.

We finished the day heading south to work our way towards Addis Ababa as we have one more day with James before we have to drop him off. Hopefully the rock-cut churches of Lalibela tomorrow.


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