One of the things Lauren has really *really* wanted to do is visit a ‘real’ (as in, not dormant for centuries) volcano. So naturally, when she heard about the possibility of hiking up to the top of Vesuvius, she was all for it. I read that a bus takes you most of the way, so agreed. How hard could it be?
Then I started researching it properly and kept coming across all of these posts about ‘hefty Brits’ or ‘unprepared tourists’ failing to make the summit. Having once, many, many, many years ago, been the type to hike up Ben Nevis, spend weeks in the Scottish highlands wild camping, and hike the Lairig Ghru, crampons, ice axe and all in the middle of winter, I am familiar with that certain level of disdain ‘proper hikers’ have for unfit amateurs. These days, after pneumonia wrecked my lungs, a spinal fusion, constant ankle pain from a torn ligament last year, dozens of extra kilos and a mislaid gym card, I can only accept that this is what I now am.
I spent last night having nightmares of letting Lauren down, or making her remember Vesuvius not as the cool exciting day when she got to the top of a volcano, but rather the day mummy had to be airlifted off the top having collapsed !
So in the absence of the ability to lose 50 Kg overnight, I prepared as best as I could – up early, decent breakfast, plenty of water in the bag, hiking boots….. we were at the base by 8 o clock. Only problem was, the shuttle didn’t start til 9. No problem! 9 o clock came and went, then 9.30 and it became apparent the shuttle went when it was full…. so we waited a bit longer, me fretting about the heat, Lauren doing pirouettes in the square, and playing an endless game of I spy.
Eventually we set off, up the incredibly narrow winding road up to the ‘top car park’. The typical Italian driving caused one woman to actually scream in panic as another bus careered round a corner and missed us by centimeters on the bend. Every bend after that the driver slowed to a crawl, exaggeratedly beeped his horn, and killed himself laughing.
The guides all say that it should only take a ‘fit’ person 30 minutes from the ‘top car park’ to the crater and ‘moderately fit’ 45. They never mention ‘unfit’ but the bus driver waits 90 minutes, so surely if I went slow and steady we’d be OK.
It was really not that bad at all, and I was possibly being a little paranoid. Grannies were going up there in their ‘sensible shoes’ and people far bigger than I made it. I powered up there in 30 minutes, head down, totally ‘mind over matter’, and yes, I could barely breathe the whole way up, it *is* steep, and yes, I did a couple of times tell Lauren to “stop asking so many bloody questions!” because I needed the oxygen to breathe not to enter into a debate about squirrels, or forest fires, or the impact of human beings on nature…. but we made it. Lauren of course barely broke a sweat.
It was definitely worth it. The views across the bay of Naples were beautiful, and it was definitely cool to see the odd wisp of steam coming up from the crater. Free briefings of about 10 minutes are included in the price of admission, and we learned a lot, including the fact that when Vesuvius erupted and buried Pompeii, it was twice the height it is today. So at least some good came of it, I can’t imagine I’d have made it up the original!
Tomorrow – Pompeii!