Danakil Desert: The Cruelest Place on Earth!

I have glimpsed the apocalypse. The overweight Magi, Al Gore foretold of it. And he has been vindicated. And forgiven for eating so many pies.

The Danakil Desert, Ethiopia

Here, Gaia is in rebellion. All bets are off. The ground has sunk below that of the seas. Night time temperatures flirt with the mid-thirties, by day they bash down the door at fifty. The earth is sin-black or virgin-white. And neither supports life. Volcanoes crackle and groan with restless magma. Sharp tendrils of serrated salt burst from the earths bowels. Lakes fizzle with sulphur or bubble with potassium. Geysers ejaculate concentrated acid teasingly. The air smells like Mother Nature has partaken of too much fermented injera and cut the cheese with cataclysmic force.

The people of these Badlands are a tough bunch. The men all wear skirts, but face no ridicule. This is likely because they have serrated teeth and carry semi-automatic weapons. They are quick on the draw to protect what is theirs – the only things hated more than each other are out-of-towners. The local chief – a man with a lava-red beard that rages around his face like an inferno – can offer protection. For a hefty fee. But in these lands currency is useless. The dollar, Yuan and, yes, even the Rand have all collapsed.

What is of value is salt. Eight kilogram blocks of solid salt, chiseled day and night off the earths baked surface by a new breed of human whose toughness is matched only by their resignation. Kilometer long caravans of camels stretch to the horizon, bearing this precious commodity.

Yes, I have glimpsed the apocalypse. It is a place called Danakil. Now kindly hand me that energy-saving lightbulb.

Dave McAlpine

David is pastey of complexion and lily-livered of disposition. None-the-less he has been forced to overcome these genetic handicaps in order to fulfil a lifelong dream of travelling from Casablanca to Johannesburg overland. This journey has required two primary prerequisites: oodles of patience and unemployment. David has been particularly happy to oblige the second of these. When he is not unemployed he can be seen in the hospitals of KwaZulu-Natal trying to convince both patients and nurses alike that he is, in fact, a doctor. He believed that his interest in Emergency Medicine may come in handy during his travels. He was wrong. His predisposition to rashes in ungodly places would have made dermatology a finer choice. His great love is to travel and he has been fortunate enough to have stumbled through over thirty countries spanning every continent except for Antarctica. But of all of these Africa has always held the most allure and David has been happy to shed many layers of singed skin along its crazy and varied landscapes.

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