Friday, 14 October 2011

For every thing there is a season...

...and a time for every purpose under heaven.

It seems today, my time came to be one of the things I detest most in the travelling world - a group tourist. Yes, readers, today I joined an organised tour and saw the countryside from a coach. In my defence, we weren't obliged to wear stickers with a cutesy symbol and our names on. Nor was I required to follow a woman speaking into a microphone and carrying a gaudy plastic flower. But, nevertheless, I was on a group tour. There's simply no getting away from it.

The excuse I'd like to use is that there was no other way of getting where I wanted to go today without partaking of said sin. I'd like to say that, but sadly it's just not true. I could have managed it, just much less conveniently. So like an (i)sheep, I signed up, paid my fee and became a tourist for the day!!

And all in honour of visiting Europe's tallest and most active volcano - the awe-inspiring Mount Etna, or Mongibello as the locals apparently call it. It wasn't spouting flames or little bursts of magma, contrary to what the publicity photos might lead you to believe. But it was impressive all the same. Impressive in a surreal, other wordly kind of way. I was struck, as I travelled up in the cable car over what must be the world's most bizarre ski resort, that the lava flows looked just like black snow. It felt like I'd stumbled across a negative world, and then somehow landed on another planet, a black Mars perhaps.

Our trip took us from the Etna Terrace at 1900m by cable car up to 2500m, and then by moon-buggy style jeep up to 2900m just below the (live) summit. At 2900m, we got out and were taken for a walk up to and inside the 2002 eruption crater. Apparently, it's now completely safe since it's all burnt out (oh, how I know what that feels like!), but all the same it was a somewhat spooky experience. I had to keep telling myself that they do this everyday, and there's no way they would put a group of German and American tourists in harm's way for fear of being sued. And no, that's not an active magma chamber you feel rumbling beneath your feet, it's just your over active imagination!

But I'm glad I did it. Even being a sheep was worth it for the experience. Look, I even took a Me with xxx (fill in the blank) shot just to celebrate the fact!

And now, it's been a long day so just as soon as my photos finishing loading, I'm off to sleep and in the morning I'll work out what to do with my last day in Taormina. If it's not too hot - or too rainy - maybe a walk up into the hills behind the town? But if tonight's thunderstorms reappear, it will need to be something different.

What will it be? Tune in tomorrow to find out...

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