21 July 2012

Mini Eurotrip: Climbing Mt Stromboli / AN ACTIVE VOLCANO

This is my favourite part of the Stromboli leg of our trip!After exploring a bit of the island and checking out the beach, we were back in our room getting changed and ready to be at the main square by 6pm to join a guided hike up to the top of Mt Stromboli, which is an active volcano (which pretty much makes up the whole island of Stromboli). The main commercial operator of these excursions is Magmatrek, and costs €28 per person (this includes €3 access tax to the county of Lipari). It’s about 900m to the top, so it’s not that high, but it’s quite a challenging hike (I’ll explain more below).

It was this volcano climb that really made me want to go to Stromboli when Ana was talking about it.. but unfortunately Joyce didn’t seem too enthusiastic about it at first :p

But I was sure she would enjoy the REWARD at the END so I simply said to her, “You can thank me LATER” as she buried her head into her arms and actually TOOK A NAP while waiting for the guide at the square!

Since we were ill-equipped (somehow we had the ridiculous idea that we’d just waltz up this volcano in our colourful clothes and a tote bag (joyce)/sandals (me)), we each spent about €10 extra to hire proper hiking shoes, one backpack (we already had one between us), headlamps, and we were given helmets too. Each person was advised to bring a jacket, food and 1.5 litres of water…. yup, those bags were HEAVY.

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At 6.30pm, we were off!

Five minutes in….. and I was sweating like MAD. There were so many steep steps to climb, in 35 degree heat, and for a brief moment I did think ‘why.. why did I do this to myself..’.

I was sweating so much that I had to use my H&M scarf as a sweat towel..

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At least, the views along the way were all breathtaking. Though it was hard to concentrate on your footing while trying to take in the scenery AND take pictures at the same time.

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Rest stops were once every 30 minutes and never long enough. It takes an estimated 2.5 hours to get to the top (but I think it took slightly longer.. really).

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The sea and the sky was so beautiful to look at a we ascended higher and higher up the volcano. Also, when we were about halfway up the sun was no longer directly upon us = the difficulty of the climb was suddenly reduced by half! It was such a relief.

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The line between the sky and the sea was a creamy orange blur.. and as the sun sank even deeper into the horizon, the colours became more and more spectacular to watch. It was just SO AMAZING!

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Me eating an APPLE at the halfway point.

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It was a challenge not to look like absolute shit on that volcano! I mean.. come on. Sweaty matted hair + red face.. haha.

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The main reason why I thought this climb was rather tough was because of the terrain.. I’ve never hiked up a volcano before. It was so sandy! Imagine walking on a sandy beach, but going uphill. With every step I took my chunky hiking boot just SANK halfway back downwards.

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We became quite good at taking 2-second-pictures (so as to not get left behind by the group/hold people up!)

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Hmm.. just realised the photos are quite repetitive. But it was hard not to want to document the sky every time we got to higher ground :p

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I still remember how relieved we both felt when planting our bums on the black sand to rest our super-sore legs!

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Another group of people going up nearby.

While watching them, I remarked to Joyce that they looked like ants.. or rather, slaves (I was picturing donkeys carrying wood up a mountain, like in Disney’s Small One)..

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As we got closer to the top, we were able to see puffs of smoke emerging from the other side of the volcano, where the active craters were.

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The pinkest hiker.

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Here’s a short video I took while struggling up the volcano. Have to just say it was quite an achievement to get this video as it was so steep and we were all in single-file, no stopping. Had to reach behind my back, unzip it, pull out my camera, turn it on and switch to video mode, and record the bloody thing all whilst taking care not to trip over and keep up the pace!

And a few moments later…………….

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WHAT AN ACHIEVEMENT

I felt so goddamn good about myself (at this point I didn’t know about how shitty the descent was going to be yet..) and was just so HAPPY to be up there. Standing on top of a mountain. A VOLCANO.

I WAS STANDING ON A VOLCANO!

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It was quite dark by the time we were up there, so excuse the poor quality of photos.

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Jacket by H&M
Neon shorts by Topshop


Haha, never thought I’d be writing about what I wore on a volcano ;p

After having a quick bite (I think we had those mini chocolate croissants), everyone lined up on the edge of the mountain overlooking the two active craters.. and waited. We were all just staring so intently as though WILLING it to erupt.

There was even a girl next to us who kept talking to herself, going, “ok just one more eruption.. please.. yes.. just one more..come on” when we were waiting for one last KABOOM before starting the descent.

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We were lucky and managed to see at least four eruptions (I lost count.. too excited).

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Was so AWED. FREAKING AMAZING.
The sound each time was so powerful. A huge ROAR from the core of the earth.

We spent almost an hour standing, waiting, watching the incredible natural fireworks in front of us. That’s it! They’re Earth’s fireworks!

Even now looking back at these photos, the whole experience seems surreal.

Standing there, I looked up into the sky and said my thanks to the stars to express gratitude for how lucky I was to have that opportunity. For my sight, for my mobility, for good health, and of course for the means to take myself to such a beautiful place.

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(thanks Joyce for the above pic!)

Now I’ll write a short note about the descent, which took about an hour and a half.

We were all given masks to put on our face because we would use a different trail going down where it was very sandy and incredibly dusty as people’s footsteps unsettled the ground. Actually, ‘incredibly dusty’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.. it was more like being in ‘The Fog’ but with dust. The sand was soft and so walking down was hard on the knees after a while.

We all walked in a single file in pitch darkness using our headlamps. The WORST thing was getting a bazillion small rocks and stones trapped inside our shoes and not being able to get them out until the next rest stop! We also got erm.. detached from the rest of the group towards the end as Joyce needed to empty her shoe (otherwise I think she might have died).. it was rather scary trying to find our way back to the square ourselves (because it was just SO DARK and a bit creepy) but we made it – sweaty, dirty, and completely knackered. Our feet were battered and bruised.

Treated ourselves to a big oily pizza and more Spritz for me, at a restaurant in town.

If only we didn’t have another 1+km to walk to get to our room after. But after climbing a volcano, that was super easy-peasy..

3 Comments

Winnie |

Oh my god! These photos are incredible. I love them all but the silhouette of some more climbers going up the volcano is awesome. Seriously, what an awesome experience and I totally didn’t expect to see the eruptions at the end. I think the word awesome is more than appropriate. I’m so jealous you got to experience this!

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