Tuesday, June 26, 2012

2012 Azores trip - Day 6

Wake up, make a coffee, do some writing, eat some breakfast and we’re off on a day trip.  We drove up the winding roads of Lagoa du Fogo which is a thousand foot volcano with an amazing crater lake at the top which you are rarely able to see because of the frequently low hanging clouds.  As in past years, we reach the top and have a visibility of about 50 feet, so in order to avoid child disappointment, I tell the kids to stick their hand out the window and grab a handful of cloud, as we are right in the middle of a gigantic one.  They don’t believe it is actually a cloud until we’ve made our descent and look back up the mountain to see the thick cover.
Near the bottom, we pull into a parking area and start the short hike to Caldeira Velha, a popular site which we had yet to visit, and we are not disappointed.  The well groomed trail leads us through lush tropical vegetation, and a trickling stream of water on the right hand side.  We approach a big sign which says, in four different languages, “Danger, natural boiling water”, beyond which is a bubbling pond with sulphuric steam burping out.  A short distance beyond here is the main attraction, a naturally warm waterfall spilling into a beautifully tranquil swimming area.  There are six or seven people there when we arrive, and only two of them in the water, so we get our swimsuits on and jump in.  The water at the edge is cool, but the closer to the waterfall you get, the warmer the water is, and as you move into the waterfall itself, you realize this is where all the heat is coming from.  The hot water massage is amazing!

We stay in the water for twenty minutes then decide to pack up and move on.  As we’re getting ready to leave, an entire tour group of Germans and Danes arrive and the area and pool is now full of people, so we thank our fortunate timing and hike back to the car.

From here, we continue heading north east, passing one of the main geothermal power plants (which produces nearly half the electricity on the island), then we reach the north coast, just east of Ribeira Grand, the second largest town on the island.  Driving east, we pass two tea plantations, which are the only ones which exist in Europe, then continue driving along the excellent roadways all the way to the town of Furnas, which is the most geothermically active part of the island.  As we’ve explored Furnas extensively in the past, we pass through town and drive to the town of Povocao, which is one of our favourite places on the island.  It is a small, self contained village in a valley bordered by hills on all sides except the south, which is the ocean.  The streets and walkways are all cobblestone and decorated with elaborate patterns, using combinations of white and black stones.

After a delicious lunch, we walk over to the small zoo which is located in the center of the town which is always open and free to the public.  It is a lovely little spot and has many birds, monkeys, rabbits, guinea pigs and a big peacock who just loves to show off his feathers.  After the zoo, Ana and Stella do some shopping while Magnus and I kick around a soccer ball he bought in town, which helped to burn off a bit of the massive lunch I consumed.

We jumped back in the car, turned west and started heading towards home, but we had one more stop to make – Ribeira Quente, which means “hot river”.  This is another coastal town, and one which we have never visited before.  The road there was gorgeous, hydrangeas on both sides of the road, many roadside stops with picnic tables, grills and shade trees and many views to the river flowing in the valley below.  The town itself was nice and featured a large fishing port and a beautiful, big beach area, which was “under construction” as the hillside had given way and a house had been lost so they are doing a six month project to reinforce the area and prevent future collapses.  We had a coffee in a restaurant overlooking the beach, then got back on our way and were soon back at tia Ana’s.  John and Maria joined us for a dinner of fresh tuna then we played some soccer in the backyard.  To finish off the night, we played a game of Portuguese Scrabble with the kids (plenty of English words thrown in too) and that was it for the day. 

No comments:

Post a Comment