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11

Erta Ale: playing with fire

From the edge of the crater lake, we glance curiously at the boiling lava mass. A sea of red hot magma undu-

lates underneath us. The Erta Ale is hell, purgatory, inferno. It's the place where Lucifer, Mephistopheles and

Satan come to play and swing hot chunks of lava into the sky with devilish pleasure. The Erta Ale is lethal, it

howls and growls and holds us in its treacherous, hypnotic grip. Do you know the feeling when you're standing

at the edge of a ravine and a little voice whispers: 'How about it pal, are we going to jump?' That same diabo-

lical appeal draws you to the caldera. Just to be sure, we take a few steps back. It's very necessary anyway,

because the heat on our faces becomes unbearable. But man, what a truly singular natural spectacle! This is

raw, primal energy. Ethiopia has other volcanoes, but the Erta Ale is the most active. Its last large eruption was

in 2005. Thousands of people in the region had to flee. The shield volcano is one of only six volcanoes in the

world with a lava lake at the summit. At the crack of dawn, we say goodbye to the fiery mountain and make

our way back down, to continue our expedition.

Erta Ale