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For a good number of years I had a desire to walk in the Danakil, a region in the north-east of Ethiopia. Whilst researching the trip I came across a marvellous book The Danakil Diary Ė Journeys Through Abyssinia 1930-34. This was written by Sir Wilfred Thesiger who was himself born in Ethiopia in 1910, where he spent his early childhood before returning to England.

He was schooled in St Aubynís, then Eton and Oxford. In 1930 he attended Haile Selassieís coronation and then began the first of several expeditions in Ethiopia.

In 1935 Wilfred joined the Sudan Political Service and later served with the SOE and then the SAS. He was awarded a DSO as well as winning the Founderís Medal of the Royal Geographic Society, the Lawrence of Arabia Medal of the Royal Central Asian Society, the David Livingstone Medal of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society and the Burton Memorial Medal of the Royal Asiatic Society.

His journeys took him to many of the most remote areas of the world where he often spent extended periods of time, sometimes years, with the local peoples.

He spent the last years of his life in Surrey and it was during this time that I was fortunate enough to visit him frequently before he died in 2003. He was very much the last of his breed and a truly inspiring man.

The Danakil Depression has several points lying more than 100 metres below sea level. This makes it one of the lowest points on the planet not covered in water. It is recognised by many as being one of the hottest, least hospitable places on Earth where temperatures regularly exceed 50C.

The area is inhabited by a large nomadic group called The Afar. Separating the truth from the myth is difficult but they have a reputation of immense ferocity. It is mentioned in Thesigerís book that the status a man holds within the tribal hierarchy depends upon the number of kills he can evidence.

As the number of kills increases so do the adornments the man can wear and as such his peers are immediately aware of his status. They are certainly a people respect.

The Expedition Members In January 2003 I drew together a small group of friends who accompanied me to Ethiopia on a fact finding mission which, if successful, would have led to an expedition re-crossing the Danakil using Wilfredís route. Our aim, initially, was to determine how the region had changed, are the Afar people still as ferocious as we had been led to believe and how difficult would a crossing of this region be? The expedition was filmed for TV. Unfortunately for us, once the initial footage had been edited it became known to myself and the production company involved that another group had beaten me to it.

Naturally our trip took us to the Danakil and in addition we spent time in Awash, Addis Ababa, Lalibela, Gonder, Lake Tana and the Choke Mountains. It is an awesome country full of many surprises. One truly deserving of a visit.

Click here to view the Ethiopia photo gallery!

(C) Mike Laird 2024