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?