Surreal, out of this world, incredibly beautiful – none of these adjectives seems appropriate to describe this unique place: a landscape of multi-colored hot springs and bizarre formations. In the midst of a bubbling sulphurous lake floats a small conical island. Its shore is lined with what looks like bright yellow rippled rafts. Somehow it looks like a Coral Reef, just outside of the water.
Add attributes like an altitude of 116 meters (509 feet) below sea level and an average temperature of 34.4 degrees Celsius (94 degrees Fahrenheit), with peaks up to 70 degrees (lower 160 degrees Fahrenheit), there is no other place on earth like this!
It is almost diabolic to listen to the hissing of the bubbling gases. Otherwise it is dead quiet, with nobody around but the Afar guide and the obligatory army escort. The Eritrea border is only 4 kilometers away and the resentments are still strong. In 2007 and 2008 European tourists were kidnapped in Dallol, but soon freed. Their Ethiopian drivers are still kept in Eritrea. Liza was very disillusioned about their release: “Who would pay for them?” she once remarked.
We never felt unsafe and thought that the army escort was more of a little side business. We truly enjoyed their company. They made a big deal standing on higher grounds with their heavy machine guns, surveying the area while we were clicking away. In “less dangerous situations”, they helped us with carrying the equipment or guide Heidi this way or that way.