we get our tickets on the ustica hydrofoil to stromboli.
we also make a decision to buy a parking pass for the beast and leave it
on the main drag of milazzo until the next day.
at 1430 hrs, after having got baked under the sun for a
coupla hours, our boat arrives and we board without incident.
are heading to the Aeolian Islands, a chain of seven islands in a
volcanic archipelago that straddles the gap between Vesuvius and Etna. The largest island is Lipari, and
the other islands
include Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi, and Panarea. Vulcano is famous for its
fango baths....whatever the heck those are. The islands are a popular
tourist destination in the summer, and attract up to 200,000 visitors
we stop first on vulcano, followed by
lipari. it's volcanoes are considered inactive, though steaming
fumaroles may still be seen. As a result of the volcanic origins, the
island is covered with pumice and obsidian. Pumice mining has become a
large industry on Lipari, and the pale pumice from Lipari is shipped
internationally. The pumice stone from Lipari, known as rhyolite, is
indigenous to only one other island in the world, Niijima, Japan. Its
position has made the harbor of Lipari strategic. In neolithic times
Lipari was, with Sardinia, one of the few centers of the commerce of
obsidian, a hard black volcanic glass prized by neolithic peoples for the
sharp cutting edge it could produce......gonna remember that...there could
be a test sometime.
Salinas comes and goes...l observe
more and more people leaving the boat. hmmmmmmmmmm....do they know
something l don't know...l mean, other than calculus, how to make a
and crap like that?
Panarea is the
smallest of the seven major islands in the Aeolian archipelago, and it can
be considered some kind of the "St-Tropez of Southern Italy" for having
attracted VIPs from all over the
world. Many of Italy's richest possess holiday homes on the
island, which lives a relatively brief but intense (compared to its
neighbour islands) tourist season, mainly concentrated during the month of
August. Starting in September, the island becomes unusually quiet and
remains so until the late spring. However, there is not only jet-set
tourism on Panarea. The island has one of the most important
archaeological sites in the Aeolian archipelago at Capo Milazzese.
needless to say, we do not get off the boat here...but some do. there is
some sort of sailing boat leaving the port as we arrive: odd, rich people
going slowly and the rabble is on a hydrofoil.
we soon set off for stromboli and slowly it begins to
rise out of the sea in from of us....for all intents and purposes it
looks to me like the archetypal dinosaur island of film lore. l've
read that in Jules Verne's novel Journey to the Center of the
Earth, Axel and Otto emerge from their subterranean journey
from the volcano on Stromboli and J. R. R. Tolkien, in his connections of Middle-earth and
modern-day Europe, had always thought of the tower Barad-dûr as being
located on Stromboli. hmmm...perhaps a test question, here.
Stromboli is a is a
corruption of the ancient Greek name Stroŋgul
which was given to it because of its round swelling form. the island stands 924 m above sea level, but actually
rises over 2,000m above the ocean floor. There are three active craters at
the peak and a significant geological feature of the volcano is the Sciara
del Fuoco ("Stream of fire"), a big horseshoe-shaped depression
generated in the last 13,000 years by several collapses on the north
western side of the cone.
Stromboli is remarkable because of the length of time
for which it has been in almost continuous eruption. For at least the last
2,000 years, the same pattern of eruption has been maintained, in which
explosions occur at the summit craters with mild to moderate eruptions of
incandescent volcanic bombs at intervals ranging from minutes to hours.
This characteristic Strombolian eruption, as it is known, is also observed
at other volcanoes worldwide. Eruptions from the summit craters typically
result in few second-lasting mild energetic burst emitting ash,
incandescent lava fragments and lithic blocks up to few hundred meter
high. Stromboli's activity is almost exclusively explosive, but lava flows
do occasionally occur - an effusive eruption in 2002 was its first in 17
The continuous mildly explosive eruptions are also
occasionally punctuated by much larger eruptions. The largest eruption of
the last hundred years occurred in 1930, and resulted in the deaths of
several people and the destruction of a number of houses by flying
volcanic bombs. Large eruptions occur at intervals of years to decades,
and the most recent large eruption began in 2002, causing the closure of
the island to non-residents for several months. The eruption started with
a lava flow (29 December 2002) along the "Sciara del Fuoco" flank that
rapidly reached the sea. On 30 December 2002 a huge volume of rocks
collapsed from the "Sciara del Fuoco" generating at least two landslides
and many tsunami waves. The highest wave was 10 m high and caused serious
damages at the Stromboli village. On April 5, 2003 a strong explosion from
the summit crater ejected rocks that reached the Ginostra village,
damaging some houses. The eruption terminated on July 2003.
