A lava pot in Ethiopia


On Earth, molten lava lakes that are both permanent and accessible can be counted on the fingers of one hand. This is the case of Erta Ale in Ethiopia.

On our planet, few places allow to contemplate the liquid heart of the Earth, to approach these windows open on the magma that sleeps under the earth’s crust and springs from time to time, according to its moods.

There is Kilauea in Hawaii; the craters of Ambrym, Vanuatu; Nyiragongo, Congo; Masaya, Nicaragua. But the lava lakes of Erta Ale, in the surreal desert of Danakil, Ethiopia, are as spectacular as they are constant, in addition to being relatively accessible. Why on earth did I not go there during my stay last February , even though I’ve been drooling for years?

First because in December 2017, the sad news of a murdered tourist cooled my ardor. Located a two-hour walk from the border with Eritrea, in the heart of the Afar country – a reputed unwelcoming ethnic group – the Erta Ale also made headlines in 2012, when four other foreign travelers lost their lives there. Then, to go there requires several days of equipped , which is not within the reach of all the purses.

“It’s an expedition,” says Kamel Ameha, an Ethiopian guide. We must ride on basalt so hot that the driver must wear gloves as the steering wheel of the SUV becomes hot. Of course, punctures are also frequent … Then, we must walk 16 km at the end of the day to go to the crater, always being accompanied by armed guards to the teeth, security requires. Once there, there are many vents that let escape volcanic gases and prevent sudden eruptions, and a smell of sulfur prevails everywhere. But the show is splendid and it changes every time. ”

In short, I almost forgot the Erta Ale (“the mountain that smokes”, in afar) when a video of the tour operator Adventure and Volcanoes , tour in 2016, went back to circulation last week. We can see one of the three lava lakes of this volcano, a real pool of molten rock, bubbling as if a huge stove was placed under this large natural pot.
From one volcano to another. The adventures of a lava-hunter , by Guy de Saint-Cyr and Jamy Gourmaud, Editions de la Martiniere, Paris, 2014, 336 p.

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