Initially, I thought the line of brown bumps were cliffs on the distant horizon. But as our jeep sped across Ethiopia’s infinite salt flats in the Danakil Depression, I realized the bumps were moving. Moments later our driver pulled over and invited us to step out into 115 degree temperatures to watch the first camel caravan of the day. Searing heat seeped through my thick rubber soles and burned my feet. Sunshine bounced off the bleached white salt, nearly blinding me. With each breath, waves of heat burned my throat. Yet dozens of camels in the caravan, burdened down with heavy blocks of salt, plodded slowly by unconcernedly.
I snapped a few photos before retreating to our air conditioned jeep. The camels, however continued toward the village of Berhale, a three-day trek away. It’s a trip that they do over and over, week after week, year-round, while carrying up to thirty huge slabs of salt. At the end of the trail, the salt blocks are offloaded and sold for four Ethiopian Birr each, about 15 cents USD. After being watered and fed a meal of dry grass, the camel caravan is loaded up with supplies for the mines and they begin the long trek back.