Recently a friend asked me if I liked camping. After a lengthy, dead-panned stare I uttered ‘no,’ however I reflected on my answer because something seemed to be bothering me. I realized as a child I detested camping (what was that noise, a thought that would reverberate through my mind in the middle of the night), however my most recent camping experience (recent, as in 2 years ago) was on the eastern coast of Sicily. Of course, it was illegal.
We headed north of Catania to the base of the active volcano, Mount Etna, to the Gorge Al’Cantara. The Gorge was created millions of years ago from the wearing of volcanic rock. The site is a popular tourist attraction in the summer months, but not as frequently visited in autumn and wintertime. I’m not confident in the traditional way of getting there – as we took a bus, got off at the wrong stop and walked a few miles to the Gorge – only after inquiring from a dinky petrol station.
Posted on a short standing fence were regulations about how the site closed at sundown and prohibited to camp. A triangular teepee crossed trough with an ‘x’. Past the fence was a small winding staircase that deposited us in to the heart of the Gorge. If you’re considering swimming, be careful – the river that runs through the rocky walls has leeches.
Albeit it was October in the Mediterranean, the evening air was chilled and the water was icy. We had no tent, but our packs, 1 euro boxed wine (don’t be too envious), and blankets temporarily absconded from the hostel we were worked for. With flushed faces we huddled close wrapped in our draperies. We were exposed to the gulping night sky. I remember the most amazing moment was when I woke during the night to the encumbered sight of the bright moon and the needle tipped stars.
In the morning, we were roused awake by not only the sun but tourists excitedly waving to us from a viewing spot at the top of the Gorge.