National Geographic : 2005 Oct
no respite from the sun. Its searing heat danced over the rocks and up the canyon walls, and there was still no sign of the other caravans. And then, in the late afternoon, we rounded a bend and came face-to-face with the merchants bound for Lake Asele. There wasn't a single line of camels and mules like ours. Instead they were arrayed like a wall, with lines of animals three and four abreast. In an instant we were engulfed in a brown sea of men and animals and dust. For the rest of the day there was no end to the cara vans-it was a migration of biblical proportions. "Where have they all come from?" I asked Zelalem. "I don't know. They're Tigrayans," he replied. Now the canyon widened into a landscape of pointed hills and dry plateaus. The trail split, and Edris led us away from the Lake Asele-bound caravans, up a sandy wash where there was at last some shade. An Afar man stood alongside the canyon wall, and Edris went over to greet him to get, I thought, the latest dagu. The man was not like the salt merchants, sweaty and dishev eled; his green plaid sarong and polo-style shirt looked fresh. And unlike traditionally dressed Afar men, he had a fully loaded hand-grenade belt strapped around his waist, instead of the curved gille. He balanced a Kalashnikov on his shoulder and gave Edris a welcoming smile. They stood close, laughing, kissing the backs of their hands, and pressing their shoulders together. "He's Ugugumo," Zelalem whispered.