[ 02:15 friday 5 may – stromboli ]
i’m wedged between rocks about eight hundred metres up the volcano, on my own. scrambling up the scree on hands and knees a few minutes ago i was suddenly engulfed in thick cloud. visibility is down to three metres. the wind whips and tugs from unpredictable directions. from time to time there’s the roar of an eruption, above me to the left, and the cloud glows orange. it’s cold. the rocks glisten with moisture. i feel completely alone.
as i write, the clouds open above me and the vast mantle of stars is unveiled, but i know the cloud may close around me again at any moment.
i was planning to go to the summit tonight but this is the first time i’ve come up alone and the cloud is scaring me. even in clear conditions it’s easy to lose your way up here and find yourself on the edge of a precipice.
03:33 / the last hour has been hard work. after writing the previous entry i agonised about whether to carry on upwards or give in. finally i couldn’t resist being so close to the top and started scrambling upward again. sure enough the cloud closed around me five minutes later, punishing me for my arrogance. since then i’ve been painstakingly picking my way down the mountainside, straining to pick out the path (such as it is). several times i’ve erred and had to retrace my steps some distance. i never imagined i’d feel such gratitude for the occasional splashes of white paint left behind by consciencious guides.
the cloud extended about six hundred metres down the mountain and i only emerged a moment ago. looking with gratitude at the starry sky i was rewarded with the second-brightest meteorite i’ve ever seen, streaking across the mountain leaving a brilliant fizzing trail behind it. i made one hell of a wish.
04:40 / back home, relieved, tired.