Monday, May 21, 2012

Djibouti Call - Good bits Part II

Much as caveats are rather annoying, I must caveat the following photos by saying that the pamphlet for Lac Assal describes it as the saltiest lake in the world (if it HAD a brochure - the PR department is a bit, well, nonexistent), and it will be very obvious that this is not a place destined to draw the Robin Leach crowd.

Intro caveats aside, the lake itself is quite the sight. But before the lake, the trip to get there is in a category all its own. Some of the roadside views are quite lovely.

Of course, the locals park and peddle wares for silly visitors who chance to goggle at the picturesque vista.

With directions that include "turn right at the big white archway in the middle of nowhere" and "turn left at the first junction you see after all the goat-filled trees" it takes dedication (and a better than average suspension system) to locate this gem.

So in order to get from this...

Aaaaaalllll the way down to this...

And finally to this...

Requires nerves and skills (and shock absorbers) of steel. This is the nice bit of road.

If only we'd had access to a vehicle in one piece. One that did not threaten to leave us stranded in the Djiboutian wilderness where our salt encrusted bones would be found weeks later...

Sadly, this would have to do. (It required jump leads to start, and the fan belt made noises I've only heard from a percussion section, oh and the shocks were such rubbish I got an unscheduled spinal realignment from driving).

Ah well. It was a good run, eh? Death by Djibouti would look fun on a tombstone.

To the good bit. Really. It was good. Hot? Of course. Humid? Have you MET the equator? But fascinating after all.

 Don't be fooled. That is not sand. Not dirt. Not even gravel. No, Djibouti has to line its lakes with razor sharp crystallised salt. Not for the faint of foot, this.

But certainly for those lacking pool floaty chairs (God bless the French).

Sinking is overrated. Though I would not recommend full facial submersion; or entry with any skin wound.  Really, entry as a whole should be avoided if you have sense (or aren't French, which I suppose is the same thing). Getting evaporated salt lake out of shoes, hair, skin, etc requires a hose (which they do not supply in Nowheresville Hazeland).

Oh, by the by, there aren't any fun little tide pool animals in these puddles. Magma hot water and razor sharp salt rocks, though, which are fun, too.

Know what else is fun? Khat-fuelled locals peddling salt crusted things (that you can find just by walking round the lake) and geodes (a bit harder to find).

Ahhhh... a sense of relief that even the third world is not immune to the phenomenon of the grockle shop.

 See? Lots of salty.
 Even  the rubbish takes on a sophisticated crystallyness
Hmmmm... yup. Lots of salt.

Despite everything, it has its charms. Neat views, salt in your bits and bobs, overpriced rocks, and a uniqueness that is unmistakable.

Certainly not like anyplace else, no?

The goats seem to like the area (they greeted us on the way out, too)

Why not?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Djibouti Call - One of the Good Bits

When one thinks of the tiny African country of Djibouti, what comes to mind in general - if not "whose booty?" - is hardly paradise. When one has to live there for an extended period of time, however, it is rather necessary to find the bright spots. The literal sense is easy - it is about 11 degrees north of the equator and not terribly green (shades of brown, really), so the whole place is pretty blinding. What I'd not have imagined is that the first place I got to swim with dolphins was in this tiny pacman-shaped place (and I lived in Hawaii for two years).
Gahhahaha! I'm nine again! They are dolphins! DOLPHINS! Magical, marvelous, mystical, DOLPHINS!
This was the sight off Moucha Island, a wee strip of coral island about ten miles out of pacman's mouth (in the Gulf of Tadjoura, if you're big on details). Just a swift splash of ocean away from being underwater, it is a sort of gem in a place decidedly lacking in same.
Really. Look at that water. If there only were more trees, this could be the West Indies (can we still call them that?).

Wikipedia's entry re: this place is described as a stub; rather appropriate, as the island itself is stubby. And looks a bit like southern Idaho (but the sandy stuff is just big hunks of broken shells).
Lots of fauna call this stubby bit of coral home. Some are people (who don't really stick around all the time). Some are birds (who obviously can bugger off back to real land anytime).
Some are tiny wee hermit crabs.
Little guy can move.
In a heat-stroke-induced near-death delirium, I collapsed after enjoying an unhealthy dose of searing and dehydration.

But it really was rather pretty...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Unfairness of Flowers

Let's be honest. Flowers are rubbish. Even the ugly ones are pretty. Granted, some smell like the wrong end of a platypus, but all are visually aesthetically pleasing. Which is just annoying. Observe the following for evidence. I think you'll agree. And for those of us with low self esteem, it is simply another smack in the gob.

I mean, really. Even the little funny curly bits around the middle add to the stroppy charm of these arrogant little lovelies. In normal colour, in greyscale, or even in Instagram, there is simply no making them anything but what they are.

Now, these are all super-zoom shots, which do not show the extent of the nerve of flowers. All the above were part of a bouquet given me by a friend. So really, they are dead. Heads lopped straight off the roots. Stuck in water to prolong the illusion of life, but really. Please. If someone lopped my head off, no amount of water or any other medium would keep me smiling happily. What gives flowers the right to still bloom under such circumstances? Are they just in denial? If so, that is the most powerful denial ever. I'd love to know where I can get some.
On to the living. Stuck in the dirt. Oft ignored. Used as decor or let run wild. Trodden on. Noshed on by fauna. And still bloody pretty.

Come on. Why must we put up with such attitude? I for one am sick of it. Because of these cheeky blossoms, the pretty among the female people get compared to flowers. Why? Symbolism is attached to each sort of bloom. By whom? I argue there should be a complete revisit to the plan. Overly fragrant flowers given (I mean you, Lilly) signify the giver finds something lacking in the odour of the receiver. Overly bright blooms suggest the giver finds the receiver rather dull. Et cetera.

And this sort of rampant floral arrogance is not isolated to one place. Oh no, it is an international outrage. some are just more exotic in their beauty (which is even less fair, if I'm honest).
Whether in Rwanda...

Or Korea...

Or Guam...

For goodness sake, they look like cake decorations...

The rest of us don't stand a chance.

Whatever. Harrumph.