The Kiwi couple behind the Expedition Earth blog have reached the 'Gates of Hell' in Ethiopia. Picture:
The Kiwi couple behind the Expedition Earth blog have reached the 'Gates of Hell' in Ethiopia. Picture:

Stunning pics: Couple’s trip to dangerous ‘Gates of Hell’

A Kiwi couple have just passed the halfway mark on an epic journey around the world.

By February this year, Topher and Bridget - the couple behind Expedition Earth - and their trusty jeep "Gunther" had driven from the top of Alaska down to the Tierra del Fuego at the bottom of Argentina.

Travelling with a car full of film equipment, the couple have been sharing videos of some of the most spectacular, colourful landscapes on the planet.

Passing through the pink lakes of the Yucatán and the mirrored Bolivian salt flats, the couple's photos have been published by the National Geographic and highlight some of the most amazing and fragile environments you might never have known existed -

including landscapes at risk from environmental factors.



Three months ago they reached one of the most spectacular places yet, in the middle of the African continent, in one of the most uninhabitable places on the planet.

The "Gates of Hell" in Ethiopia might as well be an alien world. Bright yellow and full of crystal pools of sulfurous acids, it's incredibly difficult and dangerous to get to.

"The Danakil Depression wasn't the only 'Gates of Hell' we encountered in Africa," Topher told the New Zealand Herald.



"Namibia's Skeleton Coast was also once referred to by Portuguese sailors as 'The Gateway to Hell' and also known as 'The Land God made in Anger'.

"Funnily enough, it was these two regions that have been the biggest highlights of the African leg."

Not only are the pools full of volcanic, boiling acid and precious little water - the route into the Danakil Depression is patrolled by armed bandits who prey on road traffic through the Horn of Africa.

For this part of the journey Topher and Bridget were accompanied by security.

The couple said the lakes of sulfuric acid were only half the danger.



"Due to Eritrean bandits, an escort armed with an AK47 is a legal requirement when entering the Afar region," Topher said.

"While I was photographing Bridget in a salt pool in the middle of the Danakil Desert, our guide and escort had a disagreement in the Jeep, which resulted in a knife being pulled."

Due to the 45C heat, isolation and Ramadan fasting, tempers were fraught. "With nobody for hundreds of miles, it was an uncomfortable situation to be in," he said.

The Danakil Depression is 130 metres below sea level at the meeting of tectonic plates in East Africa. Plumes of pungent and clearly volcanic steam can be seen erupting from the pools.

The couple described the air being acrid and hard to breathe but totally worth the risk.



So were the photos and videos they shared of the "alien-like" landscape.

Not far from the deadly, primordial acid lakes the couple found a beautiful isolated pool in the salt flats.

This solitary pool of water in the middle of the Danakil Depression was too tempting not to "risk a dip".

Cautiously, Bridget swims in one of their videos, a surreal image that has been liked 42,000 times on the couple's Instagram account,

The couple have since left Africa and arrived in Europe.

As they drove from Geneva to Paris yesterday, sulfuric acid and AK-brandishing bandits were far from their minds.



They have extended their original goal to reach the Yamal Peninsula of Northern Russia's Arctic Circle by the end of the year.

They have had to get a move on for fear of driving over softening snow and ice. Large tracts of their journey involves driving up a frozen river that has no guarantee of staying frozen in the warming region. "Past January, this would be a problem," Topher said.

From there they will continue their journey from the Arctic Circle back to New Zealand in 2020.

This article originally appeared on the New Zealand Herald and was reproduced with permission