Lac Assal with the Chinatown Hotel staff

I had been walking around Djibouti City for three days asking tour companies, taxi drivers and just ordinary people about how to get to Lac Assal, but all were saying that it is nearly impossible to do with buses/hitchhiking and others quoted me with 350usd or so for a tour. It was not before me and my travel mate Eli went to Chinatown Hotel that we managed to strike a deal with Mr.Li who was running the place. He said, “just let me know what you are able to give and we have a deal!”. We gave him the price we wanted to pay and as we shook his hand he said that he would let us stay the night for free, throw in some dinner and drinks in the night and take us for free to the Somalians border. We were super happy and had a great time with Mr. Li and Mr.Wong who cooked delicious meals for us during the stay.

The next morning we were up early (quite hung over from the night before) and got into Mr.Wongs car to sleep the two hour journey to what is Africa’s lowest point and the Worlds saltiest lake. Instead of sleeping though we watched herds of camels walk along the road, we stopped for a view of what looked like a smaller version of Grand Canyon and finally for a view of Lac Assal/the salt lake.

Coming down and walking on the salt, floating on the water and climbing salt rocks I felt like it was one of the most beautiful places I had ever been (the photos don’t nearly justify it!). It was like Uyuni in Bolivia mixed with the white sand banks in the Maldives mixed with the dead sea in Israel.

There were three big tour buses there at the same time as us with nearly a hundred tourists, but they were there just for ten minutes to take some photos before turning around and driving back, while we got to stay to swim, see the lake from different angles and go to the boiling lake next to the salt lake. There we picked some tiny fish from a cold freshwater lake and boiled them together with some eggs in the boiling lake to put it all with some salt from the ground on the baguettes that we had brought.

Lac Assal is the reason to visit Djibouti and has made me rank the country from one of the lowest (after just visiting the capital) to one of the highest. Going to Djibouti without seeing it would be like visiting Cairo without visiting the pyramids. A top experience that just cannot be missed.

The water is the saltiest in the World, so you will float without even trying!

Djibouti City

Flying into Djibouti Airport was like flying into the World of Mad Max. Everywhere you looked the landscape was dry and there were hundreds of broken down cars, planes and other vehicles resting around the airport.

All I had heard about Djibouti from before was that it was expensive and unfriendly, which compared to its neighboring countries I would say is true. People, even the well dressed were asking for money more than I have experienced before. When I sat down next to a guy and refused to give him money he told me to get away and explained to me that if I was able to go all the way to his country I should be able to give him some money as well. I also walked into the train semetary at the old railway station but was told to leave when I didn’t want to give the people there money.

My mind was downward spiraling with these acts of unfriendliness until later that evening when I was blowing up my air mattress to sleep on the beach. From the other side of the beach came some semi drunk locals to offer me a drink and ask what I was up to. After we together had emptied their bottle of gin mixed with water one of them told me that the beach would not be safe and offered me to stay in his boat which was close by. Half an hour later I had pitched my tent on top of the boat and was looking at the stars thinking how much meeting some nice people meant to me at that moment. The second night I also met a nice security guard on a construction site who let me camp close to him for safety.

There wasn’t much to do in Djibouti City except for drinking tea, eating baguettes and hanging out at the beach. There were no beautiful buildings, monuments, museum etc like I would expect and the three days here in the City have already been too much. I was ready to start using Djibouti as a synonym for butt (dji-booty) because of the disappointing experience I had, but that was just until I randomly met a traveler I had been following the last months in East Africa so that my path drastically changed. Instead of taking the afternoon flight I had booked to Ethiopia I decided to join him to Lay Assal and then to Somaliand which I will write more about in my next posts.