Yesterday, Matt said that I am his “sense of adventure”. I wouldn’t have guessed that since he’s the one that goes on mission trips to foreign countries while I stay home. But he explained that those are all planned out and he is just along for the ride. He said that if I wasn’t with him one this trip, he probably wouldn’t do many fun things. Well, I had to take care of that. The past two times we had been on Sicily, I had wanted to go up on Mt Etna, so I determined that this time we would make that happen!
Volcanoes have been of interest to me ever since we studied them with our sons for homeschool. How scary to think that the middle of our planet is filled with hot, molten lava. But Mt Etna leaves no doubt of that fact. It is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and in fact has erupted each time just a few days after we have left Sicily. These smaller eruptions are beautiful to witness from a distance at night and I wished I had seen it. I glanced at the beastly mountain that first evening after we arrived in Sicily, but there were no trails of orange, seething lava streaming down. That meant we could explore Mt Etna. Here is a photo of it that I took last year in the Spring when it had snow on it.
I love looking at the 10,900 ft giant towering over the rest of the island. But I wanted to look at it up front and personal, so we started winding our way up the mountain. I was surprised by the little towns on the mountain as we drove up. Weren’t they afraid of it blowing and taking them out? There was an eruption in 2002 that took out a resort on the mountain. It was sobering.
We took a tour ride up after cars were no longer allowed to proceed. Here is how it looked behind us as we ascended.
Mt Etna doesn’t erupt from just one crater, but instead there are several craters on the mountain. Our 4 wheel bus stopped at one that had steam billowing out of holes in the bottom. We stood amazed at the top of the crater and our guide said something in Italian. I didn’t know what he said, but suddenly, Matt took off and started climbing down into that crater. Was he crazy?! I really wanted to, but I was afraid it would be terribly difficult to climb back up out of the crater since there were little loose lava rocks that gave way as you walked. I saw Matt reach into the steam vent.
I asked if it was hot and he said, “No, just warm.” That did it. I was not going to come all the way to Sicily, finally get up on Mt Etna, and not go put my hand in a steam vent! All the while I was pretty much sliding down the little lava rocks into the crater I was thinking, “I hope they can get me out of here!” And that steam was pretty hot! Just not scalding.
What a wonderful experience! And I actually made it out all on my own and proud of it too! I was really glad that we had brought our hiking boots.
We got back into the bus and went up to one more stop. Here there was an observatory where they measured seismic activity.
I asked how much of a warning they were given before an eruption. The guide reassured me that it was very safe. They would be given a two hour notice before Mt Etna would blow. I was reassured, but still surprised that it wasn’t a larger window of warning! He explained that in 2002, they were given enough warning to get everyone off the mountain so that even though buildings were destroyed, no one was killed. Matt and I hiked around at this stop and I shot some pics of the summit up above us.
Mt Etna looked hot and active to me! I wished I was further up the mountain to the summit, but they explained that the gases were noxious.
Matt and I built a cairn out of lava rocks to say, “We were here!”
When we returned to the bus, a woman suddenly looked at Matt and said, “Bruce Willis!” We had a good laugh and got into the bus. On the way down we passed an elderly man carrying a basket. Our guide said he had been picking mushrooms for the restaurant. Soon, we passed a sheep herder guiding his flock down the mountain. Life does indeed go on, even on a volcano.
After all that exertion of hiking on Mt Etna, we were ready for dinner. Into downtown Catania we ventured. I wanted to eat in the old town square. It was a busy place and would you believe that we sat next to a couple that had flown all the way from Washington DC with us on all three flights? The man said he recognized us because I was so good looking. Hahaha! Here was our view as we ate dinner.
What a day! Adventures, hot steam, lava rocks, hiking, good food and even compliments. Yes, a good day. Here is the beginning of this Italy Adventure: Italy #1, and the next post: Italy #3