Getting out of the sun was all we wanted when we arrived at the little base camp at the foot of Erta Ale. So we hid in small shelters made from piled up stones. Only around 06:00 pm did the temperature allow the start of our slow ascent. This time, we were accompanied by four additional armed Afar scouts, their Kalashnikov casually slung around their shoulders. But their mood was foul, we figured it must have had something to do with the argument we watched in the village. All we carried was a bottle of water, the camel hauled the little we needed, lots of water and our camping beds.
The trek was easy and pleasant while we were still able to see our surroundings. Once it got dark it was a lot more exhausting to walk through rough lava fields with only a headlight to find your footing. One of our small backpacks high up on the camel proved truly helpful. Its reflecting straps were swaying in the dark and helped us tracing the camel when we fell behind.
The efficiency of these animals is most amazing, when it walks only its legs move, the rest of the body seem to float above the ground without any unnecessary movement. Each of its steps is as wide as 1.5 to 2 meters! The 3.5 hours trek to the edge of the outer crater was only a small excursion for our camel, considering that these animals can stay without water for up to 10 days.
We were exhausted and for the last 30 minutes we had to push ourselves to do some more climbing. It helped that Erta Ale had announced itself for a while and we could truly feel its presence: a huge reddish glow hung like a Cyclop’s eye high in the sky. Others felt like approaching the Land of Mordor. Either way, it is unreal!