A day Trip to Mount Etna
10 May 2014 | Taormina, Sicily
On our appointed day we rose at an early hour to enable us to catch the coach for our day excursion to Mount Etna. We settled on the upstairs seats that offered us a great view, although when looking down as the coach went around some of the bends on the cliff edges the views were just a tad daunting. However the beautiful scenes from Taormina were delightful as we picked up passengers from various points and that got the day off to a great start. Hayley really enjoyed listening to our tour guide Alfreddo. He was quite a character, keeping Hayley much amused as he rambled on with his commentary. Much to our interest (being ‘Godfather’ fans) Alfreddo pointed out the small villages where some of the films were shot.
We left the coach at the very foot of Mount Etna and got on the Circumetnea railway which skirts the mountain’s lower borders, giving us views of her from many different aspects. It became quite confusing, we would have our camera poised ready for a snap and then...which side was she on? We were amazed at how many villages, towns and even what appeared to be a reasonable size city had become established, with piles and piles of volcanic lava rock lying in heaps all around. It occurred to me that it must be expensive or impossible to get home insurance living there. Mount Etna is Europe’s largest and most dynamic volcano reaching a height of 3,323 metres high, erupting on average once a every year causing much damage on roads and homes and in fact the 2008 eruption went on for 6 months. How unsettling it must be for the community living there.
Once the circular ride had been completed we hopped off the train and hopped back onto the coach. Soon we arrived at the 2,000 metre point where there were many tourists’ shops, each one appearing to sell exactly the same goods as the other. After a quick lunch we all embarked onto cable cars, being assured that it was safe due to only light winds that day. Even so Paul was given strict instructions by Hayley that he was NOT to rock our car. This was exciting and provided us a spectacular view of the all the surrounding area of Etna and her many craters. At the next leg we found ourselves being ushered onto mini bus type 4 x 4’s, many modes of transport were experienced that day! These stopped at a point when they could go no further and we had no choice but to use the transport we were born with....our legs and climb. This seemed daunting to me and Paul had to cajole and encourage me to join him, (actually I seem to remember I had no choice, Ness you are coming, come on) I was also given confidence by Hayley who was shooting ahead and already half way up. The world is a different place 3,000 metres high. Maybe the air is thin and cold but the stillness, beauty and somehow enchanting ambiance is something I will never forget. Thank you Paul for ‘egging me on’, it really was worth it.
This time of year there is still a fair amount of snow on the higher peaks and we crunched through this with the sun streaming down on us as we walked. Nevertheless keeping wrapped up warm was still essential at those high heights. Before descending we made sure we filled our pockets with plenty of volcanic rocks to take back with us as souvenirs.
Once back on the coach Hayley quashed all ideas of my having a snooze and started to teach me Hungarian. I can now say three words, Yes and Thank you. Paul sitting on the other side of the aisle took his opportunity to rest and soon was ‘nodding’ away all the time slipping closer and closer to the gentleman’s lap who was sitting next to him. Hayley got a good photo of the poor man edging closer and closer to the window; he did give us a smile though.
By the time we got off the coach we needed a rest and longed for a cool drink. Alas, we soon discovered we would have to wait awhile for that. We were sure we needed to turn right as we left the coach. No, we should have turned left. So, still clad in our stout walking boots and warm clothes we were hiking along the beach, climbing over rocks, jumping across small streams and sneaking through a posh hotel (actually not so much a sneak as the friendly reception staff all said a courteous hello to us.) One hour later we were back to our dinghy at last.