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Easter Update

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Happy Easter Everyone! Today I decided to take a slight breather from my crazy schedule so far and stay an extra day here in Stromboli.

To catch you up: Friday morning (early, wayy too early), I managed to decipher the Flemish and French signs well enough to find my way to the Metro, the train station and eventually the airport. I had a great flight to Sicily sandwiched between a Sicilian and a Turk (who both lived in Brussels) on my right and their wives and a daughter on the left. Boy can those guys talk! If the conversation lulls for more than 5 minutes, they’re out of their seat and up to the front of the plane to BS with another buddy 🙂 They were both extremely nice – constantly offering me snacks and talking about anything and everything in a confusing mixture of English, Italian and French.

Italian airports (particularly small airports) are very entertaining to me. Airports are always interesting, but here, guys are climbing on the baggage conveyor to get their bags and huge cheers go up when a conveyor starts up after what seems an eternity of inactivity. Now my task was to find my way to Castroreale via train after somehow finding a Vodaphone store and acquiring a SIM card for my iPhone. I found a taxi driver at the airport willing to take me to the nearest store and wait while I got my card – very nice. He was insulted when I automatically put my seat belt on in the car, so I obliged him to not wear it 😉

Around 3 hours and two trains later I arrived at Barcellona (no, not Spain) stazione. From here I caught a ride to my hostel in Castroreale.  The host picked me up at the station with his two friends – it seems there were in the midst of getting down to to the Easter celebrations (here it is more about the pagan roots of the holiday it seems – carnivals, etc. in the streets – everything blocked off). So, obviously in a hurry to get back to the party, I was whisked around town, dodging scooters and traffic, up into the hills to a small medieval castle.

It seems I was the only guest, so I was given the whirlwind tour, keys to the place, and directions to the bus stop and my host was off to the party! The castle was quite cool, but a bit odd staying by myself in a room full of bunk beds. I was exhausted, so I decided with the best of intentions to hit the sack and then get up early to take some photos. I completely slept through my alarm and casually awoke at 6:41 with the warnings of my host from the night before in my head: “if you don’t catch the 7:05 bus, you will have to find and pay for a taxi to take you into town.” So, in a flurry of charging cords and clothing and luggage, I managed to pack and lock up (without locking myself or my stuff in or out – not an easy task with the finicky doors and gates) and run past the psychotic dog (let’s call him Gollum) strategically placed on the corner I had to pass. I was almost certain this dog was going to strangle himself on his leash trying to show how tough he was. So I ran down the cobblestone streets and arrived at the bus stop at 7:59 – whew – made it!!

Now I’ll just take a few photos until the bus arrives. 10 minutes late – well, this IS Italy. 20 minutes late – it is also remote Italy. 45 minutes late – ask an old man walking by – quando prossimo autobus? Otto was the answer – a whole hour early for my bus – I could have taken some photos if only my partying host had given me correct information (then again, maybe I would have just overslept longer :)) From Barcellona, I managed to squeeze the proper information out of my grumpy bus driver on how to get to Milazzo – the port.

Upon arrival in Stromboli a few hours later aboard a hydrofoil boat, I was greeted by a nice man offering me accommodation (that’s how they do it there). I didn’t want to stay in one of the two (maybe three) hotels, so I hesitantly accepted his offer for “a room his friend has”. I was loaded into one of those little lawn-mower-engine-powered mini trucks and we zoomed up the narrow streets to a ristorante. The driver beckoned noisily to the owner to arrange the room with me. We came to terms, but he said I must wait trenti minuti while he and a large group of friends in his dining room watched some more of the soccer match being played on the tiny screen in corner.  I rather enjoyed just waiting and watching this extremely close group of local friends enjoy each other’s company.

I eventually got into my room and had just enough time to get into my hiking gear, buy some water and luckily catch the last spot on a guided tour of the volcano. Since some fatalities in 2003 & 2007 (I don’t know the details), a guide is required above 400m when hiking the volcano. The police also only allow each group only 10 minutes of viewing at the top. The trip was spectacular. We saw a fair amount of activity from the crater – something I have never seen in person before. The hike lasted about 5 hours. I had read somewhere about using gaiters to keep the volcanic sand out of your boots and I’m sure glad I did – coming down was like walking down a sand dune in many places.

So today, I will be enjoying a little rest, but may have to take another hike. Enjoy your holiday!

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