Thursday, April 11, 2024

Azores 2024 - Popping Man-of-Wars, Ocean Swim, Beach Nap

This may be the most beautiful morning of the trip. I am up early and out for a long walk under clear skies, a slight breeze, and 18 degrees of glorious sunshine. The bushes and rock walls are literally writhing with thousand of lizards, coaxed out of their winter dormancy by the heat. I find a coastal path which leads to Sunset Beach, then to Populo Beach, and here I play a game of “pop the blue bottles”. The Portuguese Man-of-War is this amazing creature (actually four creatures in one) that often washes up on beaches at high tide. It travels through the ocean by inflating a sack with gas and using it like a sail as it floats across the surface with its tentacles reaching down into the water, sometimes at an incredible length of 50 metres. Today there are dozens of these guys on the beach and the organic “pop” they make when you step on them with your shoe is immensely satisfying, so I step them all, being careful not to get any on my bare skin as they leave a nasty sting. The quantity of these blue terrors makes me rethink swimming in the ocean here, as I’ve been stung by them before and it is incredibly painful.

After breakfast, Ana and I drive into Ponta Delgada and I set myself up at a snack bar with my laptop to do some writing while Ana shops for gifts for the kids. There are three cruise ships in port today and many more tourists around than we’ve seen so far. I eavesdrop on my coffee-drinking neighbours as I write and most of them are American or English.

We walk down to the Portas do Mar area and I get changed into my swimsuit and take a glorious ocean swim. There are many people here today, locals pulled from their winter slumber into a preview of the summer season ahead. The Azoreans have built so many amazing natural ocean pools that you are never far away from one on this island, and they are always free. The water is chilly but manageable and I float around in the ocean for a while as Ana soaks up the sunshine. I wish I had brought along my goggles so I could see what ocean creatures are swimming around down there, but I wasn’t sure if I’ve even get a chance for a swim on this trip.

We hang around downtown for a while longer then drive back to Sunset Beach for a long and easy lunch at the seaside restaurant. The black sand beach beckons us over so I lay out the small towel we had brought, and my shirt, then we both lay down and instantly fall asleep to the music of the surf and the seabirds. The full sun does a number on me and when I look in the mirror back at the house, a red-faced vacationer stares back at me. After a long sunless winter, I don’t mind some colour.

With John and Maria we make our final trip over to Ana Margarida’s house for a visit, then we walk over to Tia Ana’s house to go through all her possessions which are stored in the garage. Tia Ana asked us to go through everything, take what the family in Canada might want, then donate or dispose of the rest. We take a whole box full of photos, some blankets, and a small amount of jewelry, all to be distributed to the family in Canada. We say our goodbye’s to this wonderful lady and thank her again for taking such good care of our aunt.

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