Think twice before you take a dip in volcanic mud!

On a recent holiday to Sicily with friends, we took a boat out to the Aolian Islands (where Stromboli lies) to the north east of the island – it was a 30 minute hydrofoil trip to the nearest islands of Lipari and Volcano.

Lipari was very pretty and we found a great place for lunch, which consequently lasted quite a while and then resulted in a mad sprint to catch the ferry on to Vulcano. This was where we had been told there were volcanic mud baths, which were very good for skin, aching muscles etc. What I hadn’t realized was the awful pong – you could smell it wafting over the water as the ferry docked, like a mountain of bad eggs and hot air balloon farts.

So for the suspiciously cheap price of 2 Euros we stripped off to our cossies and walked past spires of steam wafting off nearby rocks to wade into the mud bath. Oddly after a while I lost the ability to smell the pungent pong – I think it was just so bad that my nose decided to shut down.

Anyway, back to the mud bath. I had expected gloopy mud, but actually it was more like a thick suspension of mud up to waste height into which you sat so it came up to your neck. At the bottom some areas were really hot – too hot to touch as hot bubbles rose to the surface with a whiffy plop. There is only so much mud sitting one can take, but sadly the only way to rinse off was to jump into what turned out to be a very cold sea floating with bits of mud off peoples bodies – not that nice. The secret was to follow the bubbles to find a warm patch of water in which to rinse off. The stones underneath were incredibly hot, and apparently the temperature only a few inches underneath is 500 degrees, so it was a bit unnerving to be dobbing about in the knowledge that not far beneath me lay a cauldron of boiling water and rocks.

Once out all seemed fine, until, having dried off we all found that our skin stank to high heaven – a smell that was instantly transferred to our clothes as we got dressed.

So we easily cleared a space on the hydrofoil back to Cefalu, and that night set off to a restaurant on the coast. It was a bit windy so they had the windows closed – until we arrived and after 5 minutes there was a lot of sniffing and tutting from other diners and all the windows were flung wide – so we pretty much cleared the restaurant of diners too. And so it went on – the hotel room stank when we got back, and all our clothes ponged after a flight packed into a suitcase together. Five or six washes later most of the clothes no longer smelt, and neither did I! But no matter how many times I washed our swimwear I couldn’t budge the pong.

So the lesson to be learned is DO NOT be tempted to bath in a volcanic sulphur mud bath, no matter what people tell you are the benefits. If you must, then wear old stuff and throw it away afterwards – and DO NOT pack those clothes in your case. And to be honest, I didn’t feel any better or smoother skinned either – just smelly. Even the dog was unusually unpleased to see us when we got back and just gave us a distant tail wag before retreating to a safe distance.