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My name is Walter, I am 19 years old and come from Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire. After attending high school in Harrogate I went on to do a two year Outdoor Adventure Sports course at Askham Bryan college in York. This course fitted perfectly with my interest in one day having a profession within the outdoor industry and taught me a lot about being a safe and effective leader in mountainous or lowland terrain as well as being able to manage a group in many different situations. I also learnt a thing or two about environmental science including geology and volcanology. After completing my college course and deferring my place at Cumbria university, I was ready to exercise the knowledge I have picked up from my course as well as enjoy the beautiful outdoors than here on Mount Etna in Sicily?

After six weeks here we have settled in to our home and the surrounding area brilliantly. We have felt amazingly welcomed by the Etna Finder team as well as the locals in the area we live, it seems everyone is very happy to help out where they can to make our stay as comfortable as possible and we have felt spoilt to say the least.

A typical working day will usually start by getting picked up in the morning by a guide, we will then travel to the pickup point for our guests and from there, begin the tour. We will visit a couple of places in the morning; the Bove valley, a vast plane of old lava fows in which the old and extinct volcanoes once stood or the Sartorious craters from 1865, named after a German scientist who mapped Etna so perfectly however two years after he died, the craters popped up which partially distorted his map and therefore taking his name in honor of his hard work. Depending on whether we have a full day or half day we will get a giant and important to note for us students, free lunch that will always consist of Sicilian cuisine – this is always very welcomed by me and my friend Nathan. After lunch we will visit a few more interesting and eye-catching sights around the volcano for example the Grotta della Neve, a lava tunnel or cave used to preserve snow for the production of ice in the 16th century. We may also see the old North side ski station where you can see the ruins of a three story hotel that was engulfed by lava flow in 2002. This place is particularly sad to visit for some of the guides who learned to ski in that area before the destruction of the lava flow as it is a much different place now, having seen pictures from before and seeing it now I can definitely sympathize with them and see how they find it hard to visit. One thing that is very interesting however is that they do not blame Etna for this because it is the nature of a volcano to cover land with lava, instead they try to hold the memories from before the lava flow in their hearts and try to see the land as a new beauty rather than dwelling on what it once was. They say you can’t adapt Etna, you must adapt to Etna in order to live there. And if you don’t like it you can happily move somewhere else.

So far we have mainly been observing the tours almost from a customer’s perspective and trying our upmost to take in information about different sights we go to, so that hopefully we can soon lead our own tours. The guides have been very good at making sure me and Nathan understand completely what they are explaining as well as our customers on the tour. Although I have learnt it doesn’t just take masses of knowledge about volcanology, geology and the flora and fauna on Etna but it is also about entertaining your customers so that they have as fun and interesting a day as possible.

In our free time we have explored some of the coastal towns, including Aci Reale and Taormina – these amazing places, both for history and for doing some snorkeling and sunbathing in the bays. We have also explored the city of Catania on various occasions and have made it a necessity to try the amazing seafood they have on offer within the city as well as discovering the intense nightlife, very fun! So far we have mainly been using public transport to get around, there is a reliable bus service to and from Catania that passes through a lot of the neighboring towns and villages which has been very useful to us. There is also a train service from Catania to coastal towns and also other parts of Sicily which we are yet to visit. In the last week we have acquired bicycles that Lorenzo, our tutor kindly got for us which are perfect as we have much more freedom to travel longer distances in our free time as well as doing some exercises while we’re at it.

One problem we encountered at first was the language barrier when in shops or a restaurant, for example asking for bags or making sure you don’t buy four bottles of lactose-free milk *cough cough*, however we quickly picked up the right things to say, not to say and not to buy and can easily communicate by this point. On top of this people are very quick to try and help you along, often pulling out there phones to use google translate or pulling in other people who speak a little bit of English which is very nice and helpful for us.

All in all our first six weeks have been amazing and I can’t believe how many different experiences I’ve had so far. I am very excited for the coming ten months!

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