I stepped out of the hotel, the big bright sun was upon us like bees with their honey. It was around 4 o’clock in the evening and I was already tired. The teachers were explaining how the hike today was going to be the hardest. Listing to them, there was a bit of regret that started building from the pit of my stomach. What if I went to Strasbourg? Would it be easier? While my series of thoughts were flashing in my mind, I opened my black bag once again to check if I had brought everything that I needed.
I was mentally checking my packing list as pools of students started filling outside the hotel. Ms. Shippey finally got our attention, she informed us that there is a 10-minute walk to Stromboli. I groaned internally and thought, “why couldn’t we take a minibus or something!”.
After the longest 10 minutes walk, my shirt had a big stain of sweat on the back, my forehead was dripping from sweat as if I decided to dump my entire water bottle on my head.
I started to feel sticky, a great way to start a hike! We meet up with two tall men, wearing the same gear and with a pair of black hiking poles each. They were our guides, they talked to us about ways they were going to explain the geography of Stromboli. They were also strict that about every 25 minutes we would have a break, not before and not after.
Listing to them at first made me feel at ease, but what came next is what causes the real shock.
5 minutes into the hike, I was done for. My legs started to feel like they weighed 1000 tons each and my throat was dry as the Sahara no matter how much water I drink. The hot sun was like my shadow, and sweat was like my second skin. I really started to regret coming to Sicily. My friends were walking ahead of me creating a cloud of ash behind them. The air quickly turned to be thick. I couldn’t breathe from my nose anymore, it felt like I had stapled my nose about 100 times, no space for the oxygen to get in. I started breathing from the mouth, but it as useful as a white color pencil.
2 hours into the hike and I could finally breathe. We were about 500 meters up, the rocks now have changed. There were all shapes of rocks scattered everywhere, they had a pigmentation of either black or dark brown. The way to walk up was narrow, and every time I walked up a narrow lane I would hold my breath and pray to god that I survive. After about 2 hours we were finally on top of Stromboli. My skin now had a second layer of goosebumps, I hugged myself as I make my way up to the final destination. The hike already seemed to be worth it. The sun was still out, but this time it gave me warmth. The blue ocean was in the background, it looked so calm, almost making it dangerous. The sky was painted a baby blue and accompanying them were birds; spreading their wings and flying away. We were standing at a point where everything looked like a Picasso painting. The teachers asked us to hurry up, Mr. Ashworth said, “This is not even the best part yet!”
A small walk and we were finally on top, looking down, we can see a beautiful cone made up of a dark brown rock; the volcano itself. Next to the volcano were two craters; they were like mini volcanoes. I was about to sit down, but a sound almost like a thunder stopped me. I looked towards the big volcanoes and the next thing I see is hot, red lava sprinkling out of the volcano, it looked like Jet d’Eau back home except it wasn’t water, it was lava. After that eruption followed a numerous amount of others. The volcanoes were magical, seeing the eruptions felt like going to Disneyland for the first time when you were a kid. The volcanoes were surrounded by the still water and directly above is the light of a dazzling sun. I sat down on the thick layer of ash, that was warm due to the eruptions. All my regrets were gone, I felt like someone who went to a concert of their favorite band or singer. After a few more eruptions, there was a thick white gas that was making it way upon us. We all started coughing, the gas-filled my lungs trying to be the replica of oxygen. Soon we were given masks and it got much better.
After spending an hour upon Stromboli, we were making our way down. The guides had asked us to wear our gaiters and they informed us that the hike down was going to be easy. I instantly fell into a peaceful state. We were going straight down digging our legs into the thick layer of brownish ash. We looked like kangaroos skipping and jumping our way down. The ash was like a mixture of sand and burnt paper mixed together. We quickly made our way down, sometimes taking a break to clear our hiking boots from volcanic ash.
Today was the most beautiful day of my life, it was magical and surreal. Even though the volcanoes looked like mountains with no vegetation on them, they were still beautiful. They belonged there and so did everything surrounding. What I realized because of this hike is that I am never going to regret this hike.