Living In The Most Hostile Environment
Upon arrival in Hamed Ale, a simple hut made from branches was assigned to us by the village chief. Christos was furious. He had paid for something airier, a place with a shaded area outside. Shade is precious in the Danakil, there is none anywhere. Nevertheless, all the screaming and arguing did not get us a better place. That meant squeezing into our hut between late morning and late afternoon, when temperatures went way above 40 degrees Celsius (above 110 degrees Fahrenheit). There was no other way to be out of the sun.
At night, we moved outside where it was a lot cooler, sleeping right under the bright stars. The sky was simply amazing, the Milky Way was clearly visible and falling stars could be counted by the dozen. The temperature was just perfect!
There, we learned to enjoy how well equipped and organized Christos and Liza were: the camping beds were far more comfortable than the traditional Afar beds other groups used, and in no time the kitchen looked like a real one with a cooker, a sink for washing the dishes and a table to prepare the delicious meals Liza spoiled us beyond imagination. An Austrian tour guide from a very well established travel agency specializing in photography and adventure travels, ARR Travels, dropped by one afternoon and left truly impressed.
The only nuisance was the village generator that roared until midnight to keep a little night life going. In Hamed Ale, this means a few locals watching Eritrean TV, sipping soft drinks and chewing chat. Very few families can afford to be on the grid, which there means basically having one bulb dangling from a branch.
There are no toilets in Hamed Ale, period. Locals and tourists alike squat with nowhere to hide in this flat terrain and do their business. Some well-meaning souls have piled up little heaps of stone, but these are more of a mental help rather than cover.