Day 20 - Monday 18th July 2016
18.07.2016 - 18.07.2016 28 °C
We woke at 7am today as we had wanted to get down to Lipari port relatively early as our plans were to visit the nearby island of Vulcano. We had breakfast at home and drove to Lipari and were able to catch the 9am hydrofoil across. The two islands are very close, from the two nearest points someone could probably swim over as the gap only looks like several hundred metres. The hydrofoil only took ten minutes and we landed on Vulcano. As the name of the island suggests, there is a volcano here and also thermal mud baths. Our plan for today was to do both.
First thing you notice when you step foot on the island is the smell - the sulphuric acid smell of rotten gas wafts through the air. I believe the volcano is dormant but gasses and steam still bubble to the surface. It wasn't too noticeable when we first landed but as soon as there was a gust of wind then you knew it! We walked a few metres and found a cafe that had wifi - something that's hard to find - so we sat and had a coffee and used the wifi to catch up on messages etc. Once done we started up the road to find the entrance to the walk up to the crater. Hard to judge distances but it seemed like a kilometre walking up the road that was slightly inclined.
We found the path to start the climb to the crater. Our Lonely Planet guide indicated it was about 200 metres but I think that refers to the height not the amount of walking. I decided today to do the trek in my thongs (flip flops). Sounds stupid I know but my socks and shoes especially after going up to Vesuvius were filthy, I thought I may as well leave them behind and this way I can wash my feet off, providing they didn't break on the walk.
Needless to say the walk was dusty and walking on soil with hard rock and even lava underneath. The day was hot again but we got some reprieve from the occasional cloud that passed over and a slight breeze. As we climbed slowly you could start to see the views over the island, the water and the neighbouring islands. Plenty of rest stops on the way, getting close to the top the terrain changed suddenly and we were walking on a light rose coloured rock base. Once we scaled and got to the crater, well the view is amazing. The crater is easily visible in full view as its not as big as Vesuvius. Form this point we could actually see all seven islands in the archipelago know as the Aeolian Islands, or Isole Eolie. The views were spectacular.
The last bit of the climb if you are brave is to the summit via a zig zag path around the edge of the crater. This wasn't feasible (although some groups went for it) as there were numerous steam vents just a few metres away that had the sulphuric gasses emitting from them. The surrounding rocks were yellow from the sulphur, the smell was very strong of rotten eggs. I moved closer to one to take pictures, inhaled once through my mouth and regretted it as I choked on the fumes. From that point it was mouth closed and breathing through nostrils only.
We took lots of snaps as it was delightful to see so much, and then we started our descent back down the path. Much easier going down of course but still needed to be careful crossing over rocks and loose soil. Closer to the bottom was a van selling food and drink. I had my lemon granita and the girls shared a freshly squeezed orange juice.
We finally got to paved road and walked downhill and decided to stop for lunch at the same place as we had stopped at earlier. We had chosen a different place but when we saw that the menu indicated a 15% surcharge on all meals we moved on. Plus we know the wifi worked well at the first place. I had an arancini and panini and was very full.
We headed over to the mud baths, the smell of sulphur a little stronger as we turned the corner. We paid for 4 of us to enter, a towel each (no way we'd use our own towels as the stink stays for ages) and a fresh shower, 26 euro for the four of us. The rest of the family went in first so I could mind our belongings - we can't trust anyone and not safe to leave valuables unattended. The sight of people caked in mud is one to behold - the water is warm but not boiling and you can see the bubbles rising to the top in many spots. The idea is to soak in the baths, then scrape the mud from the ground and cover your body in it. Then sit out of the water and let the mud harden, bit like a facial mask beauticians use, they say the mud is good for you - it better be as the smell stays on your skin for days. Once you have done that you can rinse off in the muddy water, then step out and walk a few steps to the beach to wash all the mud off in the sea. I did my mud caking and looked liked a painted indigenous aboriginal from Australia.
The beach is all rocks again but here in several places you can see and feel the boiling water arisen through the rocks below to the surface. The hot water felt nice, I decided to float on my back and have these bubbles of hot water hit my legs. I was warned that you can get burnt by the boiling water, even though it comes up through the sea water, but to me it didn't feel that hot. Well, was I mistaken! After a little while there must have been a spurt of boiling water shoot up and when it hit my right leg I felt it burn instantly. I got out of the water and headed back to the family. I didn't realise the damage but had three burns on my leg and within a little while one had formed a blister. Serves me right! I went and showered off and changed and we headed back to catch the hydrofoil to Lipari.
We headed home all stinky, showered and got dressed. My cousins were having dinner elsewhere tonight and as this was the last night here for our kids we went by first so they could say their goodbyes and then we headed to Canneto to see what was there. We parked and walked along the street in front of the beach, most places are bars/Cafes that sell coffee and sweets. We ended up at the same bar as we'd been to previously called Bar Papisca. They too had good wifi! We sat and ordered our meals, as I was in the bar I noticed an old friend from Sydney near the door. I knew he was here as well as others from that family as the patriarch and his wife of that family have a house here and spend every summer on the island rather than in Sydney. My family was seated outside and when I went back out I noticed the table where all these friends were sitting. I hadn't seen any of them in many years but have fond memories as a youngster spending lots of time with them, growing up we all hung out together. I surprised them by walking over and calling out "is there room for another Aussie at this table?". The women recognised me instantly, the two men hadn't. Then again they hadn't seen me in probably 30 years or so.
After a little while chatting and having a laugh they came over to meet my family and say hi. They left us to our dinner, we ate and then walked back to the car and headed home for the day, smelling of sulphur still!