Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Climbing Mount Vesuvius

I am catching up on my travel blogs over the next few weeks having finally resolved my Google Storage problem. I won't be doing them in chronological order according to itinary, as I want to get out a few covering some of the real gems first. I would say the highlight of my trip, from an achievement point of view, (next to completing the Camino), was my climb of Mount Vesuvius. So I will post that first before tackling the others.

As always, the posting date is set to the itinary travel date. This is datelined July 3rd, p.m., in the same day as we toured the ruins of Pompei.

We had lunch of pizza outside the Pompei ruins while we waited for the public bus to take us up Mount Vesuvius for our next adventure. It was about a 40 minute journey away from Pompei winding up the mountain in the space between the two peaks.

If you look at this picture from the earlier blog covering my morning's visit to the ruins of Pompei, you will see the picture of Vesuvius as seen from the public square. You can also see and the double peaks formed with the eruption that buried Pompei. We traveled by bus from the opposite direction on a road which went up between the two peaks. As I look at this picture again, I stand in awe that the mountain rained down 70 feet of lava and ash and buried the City of 16,000 people so many thousands of years ago. The Pompei eruption was in 79 AD.

As the bus took the road up the larger of the two summits we saw the path that the lava took during the last eruption in 1944. Vesuvius erupts, on average, every 50 years. You can see it as the light brown line which runs across the frame on the far side of the valley which spans the two peaks.

The bus travelled a zigzag path as the road went up the mountain. It was a narrow road with many blind turns. The road was not really wide enough for the bus to take the corners with oncoming traffic, so each curve was greeted with honking horns, so that any oncoming traffic would stop and wait until we had passed before entering the corner.

After we got off the bus there was a steep climb to the entrance to the entrance to the Vesuvius Summit.


Here we met our guide and discussed the route we would be taking. We were to climb to the rim and walk the radius. We were also going to be given the opportunity to climb down a distance into the crater! As I looked up from the starting point it was hard to believe that we would be able to do this without ropes and climbing equipment.

The photo above shows the terrain at our starting point. It took us an hour and a half to walk the distance around the rim of the crater.

We walked the entire perimeter, about a quarter of it is shown in this picture.

It was fairly steep on both sides of the trail. Some folks were a bit uneasy about the heights. Fortunately, I don't have any sort of problem like that.

The view from the summit was absolutely spectacular. This view looked down to Pompei and the path of the lava flow which buried the city.

You can see the path below which we had climbed to the starting point and beyond the Bay of Naples and the Mediterranean.

Lilly discovered that she was very unsettled by the height. Manuela took her hand.

Manuela provided us with lots of details about Mount Vesuvius and the crater below. Apparently, there is a large rock formation blocking the exit of lava for the next eruption and so it will likely be a side eruption. With the population density, this will be a catastrophy.

When we decended about 50 feet down into the crater, Manuela demonstrated how he could make it smoke by blowing smoke into an opening. He blew one tiny puff of cigarette smoke into a rock crevice and a great big puff came out the other side. I still don't quite understand that.

After checking out the crater we climbed back to up to the rim and continued on the trail.

The colours of the rock lining the crater were very beautiful - red, orange, grey and black rock.

Team Intrepid Tour for our victory photo (minus me taking the picture)! We completed the rim walk and everyone was feeling the high!

The view from the top back toward Naples, taken with a zoom. The shots following are all of various parts of the rim, which show the route we traversed all across the upper edge.

Afterwards we had to walk back down to the bus parking lot and to our next adventure. There was a small souvenir/coffee shop at the parking lot and we stopped there to try and get rid of the dirt and ash which had collected on our shoes and wait for the last bus to arrive at 5:30.

At 5:30 we noticed the bus (a local public bus run by the municipality) had came up to the parking lot and then turned around and went back without stopping, leaving us and others stranded on top of the mountain without transit back down! I couldn't imagine how the driver could do such a thing, but apparently stuff like this happens all the time in Italy. Probably the driver was in a hurry to finish his shift. This is where our tour guide really earned her money. She went to the consession stand and enlisted the owners assistance to get in touch with the bus driver and ask him to come back. After much talking, arguing and threatening (Serena, our tour guide had said she would call the police if he didn't come back), the driver agreed to drive back up the mountain. About an hour later we boarded the bus and headed back to Pompei.

You can see the side view of Mount Vesuvius in this photo, taken from the bus on the way home. This view shows only the higher peak. We had walked the entire radius of the rim.

That night we had a victory dinner. The next day we would be heading to Sorrento.


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