If you draw a straight line on the map, the distance between Hamed Ale and Erta Ale is peanuts, only 60 kilometers. But what a trip! There is no road in this part of the Danakil Depression, period. That is why we had brought a scout all the way from Berdahile, a skinny guy who got motion-sick all the time and who did not know the area at all. He kept asking our armed Afar police escort, so the latter eventually took over guiding us through the dusty, rough terrain.
The jeeps had to stay far apart to allow the dust to settle, otherwise breathing would have become impossible. Once we briefly had to close all the windows, which brought the temperature to unbearable heights, but did not stop the dust from penetrating the car: even inside we felt like being in a sand storm.
Usually we could trace the second jeep in the distance by the large cloud of dusts it produced. When this was not the case we knew they were stuck. Twice Christos had to go back in our tracks looking for the second jeep and pull it out. For the passengers of the first jeep this meant getting off and waiting for his return in the bright sun without a trace of shade. Heidi once got so desperate that she crawled under a small shrub to get at least her head out of the sun. This sad image attracted our Afar scouts and escorts, who squatted right next to her blowing cigarette smoke in her face…
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