I have a fascination for volcanoes, Vesuvius, Kilauea and now Etna. I know I am just the norm. Deep down I know I was probably tossed into a volcano as a sacrifice in one of my earlier lives. I’m sure I was worthy and saved the crops or stopped the alien invasion. Might as well go big. It’s funny San Francisco scares me because of the earthquakes, but I really; don’t feel scared of volcanoes.
Today David and Stephanie are taking us on a 4 x 4 ride up Mt Etna as my birthday present. First step, 2 Advil, pack my camera and start layering the clothes. Will it rain, good chance, will it be cold a definite possibility. Right now Etna is in a quiet period, so I don’t need any flame retardant clothing :).
Salvo is our guide and he picks us up right at our hotel. We are really lucky the first half of the trip there are only the 5 of us in the 4 x 4. Part of the way up the mountain we stopped at this little church where you can see the lava flow leaning up against the building, if you look inside it has actually crept into the church and then just stopped.
As we headed up the windy pathway (definitely wasn’t a road), we ran into a traffic jam. The mountain is filled with sheep and so was our road and they had the right of way. There were packs of sheep dogs resting along the sides of the roads, just waiting for their turn to work. The next stop was to do a little cave exploring. A lot of these caves were made from the lava flows. Salvo, our guide was telling us that they used to store ice in the caves and then transport big blocks of ice down to the coast. I can’t imagine how back breaking that work would be. And cold. The caves were quite cold as they were without filling them up with ice. I always thought Canada was home of the Silver Birch, but the mountain is covered in beautiful birch trees. So much of the forests had been decimated by the lava flows, but slowly they are coming back. And also coming back are mushrooms, when a driver saw a mushroom at the side of the road they would stop to go and pick it. I gather our guide Salvo loves mushrooms and is quite a skilled cook. Looked like he was making a mushroom risotto tonight.
Continuing our trek up the day is getting mistier and mistier. Thankfully no rain so we are able to get out and enjoy climbing up Mt. Etna. :). The regrowth was amazing. The world definitely takes care of itself. We were walking on ash and lava, you really wouldn’t want to fall on these pathways. Slowly but surely little seeds take root in the lava and things start to grow again. Every so often the sun popped out, OK maybe once or twice, but when it did it was spectacular.
We stop for a lovely lunch at a ski chalet on the side of the mountain. After lunch our driver left us and we were put into another 4 x 4 with another Salvo. Unfortunately this Salvo didn’t speak English and wasn’t willing to try and communicate with us. We actually thought we were heading home, but it ended up we were off to see the Alcantara Gorges, quite beautiful. In the summer time these gorges are full of swimmers. Today they were actually closed because of all the rain, but we were still able to have a nice walk around the top.
An absolutely lovely day, I would definitely recommend doing an Etna tour, there are all types for all different levels of walkers. Thank you David and Stephanie for a great birthday memory.