Erta Ale and Dallol, Ethiopia

Tour 2008, 3rd to 17th of February

Part II


Cinema & Gifs

tb  mr mr

Positioned at the crater rim for three days, the constantly ascending gases from the crater troubled us more than expected. Despite the not too strong concentration, staying for hours in the volcanic exhaust gas stream exposed as not really healthy.


New discipline: Continuing-gas-mask-wear

After apprx. one hour in the intensive sulphur ammonia gas mixture at the western part of the crater my lung got damaged lightly by getting breath problems in the following night. By the way this kind of poisoning appears like an easy coldness. Durable carrying of gas masks proves again and again as very useful.

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An excursion to the 500 meter distanced north crater which was carefully estimated from me about 800 meters in the diameter, shows the true dimension of this volcano. In the middle of the water and gas vapoured crater 4 hornitos of approximately 15 meters height were situated. If you climb the half height of a hornito you can find a quite surprising interior live in the skylights. Glowing, maybe sulphur drop stones are coining here the picture.



The remarkably orange colored beards are not an actual mode feature. These beards are only waered by the bosses of the camel enterprises. Here the camels are very important for the transport of the water and the equipment, except you have time or turn yourself into a camel, by running  up and down several times.


The sand dessert und its perfidies


Long exposured Comet 17/P Holmes

Mineral geysers in the region Dallol

The color flood of the precipitating products at the mineral geysers in Dallol did appeared abstractly after the long travel through the grey-brown salt pan of the Assale of salt lake. Observed already at numerous geysers the mineral micro gardens are dominating here. Without destroying these small works of art, it was really heavy to move in this area.

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Mikro-organism coloured the green basins


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The formation of green and yellow sinter basins of several meters, bubbling crevices and small salt geysers which reached partial only the size of centimetres, the last are really a challenge for macro photographers, was so fascinatingly, that we lost our acherontic thoughts about kidnapping and assault at this remote place close to the Eritrean border very fast.

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Solidified mineral bubbles and a normal acrobatic bearing of a macro photograph.


A further phenomenon in Dallol are numerous rigid salt bubbles of a noticeable size (30cm). I saw this peculiarity of mineral precipitation so far only here, and I asked myself how could this procedure works. May the dry air in this salt desert accelerates the dehydration process of the slowly withdrawing highly mineral saturated water bubbles.

mr rr  tb

 rr  tb 

Between the desicated salt lake the yellow gushing mineral sources appeared in an eminent characteristic 10 km from Dallol. A circa 50 meter wide basin, smelling after petrochemie, was the death bringer of some small animals, like birds and grasshoppers. These were shared numerously around the further smaller sources and kept us away from a full bath. With a preceding finger test, who knows if the blank bright bones are turning up, I couldn't deny myself to snatch a piece from the crystalline ground . The liquid felt soapy, what a very high concentration let suggest. The crystals are maybe consisting of the mineral Sylvin or Carnallit. The sureness will come in a few weeks.

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A few meters beside, rare and beautiful rock salt crystals up to several centimetres could be found. Thus, we based here our own small salt dismantling, which didn't brought us really to a fast wealthiness. Twenty kilometres farther and on a grand scale, the procedure seemed to be "more professionally", and therefore the next trip took us into...

.. the salt dessert around Dallol and its salt caravan

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Bizarre salt towers are rising up from the coloured dessert



Who never saw a camels pervaded horizon before, should hurry to Ahmed Ela as soon as possible. This lively small desert village is the passage place of innumerable camel caravans. Hundreds with salt panels packed camels which seem to appear and disappear from the nowhere, left a unique impression.

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The Afar ,toll station' on the little hill  (picture down middle)

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Additionally, here is the ,toll station' for the 140 km long trek to the salt trade place in Mekele. Current prices: Camel 30 Birr, donkey 25 Birr, rude expensive!? (1 Birr  0,7? Cent). And, - no animal is missed out from the Afars.

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tb tb

At last we were piloting the main salt dismantling. Hundreds of workers are leveraging heavy salt plates from compact soil by using logs. We noticed that the bone work is performed exclusively by the Tigrays, while the Afar worker continues to process the blanks into nearly identically large panels. By the way, all the camel caravans starts here to Mekele.


Nevertheless, at this place the oppositeness becomes conscious to our world, and it is to admire in which meager and unreal environment, a such special livly atmosphere can develop itself.  This was the point for us to say good bye, for entering the Tigrays land and the rock churches of Lalibela.

Left: Patrik Koster with a new appendix tb

The rock churches of Lalibela


After passing the dry an ascending plane into the western mountain ridge you'll enter the Tigray land. Here you'll appearently get confronted with new stile of live. Starting with the changing of the peoples clothing and hairdress to the new architecture stile of  the houses you'll realize that the dessert part of our journey has still ended. Climbing up to more than 3550 m by car you'll also get surprised to the low temperatures in the mountains. By taking hundreds of dusty curves in a never ending ride we reached the famous churches of Lalibela.



The 11 medieval monolithic cave churches of this 13th-century 'New Jerusalem' are situated in the mountainous region in the heart of Ethiopia near a traditional village with their circular-shaped dwellings. Lalibela is a high place of Ethiopian Christianity, and still today a highly frequented place of pilmigrage and devotion.


This was our last staying point before reaching Addis Ababa in a good condition again. Noticable was, that our health was splendid all the time, because of an additional organised maintenance car and the perfect and tasty work of our cooking crew.


Of corse you should enjoy the origin an special food of the Ethiopian kitchen, but it is a little risky to take the normal food. A ,pleasant' stay with heavy diarrhea et cetera can be the result. And I think it is not worthwhile for this limited time-frame. 


By watching behind the curtains of this beautiful land of extremes, you'll recognize beside the adventural facades an enormous potential of poverty and absence of medical supplement. This circumstances are not emphasized on this page, because we stepped forward to discover and report about geological anomalies and active volcanos. But, since the wars ended and the farmers had the possibility to return back to their fields, it turns me hopfull, that a big development in the whole land is taking place. For me it's obvious to visit this land again, to start a new trip discovering also the magic world of the south. 

   back to part I

On Tour:

Rainer Albiez: raineralbiez     Marc Szeglat:      Patrick Koster: PaKos Photography

Richard Roscoe:        Martin Rietze: ALPE,    Thorsten Boeckel: ?

Perfect organised by Henok Tekle, Originsethiopia

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Erta Ale and Dallol, 2002 oder 2011



Etna    Stromboli    Volcano world    Cinema

From Etna to Stromboli     Planets & Space

2008 Photos und Text by T. Boeckel (tb), photos by M.Rietze (mr), photos by R..Roscoe (rr) last modification 02.3.2008

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