Danakil Depression expedition
Ethiopia - The Danakil Depression - Erta Ale Volcano - Camel salt caravans - Afar People
Join me as I lead a small expedition style trip into the heart of what National Geographic described as the cruelest place on Earth to live.  Why would I or for that matter any sane person want to travel into this hellishly hot desert? For me this is an opportunity to visit and experience the lifestyle of a thousand year old culture that will soon vanish and be gone forever. If there is one lesson we all should have learned from history, it is that progress (whether good or bad) can be slowed, but never stopped.  For a thousand years salt caravans have carried this essential mineral from the Danakil Depression across all of Ethiopia.  With the opening of a new and massive potash mine, comes a 500 kilometer paved road.  Mile by mile as the road is rapidly constructed across this inhospitable desert region, cargo trucks ply the newly finished highway.  The trucks replace the caravans.  Inch by inch the trucks are gaining access to the very heart of the Danakil salt mining region. The Danakil depression is one of the lowest places on earth, at 115 meters below sea level.  The region known as the Afar Triangle is an area characterised by highly active volcanos and geothermal formations.  The constant volcanic activity has formed a unique and strange landscape.
erta ale crater at night
Please contact keith to get more details
Danakil salt caravan
Trip Itinerary Day 0:  November 18:   This is probably your arrival day in Addis Ababa (ADD).  Our tour start is tomorrow morning early.  So if possible we’ll meet for dinner and all stay at the same hotel tonight, just to make sure we don’t miss each other. Day #1 November 19:   We meet early and depart by plane from Addis Ababa to Mekele.  We expect to arrrive in Mekele in time for a 9:00 a.m. start out of Mekele.  From there we drive on the new road to the small village of Hamedela via Berhale. The Danakil Depression can be said to ‘begin’ here.  We will  pass the small town of Berhale where the camel caravans stop before they proceed to the northern highlands. En route we hopt to see lots of salt caravans going to the salt mines or coming out of the Danakil. (expected drive time is 3-4 hrs.) Camp tonight at Hamedela, population about 500. Day #2 November 20:    Hamadela – Dodom We start early from Hamadela and drive to Dodom at the base of Erta Ale.  This road is really bad and the 80 km distance may take 6 hrs, passing through changing landscape of solidified lava, rock, sand and the occasional palm lined oasis.  We will pass several small villages before reaching Dodom, a really tiny village.  We plan for an early dinner and then in the late afternoon cooling air, hike from Dodom up to the top of Erta Ale which takes about 3 hrs.  Our local guide has told me we might expect to arrive around 8:00 PM.  We will be hiking in the dusk and darkening evening because of the heat, even in November.  Our headlamps will help us pick our footing.  Camels transport all the camping gear and some food, sleeping materials, mattresses and water to the rim of the volcano.  This is where we spend the night watching the dramatic light show of the boiling lava. Erta Ale is a shield volcano with a base diameter of 30 km and 1km square caldera at its summit. Erta Ale contains the world’s only permanent lava lake and we will spend an unforgettable night on the top of this active volcano.                           
erta ale crater at night
Day #4 November 22: Hamadela to Lake Assal Following breakfast we drive to a place known as Ragad or (Asebo). This is one place where the salt is mined. We will take time to observe the hand breaking of the salt from the ground. Watch the workers cutting uniform rectangular pieces and finally loading onto camels.  We leave the salt workers and drive to the Dallol crater.  This is the possibly the strangest and most  unique landscape you may ever see.  At 116 meters below sea level certainly it will be one of the lowest places you ever visit.  Here are colorful salts, chlorides, sulfurs and other chemical deposits.  Then we visit Lake Assal and maybe have a swim in some very salty water.  We’ll end the day following along with some camel caravan and walk with the Afar people.  Camp tonight will be wherever we find ourselves at the end of the day.
Day #3 November 21:  Dodom - Hamadela Early morning before the rising sun has heated the rock we rise with the sun and take time to walk around the pits and craters. We head down around 7:00 to head back to Dodom for breakfast. We plan to reach Dodom around 10:00 and after some time to relax before we drive back to Hamadela where we will stay the night again. 
danakil depression acid pond
Danakil depression expedition map
Day #5 November 23:   Lake Assal to Simien Mountains Today we set off into the mountains for a day of exploring and perhaps spotting some wildlife.  Our itinerary is wide open and will allow us to stop and visit villages and interesting sites along our drive.  The destination or goal if we really have one is the Shire Wildlife Reserve.  But that is a somewhat vague and not definite goal.  Camp tonight we hope will be at some small mountain village. Day #6 November 24:  Today we continue our freestyle exploration in the Simien Mountains.  We’ll set up our travel day so that we can arrive back in Mekele tomorrow without any difficulty.  Again tonight we plan to stay at a small village we might find along the way. Day #7  November 25:  We leave the Simien Mountains and make our way back to Mekele where we will stay overnight. Day #8 November 26:  We catch the morning flight back to Addis Ababa.  This ends the official trip.  From here we each make our own flight arrangements home. Extra days in Addis Ababa:  Because of the somewhat rough terrain and the possibility of us getting stuck and returning to Addis Ababa a day later than planned, we suggest each member either purchase easily changed air tickets home or plan to stay at least one extra night in Addis Ababa.

What is a Baja Jones expeditionary trip?

       Simply put this is a group travel trip that goes to some place where conditions exist that make this trip impossible to  make a set itinerary and be assured the trip will follow that itinerary.
      You should expect rougher than normal situations both in the environment and in the accommodations.  The expeditions travel to remote locations where tourist infrastructure is not fully developed.  The road and transportation may not meet normal expectations.
     The environment will frequently be hostile.  The could be either cold or wet or hot or windy.  The terrain will likely be rugged. It might be barren or mountainous, or a blistering desert.  The terrain might be subject to floods or rock slides.
     There might be dense jungle or underbrush with few well traveled trails.  There might be no paved roads.
     If you are now wondering why anyone would want to travel to some place with conditions like this, you might want to consider one of our guided adventure tours. 
     We expect the participants on our expeditionary trips to be easy going and mentally prepared to deal with unexpected and sometimes disappointing occurences.  This is always the best way for one of these trips to end successfully.  No whiners allowed.

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