What is danger?

We each have our own perception of danger don’t we? I have no fear of heights, but having been bitten by a spider I find them dangerous. I’ve been in a huge bat cave in Borneo, but because it was a climb up inside,  saw no danger.

Now, put me in a dark hole in the ground, that’s my idea of danger. Being enclosed like that is scary, really grim. But I did it anyway, some fears are meant to be conquered aren’t they?

 

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But I won’t be going down a lava tube again!

 

Trekking with a reward

Parco Dell’Etna in the north east of Sicily is a dynamic landscape. When I visited in 2013, there were nineteen eruptions, hence climbing up to the crater was prohibited. Etna, Europe’s highest volcano is 3323 metres high and also the most active. We spent a day driving around the national park, but soon realised that the best way to see it was with a guide, so we shared a 4 wheel drive with two other travellers.
We set off from Monte Sartorius, on a 5 kilometre trail to 2000 metres. A bright sunny day but getting cooler the higher we went.

This stuff isn't the easiest to walk on
This stuff isn’t the easiest to walk on
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This tree was damaged by an eruption

 


Getting higher . . .

But not as high as them yet
But not as high as them yet

Some of the lava has very sharp edges, some gives way under your feet, concentration is necessary!
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This path felt rather precarious, narrow, no grip and a steep drop.

The view was getting better
The view was getting better
Until . . .
Until . . .
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At last we reach our highest point with Mount Etna in front of us

Looking back down towards the valley

Down below the tree line
Down below the tree line
And way across to the Alcantara mountain range
And way across to the Alcantara mountain range

This was a two to three hour walk, steep in some places but not particularly challenging. It was a bit of a knee killer though and I could feel that I’d done something the next day, the reward outweighed the pain though!

Il Parco Dell’Etna

Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and last year, just after my visit, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As recently as last month it was putting on a pyrotechnic display, closing the nearby airport at Catania. All was calm when I was there. Travelling friend and I stayed in an hotel with a distant view – if you craned your neck a little on the balcony, and ignored the buildings in the way.
We went up twice, first of all independently and we couldn’t resist a guided tour a couple of days later.
Here are some photos taken at about 2000 metres, cool and grey with mile after mile of lava from various past eruptions.


In June there were miles of empty roads, lots of stopping places for photos and an almost creepy stillness.
You quite quickly descend to sunshine and there the flora and fauna is pretty.


Etna can be seen from all over the east of Sicily and when you’re up there the views down are amazing.
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Going down.

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Towards the sea.

I enjoyed  looking back on my time on Etna, I’ll post some photos of the guided tour soon!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

Josh at the Daily Post asks that we show a picture of ‘Inside’ for this weeks challenge. I’m a bit technologically challenged today because my PC is dying and my new laptop isn’t set up yet – wish me luck with that please!

I’ve found something to post though!

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Inside a Cappadochian cave.

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The rope I held to scramble into a cave formed by volcanic eruptions on Mount Etna, Sicily.

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Our guide deep inside the cave.

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Inside Gomantong caves Borneo.

To join in visit http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/weekly-photo-challenge-inside-2/

Beginnings on Etna

Mount Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe and it’s been very active in the last year. When I visited in June 2013, it wasn’t possible to climb it because of the eruptions in April.  I could still tour the area and the best views of Etna are possible from the 1800 metres Monti Sartorius,which I did climb.

Travelling around Etna you will see lava flow, both recent and ancient. Where there has been a flow, vegetation takes times to recover, but gradually signs of life appear through the ash.

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Where there are full grown trees, they have grown through lava from way back.  Christmas tree sized and the lava is not so old, and in places where there is only low growing plant life, soapworts for example, the lava is from very recent eruptions. So, the flora is beginning to re-establish itself.

Click on my photo for a closer view.

This post is for Cheri Lucas Rowlands WPC at http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/03/photo-challenge-beginning/

The Colours of Sicilia

Over at the Daily Post this week the photo challenge is saturated. Michelle W. tells us to ‘show us a photo of whatever you’d like, but make sure it’s saturated. It can be black and white, a single color, a few hues, or a complete rainbow riot; just make sure it’s rich and powerful. Let’s turn the comments into an instant mood-booster!’

I went to Sicily back in the summer and I found plenty of rich saturated colours, in the natural world, the food and the art. I’d like to share these with you.

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Do you have some vibrant imsges to share? join in at http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/27/photo-challenge-saturated/

Taormina’s coast at Isola Bella

At the bottom of Taormina’s steep hill there are a choice of beaches and on our final day in Sicily we visited Isola Bella. We had been warned that the walk down would take about twenty minutes but that the return would be a killer climb for an hour. As it happened, we came across the funicular close to the Porta Messina that runs down to the shore and costs just a few euros. 2013 Jul 03_5510_edited-1

We sat with a lovely young man from Taiwan who told us he was heading for his favourite spot on the beach. In the space of fifteen minutes we learnt that because he can work anywhere, he spends his life globetrotting. Expecting to be told that he was some sort of technology expert or even a writer we asked what work he did that allowed him his beach lifestyle. His answer – he is a number cruncher! Apparently he does food statistics on a global scale, one of those strange jobs that people are doing being the scenes without us ever knowing. He was kind, respectful and quite happy chatting to we middle aged women, so we let him show us the way to the beach and then released him so not to cramp his style. 2013 Jul 03_5520_edited-1

The tiny island, you can walk across if the tide is out as long as your feet can bear the pebbles. 2013 Jul 03_5524_edited-1

We decided on a short boat trip, the water was crystal clear.

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The edge of the Grotta Azzurra which was a bit disappointing, I expected something a bit grander – but I was probably sulking because I couldn’t get a decent photo because of the heads in my way!

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Uh, what can I say?

It was a relaxing hour and the views were stunning of the coastline, the hills above Taormina and the ever present Etna. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re in the area and if you go prepared you can swim from the boat!

Teatro Antico Taormina . . .

. . . and some of the views from it!

The theatre was built by the Greeks and then re-built by the Romans, on the side of a hill overlooking Giardini-Naxos and Mount Etna. Originally it could seat 5000 and the Romans used it for gladiator battles, today it is still in use. We had just missed a film festival and the throne in the photo was for the next production, Verdi’s Rigoletto.  I can imagine that it would be mind blowing in this setting. Apparently Plato conceived his theory of forms in the amphitheatre, and it does have a feel about it that somehow grabs at the belly.

Sicily is full of antiquities, but if you go, visit Taormina and the theatre that is part of its ancient heart.