(by Alie) Now I’m certain Martin would slap me for even using the word bucket list, but Mount Etna, the volcanic pinnacle of Sicily is up there at the top, along with tornadoes and a lightning storm. I am in awe of nature and think it is both amazing and beautiful and we are mere ants on its surface. Now this is a fact easily forgotten when shopping in Morrisons, but a fact that still takes my breath away.
So off we went on a bus trip from Catania bus station, through the sleepy town of Nicolasi up to the end of the road at the Youth Hostel Rifugio Sapienza.
Now unlike my adventurous better half, I haven’t got nerves of steel and the often winding steep climb in the bus on the way was “fun”. Once at the Youth Hostel they offered off-road drives up to just below the summit – 1 in 4, with hairpin bends on a scree slope all the way. Lets just say I agreed to go and in absolute fear I boarded the bus and squeezed the living daylights out of Martin’s hand all the way up to the top, but boy was it worth it.
Sometimes you’d get a waft of air so thick with sulphur it would make you cough. It was like a black lunar landscape (not that I’ve been) with very lightweight pumice rocks everywhere. Following a tour group (the only way to go) you can feel the heat coming through the rocks beneath your feet. Compared to the powerful midday heat in Catania, it is cold and windy at the top of the mountain and on the day we went it was also a little cloudy. But there is no doubt that this is the best seat in the house!
To be honest, you almost get lost for words, you feel very vulnerable knowing that if the land upon which you stands suddenly blows, you don’t stand an earthly. And this is what has shaped our planet and been busy doing its thing, way before the dawn of man. And here we stand on its surface, tourists humbled into obedience in the face of its power. Just amazing, I for one loved it (can you tell?) and I think Martin did too!
According to some fascinating Wiki info “Mount Etna … lies above the convergent plate margin between the African Plate and the Eurasian Plate. It is the tallest active volcano in Europe, currently standing 3,329 m (10,922 ft) high, though this varies with summit eruptions. It is the highest mountain in Italy south of the Alps. Etna covers an area of 1,190 km2 (459 sq mi) with a basal circumference of 140 km. This makes it by far the largest of the three active volcanoes in Italy, being about two and a half times the height of the next largest, Mount Vesuvius. … Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is in an almost constant state of activity.”