Tuesday, December 23, 2008
We spent two nights in an encampment outside an Afar village called Randa. On the four-hour drive, we stopped first at Lac Assal. The salt lake is the lowest point in Africa and so salty, you can float. My dad said he even had difficulty actually putting his feet on the ground. We climbed some rocks and explored some hot springs, then headed on to Randa.
The camp is in the midst of a mountain range and consists of two squatty-potties, eight huts, a cook house and an area for eating. Thankfully it was furnished with loads of blankets because we were freezing. It got as low as 63 at night and other than Ski Dubai, I don't think I've been so cold since we left MN in 2003!
We slept on thin mattresses in the huts, covered with blankets. We played boul, the French version of bocci ball, played cards, ate fantastic food and explored the area. We hiked to a stunning view of the mountains and valley below. On the way we saw a 'famous' camel, one who apparently acted in a film a few years ago and is well-known in the region (Lauren, if you are reading this, I think it was the same movie you were in). Our guide took us to his home in the village for tea and then we headed back to camp. That afternoon he took us around Randa, which has about 500 people. He thought my parents might be interested in traditional Afar culture and took us to the largest hut in the village where we were served tea and laxoox, a type of sour pancake. Then we saw the water source for the whole village and a terraced, very fruitful garden which is quite unusual here.
The trees were some of the most amazing things I saw. There was a wild olive tree, various types of acacia, which we have all over Djibouti town but these ones had flourescent yellow bark or deep emerald green bark, both of which came off on our hands like powder. There were palm-like trees towering up from the valley with small poofs on top, our guide said they were over 600 years old. And the most fascinating was a strangling fig tree which had overtaken another tree, killed it and began possessing it. The fig tree was inside and around the other tree with its' roots hanging down. They grow down from the tree branches and when they reach the ground, they force themselves into the earth and form new trunks. So this tree was massive in size and made arches and curves between the various trunks it had sunk into the ground.
Posted by Rachel Pieh Jones at 10:42 AM