Mount EtnaFebruary 22, 2017 in Italy
Having seen stunning views of Mount Etna, Vicky was raring to visit it. From near sea level, we said our goodbyes to our GB friends and drove the van up the side of the volcano (which turned out to be pretty steep in places) to the top car park at a height of 1918m above sea level.
As we approached, the outline of the volcano grew larger and larger against the sky and eventually the summit dissappeared behind the closer peaks. When we passed the snow line, we saw the layers of black sooty ash that had been recently dumped on top of the white snow. The bright white was contrasted severely against the reddish black of the basalt poking through in ridges that ran downhill.
The air was tinged with a sulphurous smell which we are blaming on Etna because we definitely emptied and cleaned the toilet just a few hours previously!
It was again, a clear day and the views from the car park alone were amazing. However, being over a mile high did take its toll; between us we had heart palpitations and a headache, the plastic bottles expanded because of the drop in air pressure and the fridge wouldn't light.
After lunch we went to get our tickets for the cable car. They were €30 each which was expensive, but we really wanted to get closer. Approaching the building that looked as if it sold tickets, a woman asked Vicky if we had bought any yet. It turned out that she and the person she was with had finished skiing and were offering us their tickets for free! We couldn't thank them enough!
The cable car took us past smaller craters that were outlined beautifully in the snow. At 2500m we stepped out of the station onto the white slopes. We felt exhilarated from the trip up and where we were; we'd both learned about Mount Etna in school but never dreamed at the time we would actually visit.
We had about an hour and a half to spend up there. We'd read that minibusses could take you even closer to the active crater, but with the snow covering, it didn't look like this was possible. We'd also read that paths to the summit were clearly marked but this wasn't the case either so we set off hiking up the ski slope. We walked to just above a small crater - the highest either of us have ever been on land.
Will thought he felt the ground trembling and we both heard deep rumbles followed by small plumes of smoke emitting from the top along with the ever present steam. It was a positively overwhelming experience to be up there and it was with some reticence that we took the last cable car run down to the car park again.
On our way back, we did a double take at a camper van, at which point we heard someone asking whether we were the other British camper vanners? It turned out Peter and Carmelle were a couple the Grey Gappers had told us about who were travelling with their rabbit! We decided to stay at ' base camp' overnight and set off to explore a larger crater near the car park. There were 5 foot deep holes in the snow along its ridge and a few people were tobogganing down to its core, but Vicky sensibly managed to restrain Will from doing likewise. Stray dogs were sunning themselves on the south facing slope and looked quite happy and healthy with the plentiful supply of food they had from year round tourists.
Sunset over the side of the volcano brushed the cloud layer below with gold, then pink that spread to tint the sky behind the snow covered crater we'd walked on earlier. Overnight the wind picked up and blasted the van with grit filled gusts. The temperature went down to 4°C but felt much colder with the wind chill factor. It was, despite the lack of sleep, one of the most amazing places we've ever stayed.Read more