Saturday, June 13, 2015

Day 6 - Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii

Naples today. We bought a shore excursion to hike to the top of Mount Vesuvius and then visit Pompeii. The volcano is visible from the city of Naples – in fact, it dominates the view. There is actually a second volcano next to it (named Somma), also active, that used to be the taller of the two. But it blew thousands of years ago and the ash from it made the more famous of the two volcanoes higher.

The drive up consists of a series of very sharp, very narrow hairpin turns. I lost count of how many, but there were a lot. The bus took us to 1000 feet below the rim and dropped us off. Because there’d been a lot of traffic getting out of Naples, we only had an hour and a half to go that 1000 feet and get back.

Looks like we'll fall off at the top!
(that's me in the purple - my husband always likes to get my good side!)
Sounds easy enough, yes? Remember those hairpin turns the bus took? Same philosophy regarding getting altitude here. Not straight up, but winding around and back and around again. The incline was about what it is coming from the stream up to the cabin back home. Sometimes not so steep, sometimes steeper.

Looking down into the mouth of the volcano - all quiet today, thank goodness!
It took me a long time to climb to the rim of the caldera, but I did it. We both did. The view from above is amazing but what struck me was how many people stand to lose everything they have when it blows again. Because it will. In fact, it’s overdue. I know there are evacuation plans and the expectation is there will be about a 20-day warning, but still. Why build where it will be destroyed? All along that mountain road are the ruins from the last eruption in 1946.

There is a valley the lava flowed along that year that is starting to come back to life. A gray lichen appears first – a lichen that only grows on Mount Vesuvius. As it goes through its life cycle, it builds up on the cooled lava and creates a thin layer of dirt that small flowers use. They die, add to the soil and larger flowers grow, then bushes and finally, trees. Right now the hillsides are covered with Jupiter’s Beard and Broom bushes, both in bloom.

Naples from the top of Mount Vesuvius
And then of course, what comes up must come down. The descent went faster than the ascent. Right up until the second-to-last hairpin turn. I was watching where I put my feet since the volcanic ash is like walking on black sand with the occasional pebble and rock thrown in for good measure.

You guessed it. I found one of the rocks. I went down fast and a nice gentleman on his way up lent me his hand as did Steven. My ankle hurt but I knew I hadn’t twisted it. Thought I’d pulled a muscle. Made it back to the bus (which was parked quite a ways down the road) and explained to Roberta, our tour guide, that I’d fallen.

She got me ice when we got to Pompeii while the others got their gelato or soft drink (Steven brought me a wonderful vanilla gelato with chocolate chips). He then went in search of a cane for me, paid an inordinate amount of money for it and I used it on our tour. The uneven streets made it a challenge and it hurt if I stepped wrong but I made it through. Several of the others on the bus called me a “trooper” for coming along.

Me, standing in an ancient theatre!
The ruins were covered under 20 feet of ash – its amazing the city was ever found. The murals on the walls are beautiful and must’ve been incredible when new. To stand in a actual Roman theatre (they have two) brought me back to my Intro to Theatre course. And here I stood, in the orchestra of one over 2500 years old walking on the very stones of actors who came before.

We ended with some of the plaster casts of those who died that awful day in 74 BCE. The first was of a dog, one who couldn’t run away because he’d been tied to a tree. The second was of a young boy, kneeling with his hands over his mouth and nose, the third was of a very young child who looked as though she’d been sleeping.

It was the boy who got me. I could see him in my mind, in his last moments as the ash fell, inching over his feet. His hands clasped over his nose, trying not to breathe in the powdery stuff. His cast moved me the most.

Back on the bus, back to the harbor. Found a pizza place and had Napolese pizza Margarita. It was wonderful.

And then on board and up to the room. I had an egg on the side of my foot that was quite large. Steven got me some ice and I iced it for 20 minutes. But having the shoe off allowed the swelling to increase and Steven got worried so he made me go down to sickbay. For good measure, the ship’s doctor made me get X-rays.

Yep. Issa broke. Not the ankle, but the lower part of the femur. In two places, no less.

They put my foot in a cast up to my knee. A partial cast, not hard in the front in case there is swelling.

This has put our whole trip into jeopardy. We’re going to do a conference call with Dr. Mark back in Geneva to see if I can go with this type of cast for the remainder of the vacation. I’m wheelchair bound in any case. We will see what we will see.

Play safe...and walk carefully!

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