One of my favourite authors wrote, “In twenty years’ time you won’t be disappointed with the things you’ve done, but the things you won’t have done. Then drop anchor, abandon safe harbours, catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream on. Discover.”
And in this period of confinement the only way to escape from the routine is to travel with the mind, to retrace some of the places that have enriched my heart and mind most of all. It is difficult to describe the emotions that are unleashed when you leave to discover new cultures, new places and new encounters, as even more difficult is to describe the feeling of pulsating energy that you feel when you climb and admire the most alive mountains of our planet: the volcanoes.
And so flipping through my photo albums I set off to discover the mystical charm of Iceland, a land of strong contrasts where fire meets ice, black sand deserts, majestic glaciers, volcanic lakes of a thousand colors and hot sulfur springs that made a bit of relief to our legs after long days in the saddle of our bikes.
Another land full of contrasts is Ecuador, a sort of essence of South America: active volcanoes covered by huge glaciers, the snowy peaks of the Andes and the tropical forest enclosed in one of the countries with the highest diversity of flora and fauna in the world.
The effort but the immense satisfaction of having climbed to the top of Cotopaxi 5872mt (one of the highest active volcanoes in the world) and the embrace with my travel companion will remain one of the most beautiful memories of all my travels, and then continue with the endless descent in mtb from the base camp of Chimborazo and the beautiful turquoise waters of the caldera of Quilotoa.
Indonesia is a sort of huge playground for volcano enthusiasts, the land with the highest density of living mountains in the world!
From the dangerous charm of the Gunung Merapi (literally mountain of fire) to the extraordinary spectacle of dawn on the caldera of Bromo and then the explosions of colors of the acid lake of Kawan and the yellow of the large deposits of sulfur that create unreal color contrasts to end with the long trek to climb to the top of Gunung Rinjani which dominates the island of Lombok while below us the green waters of Lake Senara are illuminated by dawn.
One of the trips where I felt the most explosive force of nature was to Guatemala, the small pyroclastic flows of the Santiaguito Volcano, the spectacle for the eyes and soul of the volcanic lake Atitlán surrounded by the peaks of three volcanoes and puebli where the direct descendants of the ancient Mayan people live.
The Pacaya with its long tongues of fire but above all the explosive force of Fuego with its spectacular Strombolian activity.
Another volcano that has remained in my heart is Fogo, the only active volcano of the ten islands that make up the archipelago of Cape Verde, a black pearl in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean that with its steep sides and black sand beaches reminds me of Stromboli but perhaps even more poignant beauty. A rugged island of rocks and lava flows inhabited by a friendly and tenacious people. The volcano rises at 2830mt inside the huge caldera “cha das calderas”, here the local community dedicated to agriculture works with enormous effort the volcanic soil to produce an excellent red wine that is the essence of this island strong and full of contrasts.
Then there are the volcanoes in their wintery guise visited skiing on their feet, the volcanoes of the island of Hokkaido covered by the famous “sashimi powder” are one of the places that can absolutely transmit me more joy, make the first track on such a powdery snow and watch the lines drawn on the sides of the volcano at the end of the day immersed in an “onsen” (hot springs of volcanic nature).
hot makes you feel at peace with the world.
Another volcano visited skiing at your feet is Mount Baegdu, located exactly on the border between China and North Korea. A little known but very important volcano for North Koreans who consider this huge volcano the birthplace of Dangun, the founder of the first Korean kingdom. The volcano is also famous for having generated one of the most violent eruptions in the world, comparable to the Tambora volcano eruption in Indonesia, the eruption formed a large caldera that is now filled by Lake Heaven.
I want to finish this little summary of my travels and volcanoes with Etna, it is on its sides that I put the skis for the first time and thanks to the passion that my father was able to transmit to me started my great love for these mountains full of energy. Without going too far away the splendor of a place can be captured even if this place is familiar to us.
“Travelling is always observing with different eyes even places already seen” (Alain de Botton).