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The hardest way to live in the world

  We have been to many extreme places in the world: ice fields, volcanoes, highlands, oceans… but found that no matter where, there are human beings gathered here, whether planting or mining, working hard to make a living and take root.
  In the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia, it is more than minus 30 degrees Celsius, and a group of reindeer people are here, cooking snow for tea, accompanied by the wilderness day and night.
  In Indonesia’s Ijen Volcano, the sulfur workers there are walking on the brink of death by the blue fire of hell every day.
  La Rinconada, Peru, the highest town in the world, is a gold digger living at an altitude of 5,100 meters.
  On Jeju Island, South Korea, haenyeo, who make a living by collecting sea urchins, have been immersed in the icy sea water all their lives, supporting the lifeline of each family.
  In the summer of 2018, for the filming of “Let’s Go, Tumble Africa”, we went to the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia, which is also one of the most extreme and harsh places on earth. The annual average temperature here is as high as 34.4 degrees Celsius, often accidentally reaching more than 60 degrees Celsius, making it the hottest place in the world.
  However, it is also here that we see one of the most difficult ways of living: there are such a group of salt diggers, driving camels, year after year into this daunting furnace, looking for precious salt.
  Not far from their workplace is Dallol Volcano, the ground is covered with sulfuric acid solution with a temperature of up to 100 degrees Celsius, emitting a foul smell of sulfur.
  For hundreds of miles, there are only bizarre and beautiful scenery, no drinkable water, and no sign of life, making this place called “the cruelest place in the world” by National Geographic magazine. And this group of salt diggers is also known as “the closest to the gate of hell”.
  We arrived at Danagher Depression in September 2018. Although it is autumn in Beijing, the temperature here is still 42 degrees Celsius.
  Not only is it hot, it’s desolate. There are no hotels for hundreds of miles. The locals make a few beds in the open space of the wilderness, which is the best hospitality for tourists. At night, it becomes a beautiful “star hotel”.
  In addition to the high temperature, getting water here is also very inconvenient. There is only a well far from the village, and the villagers have to drive their donkeys across the desert to transport a few buckets of water.
  Here, the temperature in the morning will be much cooler, the temperature can reach 18 degrees Celsius, and at noon, the temperature will soar to forty or fifty degrees Celsius. But for such temperatures, the local Alpha people have become accustomed to it.
  Long ago, the Danagil Depression was part of the ocean. Over a long period of time, the seawater here continues to evaporate, forming a saltwater lake. Under the action of extreme high temperature, the salt is separated from the lake water, forming a salt field with a thickness of nearly 1,000 meters.
  Most of the Afar people who live in the vicinity make a living by digging for salt.
  In many countries, salt has historically been a resource monopolized by the government. Private people are not allowed to mine salt without permission. The same is true of the Danager Depression, a rich salt mine up to a kilometer thick, but only seven or eight hundred miners allowed by the government can mine here.
  We came to the home of one of the salt workers, Ahmed. Saying “home” is actually very simple. A few wooden sticks support a few mats, which are the four walls of the room.
  The temperature difference between morning and evening in the Danager Depression is large, and the nearby salt and sand fields are not insulated, so these simple shacks are also a rare habitat for people. The houses in these deserts were all built because of salt mining. And many families here are also maintained because of salt mining.
  The average salary in Ethiopia is about $90 a month, and salt diggers can earn $300 to $400, which is not bad. This may be one of the reasons why these salt diggers can work all year round in such a cruel environment.
  Ahmed took us to see where he dug for salt, an endless salt lake. They face the temperature difference of dozens of degrees Celsius every day, dig salt here, and then use camels to transport it to the town for sale.
  The pieces of salt bricks dug down are still very spectacular. These salt bricks were the official currency of Ethiopia for nearly a thousand years.
  To this day, the method of mining salt here has hardly changed: first use tools to break open the salt blocks on the ground, and then use wooden sticks to pry them off piece by piece. It is entirely human, without any mechanical components.
  Liang Hong and I also tried the process of mining salt. This kind of work is extremely exhausting, and it is even more tiring under the high temperature. If we can’t dig a few pieces, we are both exhausted. With so much effort, we eventually dug up 3 RMB worth of salt blocks.
  In addition to this desert, in Ethiopia, there is also a volcanic salt lake that can produce salt. The salt miners there go to the lake to collect salt, usually wearing only a pair of underwear, and because they are poor, they cannot buy protective gear. Workers can only plug their nostrils with dirt bags, so that the highly corrosive salt cannot enter the nose. But their eyes have no protection, so the red eyes have become an important sign to identify them.
  Unprocessed salt is extremely corrosive, even turning dark skin into white.
  For them, salt is sweet and salt is bitter. Salt is hope, and salt is curse.
  Day after day, year after year, they work hard in the desert, in the salt lake.
  The locals told us that they do not want their children to stay in this salt lake in the future. Everyone knows that the job is life-threatening. However, just like Sisyphus who kept pushing the boulder, this group of people in the desert, generation after generation, repeated the ancient fate.

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