Djibouti March 2017

Djibouti, one of Africa's smallest nations, is squashed between Ethiopia (quite safe), Eritrea (safe-ish) and Somalia (definitely not safe-ish) and has a coastline on the Red Sea. Just across the Bab al-Mandab Strait lies Yemen (decidely unsafe). It's population of less than 1 million gained independence from France in 1977, though French remains the official language.

It's strategic geographic position has attracted the US Navy who use Djibouti as a convenient lillipad from which to launch missions into Somalia and Yemen, where, in the words of a friendly American I got chatting to at a bar, his fellow compatriots do "bad things to bad people".

Trusted transport

I was of course here with a more peaceful objective of exploring a little of this beautiful country. Thus, together with my trusted guide, Camin, and trusted transport, I set off into the interior and towards the Ethiopian border. I wasn't alone. An estimated 1,000 trucks ply this route daily, carrying oil and other goods from Djibouti to land-locked Ethiopia.

Khat

After a short while our driver pulled over to buy some Khat from a roadside shack. Khat is the sustenance of drivers on this trans-national highway, the journey to Addis Ababa taking 3 days. As a stimulant, somewhat like caffeine, it keeps them awake in the 35 degree heat and keeps their trucks on the road.

Buying Khat

Our first stop was Dikhil, a small town located half-way to the Ethiopian border. Here we enjoyed a fantastic lunch with locals, all eager followers of European news on their satellite TV.

It wasn't long before we veered off the tarmac road and headed across the desolate landscape of central Djibouti. Occasional villages appeared, often set around oases of palm trees and wells from which water was drawn.

Our destination on day one was the remarkable Lac Abbe, which forms the border with Ethiopia. Here limestone deposits form giant stacks and create an eerie backdrop to the setting sun.

My boutique hotel for the night was a traditional dwelling of the Afar people, one of three groups that live in Djibouti. Thankful for the mosquito net it was, nonetheless, a hot and restless night.

Sunrise saw the local women releasing their goats and heading to the lake plateau to find pasture and chance for us to explore a little more of this unusual landscape.

Lac Abbe
Leading sheep to pasture
Camel caravan

Day two saw another five hour drive ahead of us to the amazing Lac Assal. But first we had passengers to take care of. Our first was the mother of Madina, a 6 month old baby girl who need an innoculation. Normally her mother would walk 4 hours to reach the clinic, so it was a privilege to drop her off. En-route we stopped to pick up another lady, carrying a bundle I assumed to be a baby. Soon thereafter this bundle began to bleat and we realised we had a baby goat in our midst.

Madina and her family
Kids on board

Lac Assal is the lowest point on the Africa continent at some 156 metres below sea level. The lake is so rich in salt you can float in it.

Lac Assal
Lac assal
Lac Assal

Well for now this is the end of my journal. I'll see if I can add some video clips of is chasing camels shortly 😂

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