Friday, August 12, 2016

Up and around Mt Etna to Syracuse

Photos of Mt Etna and our first stroll through Syracuse, photos by Caroline Shepard

We left our little hotel on the hill in Taormina to make our way up to Mt Etna on the way to Syracuse. On the East Coast of Sicily, Mt Etna is one of the most active volcanos in the world. Our host gave us directions. So we ventured up and up and up. We didn’t really know what to expect. As we circled and drove meandered, the smell of ashes started overtaking the car. The roads are two ways, but most of the time there is only one lane. Give a little beep beep, Caroline suggested. So I honked and we curved. A few motorcycles passed as we made our way up, and up and up. Can we pull over, asked number two. So I pulled over by an old wilderness lodge. And we walked out. Ashe and volcanic rocks were everywhere. Its ominous and beautiful. Number two was vomiting. The signs all over Stramboli pointed out warnings for tsunamis and earthquakes and volcanos. This mountain had the same ominous feeling, with storm clouds above, the feeling of something beyond our comprehension bubbling from below. As we made our way up, Caroline told a story about a 16th century eruption in which tens of thousands were killed and whole towns flattened. Number two was dubious about why we were doing this at all. They track the activity of the mountain, Caroline explained. We drove up as high as we could go and walked out to explore the black terrain of Piano Provenzana, where Zeus thundered above, Hephaestus toiled below. And then we hiked up the trail, walking as high as we could walk, snapping shots of old burnt trees, taking in the fertile terrain, before signs notified us to turn back. Finally, we walked drove back to the lodge where we’d found a longer trail and hiked through a magic trail of the pine trees. It felt like Washington State or Bear Mountain in New York. We talked about the trip, felt a little home sick and made our way for lunch in the lodge. I love the idea of a wilderness lodge at the beginning of an excursion, the last safe home. Hikers and cyclists filled the place, eating gnocchi and other pastas, filling up before or after their hikes into the unknown. Driving away, the landscape looked the land where time forgot or an old star trek episode.

Gradually, we made our way down, winding our way through small towns in the shadow of the mountain. And we made our way to mythic Syracuse, where we’d stay for three days. Our room sat in Piazza San Giuseppe with a view of a church. A week to go in our adventure, we made our way out into the night, to take in a quick glimpse of this 2,700-year-old city on the Ionian sea as our adventure continued.

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