攀登 Erta Ale 活火山／李明熙
達納基勒窪地（Danakil Depression）火山之旅，是我們來埃塞俄比亞的重頭戲，不少當地旅行社都提供 3 天或 4 天團，老實的外國人會在網站付款，訂好行程。但在埃塞俄比亞甚麼都可以議價，所以我們到達默克萊（Mekelle）後，才到旅行社訂翌日出發的團，議價後的價錢比網站標價便宜一半以上。而 3 天和 4 天團看的都一樣，所以我們選擇了 3 天團，於清晨 5 時出發。
我們參加的團有 8 名成員，除了我倆，其他人都是以色列人。導遊說，這個行程接待以色列人最多，其次是德國人和中國人。我們團的以色列人都是猶太教徒，他們不吃非教徒宰的牲口，所以晚餐時特別叫導遊向村民買了一頭山羊及新的屠刀。他們一人背著山羊唸經，另一人一刀宰掉山羊，還有一名村民協助去皮清理內臟，從聽見山羊的哀號到手中拿著的羊腿，整個過程不到兩小時，我們沒有特別的悲哀，反而覺得這是難得的非洲體驗。
要登上 613 米的爾塔阿雷活火山（Erta Ale），因為氣溫關係，必須待晚餐後才能摸黑 3 小時上山。我們會在火山口過夜，日出前下山，同行的還有持槍護衛和駱駝，背著我們過夜用的地蓆和下山糧水。
Colorful Dallol Sulfur Hot Springs／Kimberlogic
The Danakil Depression is located in the Afar region of Ethiopia, which is in the Northeast on the border of Eritrea. The Afar region has many “claims to fame”—— the Lucy fossil was found here, it is one of the driest and lowest lying places on earth, and it holds the record for highest average temperature of an inhabited area.
The depression was created when Africa and Asia moved apart. It lies at the junction of three tectonic plates which causes rifting and volcanic activity. During our three-day tour through this depression, we visited the Dallol Sulfur hot springs.
Since the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia from 1998 to 2000, relations have been tense, and in 2012, 5 tourists were killed. In order to visit Dallol, we had to be escorted by armed guards the entire time we drove and trekked. Luckily, we saw no signs of hostility or danger from people during our visit.
Dallol is one of the most remote places on Earth. If you search it on google maps, you may think your connection is lost because you will only see the name Dallol on the map —— no town, no roads and you have to zoom out many times before anything else appears on the map. Roads in this area are starting to be built, so the most important mode of transportation is still camel caravans.
We arrived at the Dallol Sulfur hot springs around noon and the sun was blazing hot. Not only the sun, but the breeze was uncomfortably hot. There was absolutely nothing around. After about 10 minutes of trekking, the ground turned from a reddish brown to a plethora of colours. It started subtly with muted hues mixed into the ground, but a few more minutes of trekking and the chemical reactions turned the landscape into a vivid colour palate.
Although the ground was hard when we started walking, it still didn’t look like it would hold our weight, which made us a little nervous. Because of the volcanic activity in this area, the underground salt water mixes with all of the minerals such as magnesium, iron, potassium, and of course, sulfur and the chemical reaction creates these amazing colors. When we got close to the sulfur ponds, our guides warned us to be careful where we walked because the ground started to get soft and was surrounded by sulfuric acid.
We later found out that these wet environments are being researched to help understand how life on other planets and moons may be possible. Being at Dallol, we already felt like we were on a different planet because the landscape was something we had never seen before. After our trekking, we were brought to a work site where salt is mined. The people of this region spray salt water from the nearby lake onto the desert and when it dries, they dig it up and load it onto camels for the 2-week journey to the city of Mekelle, where they sell it in the market. It was hard enough for us to just be in the heat in this place, I can’t imagine how the salt workers are able to do their job every under these conditions. Seeing the landscape in this region and getting to interact with the locals has been one of my favourite travel experiences ever.