Mount Vesuvius

 The plan for a day trip to mount visuvius was simple, wake up in the morning, follow signs to the car park and then walk to the top, simple! The night before, jess had been doing some work so we needed a McDonald’s to use the wifi, by the time this was done it was late and we decided we would stay overnight in the mall car park, other vehicles were parked, no one in them I guess, but we were woken at about midnight by an officer who asked to see my information. I did as I was asked and he asked me to make sure we left by 6 am, and warned me about thieves. If there was no language barrier I might have reminded him that instead if bothering me, who is doing nothing but sleeping in my van, and actually did his job, there might be less thieves. Now before it’s mentioned, I know that a parking lot is private land, and therefore we could have been moved on immediately, however then the same should apply to the numerous vehicles that were parked overnight too. We take up no more space and are not bothering anyone.
We moved at six as requested and tried to park elsewhere until morning and tourist attractions were open. We parked next to what can be simply described as a busy slightly hilly road, the opposite to where anyone would choose to camp. We waited out the morning here and when we were eating a little breakfast we were again bothered by the police, who again told us we could not camp, as if we would camp in this shit position, even after we explained we were not camping here, he proceeded to take our information. Now, my point is, that if I was sat in my car eating would he have bothered me? I think not, however it’s the same thing essentially. Again they repeated that we could not camp and left us to it. I can’t help but think the public would be better served by a police force that did something worthwhile rather than bothering tourists, as well as this, the amount of litter at the sides of roads, people using mobile phones at the wheel and other violations such as dangerous driving seem to be overlooked as the police are dealing with the serious issue of me eating my breakfast at the side of the road!
So we set off following the road signs up to Mount Vesuvius, although after a good few minutes of driving we hit some pretty tight road works and a dead end. We spoke to the workers, and they said it was closed? With confusion on how a mountain could be closed, we did some research and found that there was another road going up on the other side, so we headed for this even though it was another 45 minute drive away. This 45 minute drive ended up being somewhat longer as it had us driving through a town centre with the thinnest of roads, and Italian drivers, who seem intent in driving everywhere but where you should, defying the logic of rules of the road and therefore producing anarchy. An hour or so later and we were out of town and had wound up the steep roads and parked our van for five euro.

Blackened trees from recent Forrest fires

We also decided to take the shuttle bus for one Euro, which cuts out about 2-3km of walking up hill. This was only done as we were running out time, due to our earlier faff! Once at the ticket office we paid to walk up a hill, ten euros each! This was quickly becoming a very expensive hill! It was about this point that we realised that we had forgotten to bring a camera! I think we are not too good at this touristy thing, although it’s lucky Jess had her phone so we used that! There were warning signs before we passed the ticket office, recommending warm clothing, correct footwear etc, they were even trying to sell maps?? Although I did wear trainers this could be done by in flip flops by anyone competent at walking, you get the picture, it was not exactly Everest. The sign also talked about steep and winding paths, gosh, this sounds arduous, however it was a nice wide path of gravel that made its way up gradually, not exactly steep. I reckon with a bit of spare time I could have cartwheeled the whole thing! So all this dread and fear of an excruciating climb was a little too much, and as for a map, there is one path up and the same down, so not much need to be honest! 

The super steed and winding path??

At the top you are greeted by a massive crater, with various look out points, and there is rock and vegetation, not so much volcano looking as just the same as any hill with a crater effect in the centre. We listened to the guide who was describing various rock formations and what they mean, one interesting point was that the crater is sealed after eruption by falling ash and lava, and as it cools it created a cover over the crater, seems obvious but I had never thought of it before. 

The crater

I heard a ton of people moaning that they expected to see lava or smoke and saw nothing, the closest we got was cloud licking the edge of the crater and creating a smoke effect. The views all around were interrupted by this cloud, so I think one of the good reasons to pay and stroll up was lost to us.

The best view we had through the clouds!

On our way back to the van we found a small hut at the foot of the parking road where there was a bar called the belvedere, and the woman who owned it said that you can park there for free, even overnight for campers, with a great view over the city, all you need to do was purchase something from the bar. The owner let us know that if you were to tell the car park ticket man that you were going there to buy cigarettes or similar, they have to let you past for free. Might be worth a try if anyone reading this is thinking of going, also if you want to park for the night in front of a nice panorama and at a cheaper price than at a caravan site this would be a good choice to save the hassle that we have had, as described at the beginning of this post!
Would I do this again, no. Is it worth the money, to me no, to someone who does not climb hills and mountains on a regular basis, maybe? However even then, there is not much to see, even the view that we did not really see, is of a sprawling city, although I’m sure the sea beyond it is nice. I think my time and money would have been better spent elsewhere, but you never know until you go and see something for yourself! Also, this tourism stuff is not as exhilarating as it used to be, I can’t help but feel a little like I’m wasting good climbing and mountaineering time, clambering up or around tourist attractions that never seem to fully fulfil expectations, hopefully as this short tourism spell continues up through Italy this opinion changes as Rome and Florence are next on the horizon. As for the mountains, I have my fingers crossed that the Dolomites will have a period of nice weather when we get near and we can have some real adventures!

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