we arrive at the dock and are among a
handful of people getting
off the boat. jim finds us a guy who is running a bed and breakfast and
we are soon off to his place. we ride in the back of a golf cart,
apparently the vehicular standard here.
we pass through what passes as the village and see people beginning to
queue for the
hump to the volcano. we arrive at our bed and breakfast long enough to
throw our luggage into the place, gather our gear and push off to the
we have already decided not to pay 50 eu each to climb
the volcano with a
certified guide, despite signs at the harbour that indicate we cannot
climb without one. we also decide to ignore the "lonely planet's" suggestion
to do the same. we don't need no stinking guides.....l mean, the volcano
is right there ( l am pointing to it) and it sounds like a jet talking off
every 20 minutes...how could we ever get off the beaten path.
b/b is located at the intersection of what appears to be a trail up the
hill so we take it. it is now 1745 hrs, light is beginning to fade, the
humidity is fierce and it is probably still over 30 c.
we spent the next hour heading thru 10ft
high grass that begins to thin
just as the sun sets. we now can see climbing parties on the horizon above
the trail is now only a foot or two wide and begins to switchback upon
itself every 20-30 meters. there is nothing here but rocks and volcanic
sand....and cliffs and gullies and other bad things. the noise from the
volcano is now becoming deafening.
jim sets a blistering pace and we are soon on the heels, literally, of
climbers who have started hours ahead of us.....and there is a small price to pay ie my legs
are going to explode from lactic acid buildup. l have not had leg cramps
like this....it seems like for hours earlier ie vesuvius:)
we stop and decide to get some pictures. we also take stock of a coupla
things. one...it is getting dark. two, my rechargeable batteries in my
camera are dead, and jim's camera packs it in soon thereafter...fitting. three, it is
getting dark and we are on the side of an active volcano in the middle of
the Mediterranean and it is beautiful and loud and perhaps a little
dangerous. it is also going to be a real treat when the time comes to head
we arrive at the summit just as the team
ahead of us does and we
mingle, albeit in the dark, with them. an australian voice seeks us out in
the dark...apparently she has heard us jabbering and thought we were
americans. we listen to
her horror stories about the trip up and we share our rations with her ie
beer, bread and some horrific sausage l've been carrying in my gear for
days. her traveling companion, an italian girl she met on the hydrofoil,
offers us a joint in return. we pass....the trip down the side of this
thing is gonna be fun enuf with the beer inside of us.
these festivities are interrupted as a guide
separates himself from
the darkness and noise and informs us that we are not allowed to be here
without a guide and under no circumstances are we to push to the crater
edge a couple hundred meters up, without one. sure...ok...whatever.
we promptly ignore him and follow his team to the
summit where we are
assaulted by the noise for the better part of an hour. try to imagine an
aircraft taking off about 100 m from your vantage point, every 20
minutes..... l yell as loud as l can but cannot hear myself. l am
less impressed by the light show....one crater does it's thing every 20
minutes while its colleagues think about it. of the 4 major lightshows,
we see each one fire perhaps one or twice and nothing is bigger than
probably 20 m in the air.
we know that the guided tours go down an
easier way off the crater and end up taking a boat ride back to town so we
decide not to follow the them as they leave the summit. as they leave l
turn on my headlamp, and jim has one of those little thumb lites that you
wear on a zipper. l quickly decide we need a lot more alcohol than we
carried...this is going to be interesting. the first couple 100 meters are
on a knife-edged arête and the trail along the ridge is the width of the
trail along the ridge. anywhere off the trail up here is gonna be a bad
there is zero reference to the trail with
the exception of some light pollution from the village far below us. we
avoid instant death, broken limbs and only get sidetracked once, following
a sidetrack to another lookout below the crater. no big deal, climb most
of the way up the summit and start again.
we arrive back at the b/b only a bit
chastened....this would have been hellish if we had done it earlier in the
summer. we have done the crater and back in 5 hrs....7 is the average. and
80 % of it we did in the dark. who needs a stinking guide?
click on a
picture to see a larger image. hit arrows at either end of the slideshow
for more pictures.
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