After the symposium the tour of the islands began. There were about 40 participants and up to 16 nautical miles of paddling each day. Gravita’ Zero lent me a Tahe Marine Reval Mini, and despite being just over 15 feet long, it was easy to load four days worth of gear and food into it. The kayak proved to be extremely maneuverable, and was perfect for the extensive rock gardens, tunnels, caves and archways that encompass the Aeolian Islands. The storms of the past few days had cleared up, leaving both the sky and the water a rich blue color. Fluffy white clouds lingered above each of the islands that dotted the Mediterranean Sea. Everyone’s spirits were high as we left Vulcano, the location of the symposium, and began our journey to three of the other islands.
Over the next four days we paddled along the islands Vulcano, Lipari, Salina and Panarea. Each island has its own special features, and we encountered stunning cliffs, sea caves, tunnels and arches. During the crossing from Lipari to Panarea we stopped halfway to swim and eat melon in the warm afternoon sun. Dolphins entertained us with a playful show of leaps and tricks, and a large sea turtle meandered past, lifting his head to look at the group of kayakers before diving into the depths of the sea.
At night we cooked together, laughing under the moonlight and enjoying the company of new friends. Plates were passed from one person to the next, as everyone wanted to sample the dishes of their neighbors. People slept in either bungalows or tents. During the day we stopped to rest and swim on beaches or at the small towns on the islands. Each island seemed to be famous for a different yummy treat, and I tried many of them, talking to the people that lived there and becoming mesmerized by the beautiful scenery, traditional Italian houses and charming verandas and alleys.
During my visit to Italy I realized that there is something special about this group of islands that sits at the very bottom of a country the other side of the world from my home. Magic lingers there amongst the warm air, the volcanos, the dark blue water and the wonderful people. As my plane flew away, I took one last look at the islands, trying to lock it all into my memory. When the last of them disappeared from my view, I smiled, closed my eyes and drifted off into a deep sleep.
(more pictures can be found in the gallery)