Worth one’s salt…..

There are so many expressions using the word ‘ salt ‘ . And there are so many ways we harvest the stuff; mining rock-salt and evaporating sea-water, as examples.

But the salt-workers in the Afar region of Ethiopia, in the Danakil Depression,  work pretty hard to win their salary….( see what I did there? )

And I’m not sure whether the camels or the burros work harder than each other either. 

Danakil ¢

The salt-pan breakers come along with a kind of axe,  and break up the salt crust left from the evaporation of the shallow layer of water that briefly and seasonally exists over the flat, flat surface. 

Danakil 10

Then they use 4 long wooden poles, in pairs, to lever up the randomly shaped pieces of salt crust and leave them as dug. ( In the picture here, there are three workers….and a fair bit of laughter…)

Danakil 9

Then another guy shapes the random pieces into blocks – maybe 10 by 50 by 40 cm, and weighing about 5 kg.

Danakil 1

Then another worker comes and stacks the blocks into packs of  blocks and ties them up with rope. 

Danakil 2

Danakil 3

You can see the burros and the camels waiting in the glaring 35 degree sun-blasted plains, just dying to get the stacks of salt loaded onto them….the camels carry about 130 kg ( about 25 blocks ) and the burros about 6 blocks each.

Danakil 8

Danakil 6

Danakil 7

Danakil 11

And then the drovers and animals set off, travelling at night, and walk for days….up to 14 days in fact, to get to Mek’ele. A 5kg block doesn’t earn that much….about 2 US$, delivered.

Apart from the fact that the workers wear ‘ jellies ‘ ( plastic sandals ), dark glasses and gloves, and of course use mobile phones, I can’t see that a lot has changed here for centuries…..its always been hard work, in any case. 

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