Sunday, April 27, 2014

First Encounter Mt Etna

 Today seemed like a forever day of traveling!  We caught a boat from Lipari to Sicily and then we had a 2+ hour bus ride to Mt. Etna.  We had a good lunch in a refugio near where we hiked.  The temperatures are much colder here and there has been snow in the higher elevations on and off for the past couple of weeks!

Mt Etna is the highest active volcano in Europe rising about 10, 902 ft.  In May 2013 it was named an UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The mountain has always dominated the villages and towns that lie it's shadow because of the destruction that is possible but they also benefit from the rich soil at the bottom which is rich with agriculture! This is a picture of the last major lava flow from 2002!

 We walked entirely on volcanic ash today

 It takes hundreds of years for the volcanic rock to be turned into plantable, growable soil.  This is a picture of the first plant to grow.  The roots of this plant can grow to be 3 meters long. . .actually it is life an underground tree and only the canopy of the tree is visible

The picture above is the next plant that will come in and it is know as the broom plant.  In this part of Mt Etna Beech trees would be the trees that will grow last.

When an eruption occurs it can send this "lava bombs" flying through the air.  This one is huge! But they can be found in all sizes littered around the area.  We learned from our guide today that the surrounding towns don really have an evacuation plan for eruptions. . .the kids learn in schools how to get out of the building but there is no large scale evacuation plan.  Which seems kind of crazy when there have been significant eruptions in the past 15 years!!
 After hiking around we got back into the bas to visit a lava tube.  Which is a cave that is formed when the lava on the top of the flow cools early and then there is a layer of lava flowing underneath it!  We needed helmets and "torches" for our short expedition!

They actually used to use these lava caves for snow storage in the summer to make ice cream!!  They would pack the tube full of snow in the winter and cover it with straw and mules would cart it down into towns and they would make ice cream/gelato!!!
Tomorrow we will drive to another part of Mt Etna and hike but won't be able to summit because of snow and increased volcanic activity on the mountain!!!

Saturday, April 26, 2014


Today was one of those days that I am just in state of wonder. . . who gets to sit on a volcano vent or traipse through sulfur gas coming from a huge crack in the earth or wades in a warm volcanic mud pool????  The answer is ME!  Crazy!

We hopped on a boat that took us on a beautiful boat ride to the island of Vulcano.  Vulcan was the Roman God of fire and metalworking (Hephaestos in Greek mythology).  The last real eruption was in 1890, but in 1988 a huge crack opened and out of it pours hot gases that contain sulfur.  If you remember from high school chemistry sulfur smells like rotten eggs!!!

This a picture of the port of Lipari as we were leaving .

Our boat was great and I got to stretch out on the front and enjoy the view!

This is picture of Vucano.  You can see the gases rolling over the side of the crater in the middle of the photo.  The tallest peak is about 1500 feet above sea level

The ascent was steep and the path was made up of volcanic scree

Then it turned to a slippery red mud

 I was sitting on the volcanic vent and Jeanna is next to me! I was getting very hot from the steam!!!

A picture of the crater with the gases escaping the crack. . .notice how all the smoke is going up and over the crater lip.  This is important later on. . .

Dan, our guide sitting on the vent. . . his glasses were all fogged up because of the steam!

 Playing in the steam. . . it felt like we were standing on a cloud!

 We begin to walk around the crater rim. . .the steam is still flowing over the rim

 On the highest point on the crater rim looking out to the sea

Heading down the crater and the wind shifts pushing the gas into the crater right into our path.  We had to get out bandanas and wet them.  We covered our nose and mouths with the wet bandanas so we wouldn't have to inhale the sulfur gas!!

 You can see the yellow sulfur crystals gathering at the mouth of the vent

 Heading into the gassiest part of the trail. . .the gas was so thick sometimes you could see where to step!
 Heading into the steam

Engulfed in steam
The descent was fast. .  .sliding down the scree and our next stop was a delicious lunch!  The fish was caught that morning and everyone said it was delicious!  I, of course had chicken :-)

Then it was off to the volcanic mud baths!  I am telling you there was some serious people watching here!!  The mud is said to be medicinal and people were rubbing the mud all over their bodies and I mean ALL over!  Three of our group decided to go for the body plunge. . .I decided to just wade into the mud.  

In this picture I am wading in the mud, checking to see if my feet were disintegrating!  The mud was lukewarm but then you would step on a very hot jet of gas!!

 Dan, Stefano, and Diane submerged in the mud!

 Fae dipping her feet

 Leela enjoying the benefits of the mud and enjoying the sulfur aroma of the baths!

 Diane enjoying the benefits of a mud pack!!

You may be wondering if the sulfur mud smell lingered . . . the answer to that is yes. . .as I sit here and type I can still smell it!  I am hoping that with a good hot shower and scrub with soap it will be a distant memory!

Tomorrow we head to Sicily and Mt. Etna!


Today we took the most beautiful hike on the island of Lipari.  Lipari is the largest of the Aeolian Islands and in Neolithic times was one of the few trading centers for obsidian.  Obsidian is a hard black volcanic glass that was prized because of it's very sharp edges.  We saw a lot of it in walls and just big pieces sitting in people's yards!

The hike started on a jeep road and then we started on the path that had been allowed to grow over (a local guy told us not enough govt money to maintain it) but it was fun bushwhacking through the wildflowers!  We ended the hike walking on a Roman built road to an ancient Roman bath!! I will not give much commentary today because the pictures speak for themselves!!!

 Our grown over path

 Jeanna slipped off the edge.  I knew she was just about a foot from the ground. . . she did not. . .I said "wait let me take a picture. . ."  Perhaps I should have told her she wasn't in mortal danger :-)

 The view from the other side. . .taken by Dan, our guide who was coming to rescue her!

 The steep climb up the hill

 The gang on the trail!

 Taking a rest after a particularly long ascent.  I think Jeanna thinks this is a beach vacation because I can gaze out to the beautiful blue waters!

 The paved road was built by Romans, or rather built by Roman slaves. . .nevertheless is still stands

 Me taking a picture of our group!

This picture is Iwa. . .she will know why

 The ancient Roman Bath. . .hot water still flows into it! In ancient times the hot water would pour into the bath!!

Today was a perfect hiking day. . . steep rolling terrain and magnificent views at every turn!  A great day!!