The last two days of the Danakil Depression tour is all about one thing – Erta Ale. This involves crossing the desert, hiking in the late afternoon, to the top of an active volcano. The route is not steep, nor is it long; it takes about 4 hours depending on the fitness of the company. The hike is done in the late afternoon; half of it in light, half of it in darkness so bring your headlamps.
Before getting there, there is still an array of things to see in the brutal desert landscape – “skyscrapers” made from stone, rising from the middle of nowhere, an endless stretch of igneous rocks left from the last eruption of Erta Ale, and a sizable group of people living in the middle of nowhere.
Of course that was not the main event. The main event is to see one of the few (~5) permanent lava lakes in the world. After four hours of climbing (take note that this is Night #3 in the desert!), weary, grumpy, and cold (it has switched from 40 to 12 C – so confusing!) – all of this was soon forgotten by a spectacular sight: a volcanic eruption right in front of your eyes. Photo courtesy of Gilles Durdu, my camera sucks in low light!
And there was silence for a good part of an hour. I’ll let the video speak for itself…Yup, need to update that Most Amazing Thing Seen list…
Surprisingly, the air was not filled with the smell of rotten egg, nor was it hot. But we were very close to the lava, as you can see from the video. Had the volcano erupted, well…it wasn’t such a bad sight to see…
Before we headed home, we spent another 30 minutes looking at the lava lake at daybreak. Since we arrived at camp in the dark, we didn’t realize we camped out at the lip of the crater.
Again, I will point you to Ethio Travel and Tours for the trip – no this is not an advert, but just a tip of the hat to the folks who put this together.