After arriving yesterday and breakfast this morning in Djibouti City, we boarded our convoy of 8 (Eight!!!) 4x4s at 8am. 

Thus begins our grueling 9 hour drive under an oppressive >105ºF sun towards the border between Djibouti and Ethiopia for Lake Abbe. I was already tired before it began.



You know you’re leaving Djibouti’s capital when you drive by the impressively large Free Trade Area of Djibouti, probably the largest structures I’ve seen in all of the country.



For our first toilet break we happened upon a pretty decent but basic café for local coffee.



Stopping next at an abandoned railway station and like any grown ass adults, we playfully and for no reason climbed onboard an derelict train car that our guide’s father once operated.



Then it was a long stretch through deserts such as Little and Grand Bara, which are large fields of white clay upon which mirages are frequently seen alongside the local gazelles and antelopes. We saw only baboons.



…more interestingly, we also witnessed lakes pinker than those we recently saw in Senegal.



We then stopped at a village of shepherds who have made this desert region their home, even though it is amongst the hottest and most hostile places in the world. At this point we were feeling pretty hostile against the weather.



After 9 hours of driving with a sandwich lunch in the city of Dikhil, we finally reached the outskirts of Lake Abbe.



As you walk closer to the lake, the claylike ground gives in under your boots as if you were walking upon the surface of a giant French macaroon. It’s very … satisfying. Hnnngggg (must be the heat).



The landscape was none short of breathtaking. I was reminded of the White Desert in Egypt:



Lake Abbe comes pretty close doesn’t it? Which one (above or below) looks more like the surface of the moon?



However, had we been less tired from our grueling 9 hour drive and if the weather wasn’t so oppressive as we were hiking around, I think all of us would have quickly ranked this up there as one of the most beautiful travel moments we’ve ever experienced.



But we were all utterly exhausted to immediately comment on our appreciation for the beauty of this place. Looking at these photos now as I’m typing this, I recall my having had promised myself (while walking here) to one day really appreciate where I was.

I knew what I was looking at was completely otherworldly, but had little energy left to let myself feel all that.



I think once I regain my wits and proper recovery time, I’ll be able to to look back and confidently declare this part of the world was up there with camping in Egypt’s White Desert, hitchhiking on the Mauritanian Iron Ore Train, hiking Namibia’s sand dunes, climbing Indonesia’s Gunung Bromo, walking through Batad’s Rice Terraces, camping with the Mundari….wow so much to compare it to I feel pretty guilty: This place can hold its own.



During sunset we settled in at the traditional Afar huts at Lake Abbe Camp.



This is when pain begins. Expect only a cot, mosquito net…and swarms and swarms of all types of bugs — gnats, mosquitoes, fleas, spiders, flies — covering the walls of the hut, the mattress, and both inside and outside the nets.

 I felt like I was walking into an episode of Naked and Afraid and only had forgotten to take off my clothes to begin the challenge.



The only reason I didn’t was because there was no prize money at the end for this. But there should have been.

I needed a smoke and luckily our driver brought his hookah.



Without cell signal, enough lifetime supply of bug spray, A/C, and left with rundown shower facilities and bathrooms equally infested with swarms of flying bugs, I took a deep breath to make the best of it, and then swallowed more bugs in that breath. 

I put on sunglasses so they wouldn’t get into my eyes and with my headlamp on, it felt like I was driving through a snowstorm. We then tried to enjoy a BBQ dinner with bugs landing everywhere on our utensils and food. I had so much protein. Rowan said it was like eating cornflakes.



Having had to make sure I could get even an hour of sleep, I dragged my cot outside the hut and underneath a makeshift hut frame where there was at least a breeze to ward off the tiniest of mosquitoes.



I was then warned there were hyenas outside that would be looking for food, but I’d rather take my chances than to stay inside a Djibouti torture chamber. Surprisingly I was able to fall quickly to sleep at around 10pm.

Nevertheless, I woke up almost 3 hours later to a stale windless night, where not even the sky was filled with as many stars as I would’ve expected in the this part of the world (ok now I’m being unreasonable). Without any more wind to deter the mosquitoes, I felt the death squads come for me. Crying a little to myself inside, I got back up and walked back into the hut to grab one of the unused nets.



Surprisingly, I figured this one out and was able to get 2-3 more hours of sleep until waking up to this at 5:20am:



Our goal was to wake up early enough for sunrise over Lake Abbe: a formidable sight as the sun rises unobstructed over the lake with hundreds of natural limestone chimneys, spitting out steam and sulfur.



You’d wonder if you just woke up on the same planet!



We walked for about an hour around the lake before the sun rose and scorched us like vampires.



Although you may see colonies of pink flamingos with local donkey and camel herders, the dead lake was barren. No wildlife in sight other than us humans who thought they could last more than a day here. So right before the sun made itself known, we grabbed a quick breakfast and drove onwards to Lake Assal.




- At time of posting in Lake Abbe, it was 42 °C - Humidity: 43% | Wind Speed: 14km/hr | Cloud Cover: like the surface of Mecury


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