Waking well before sunrise we crept around careful no to wake our guide too early. Cactus Jelly and flatbread sated us and with the first rays of light we left Bera Hile and our fortified hilltop school complex. 3 hours later after crossing two gorgeous rivers flowing over dark granite we came to the Town of Ama dile .Ama dile would serve as the base for exploring the Danakil over the next 4 days. After a brief lunch of shiro (apparently it was the third straight of fasting for a minor saint or miracle) and we began the drive to Dallol. 15 minutes after leaving the village 2 empty land cruisers, save wide-eyed screaming drivers, came hurling out of the indiscriminate desert. Hoptem yells and they respond “Shifta” In the border regions with Eritrea no word inspires as much fear as shifta. Bandits – we spin around, dirt flying into the arid heat. We return to Ama dile in a third the time.

As the story unfolds it turns out that 7 vehicles and 28 French tourists had been “detained” by the Shiftas. Kidnapped? Killed? We waited as a militia formed. Mounting Howitzer-esque weaponry upon the top of our Land Cruiser Hoptem and the local militia swarmed out of town towards the east. Over the ensuing afternoon cars and men limped back. By nightfall and after much worry the last tourist had returned. However, two Ethiopian drivers had been kidnapped and were still with the Afar bandits.