A damp start to a road trip.

26th Sept.

Breakfast in the hotel was a substantial buffet, but Covid rules meant that masks had to be worn when not seated and plastic gloves were worn whilst selecting and handling items of food. The restaurant was very full by 8am when we entered and we were lucky to find a vacant table. It seems the hotel is a venue for coach tours and I guess that departing guests were down early to ensure a full stomach for perhaps a long journey to come. As we left the hotel for the start of day one of our road trip, several coaches arrived brimming full of replacement French tourists.

Rain was in the air and the surrounding mountainous landscape was shrouded in low cloud as we drove west along the southern coast road, it wasn’t long before the windscreen wipers were employed. We headed for Fetieras and a thermal pool that years ago on a previous visit, Sarah had enjoyed a warm swim in this small rocky volcanic inlet. We passed through a couple of brief showers enroute, but the clouds thankfully parted as we arrived. Making our way on foot along a gravelly and narrow path which meandered below towering black and red volcanically smeared cliffs we found the pool. There were several occupants already enjoying the warmth generated from volcanic vents meeting seawater, more arrived as we clambered over the difficult terrain, keen to feel the heat of the water. We had packed trunks but chose not to dip our toes and experience the supposed therapeutic properties of volcanic water today and opted to visit the nearby lighthouse instead.

We continued our way along the coast road, stopping at fishing villages, more thermal vents, windmills etc. as our fancy took until we reached the township of Mosteiros. Here we stopped to shelter from yet another shower and enjoyed coffee in a small beachside café. We continued our coastal meandering until reaching Santa Anotonio when we decided to take lunch along with locals in a lovely road side restaurant.

Sated, continuing on we cut across the island, heading ever upwards to quite dizzying heights and much less lunch vegetation to a new destination and a hot waterfall which years ago Sue, Sarah and I had enjoyed the pleasure of. Today however, it was much changed, a ticket office and gates barred our entrance. Joining the small queue I requested a couple of tickets, only to be told that maintenance was being done on the pool and at present it was empty, maybe open tomorrow. Like the majority of other disappointed bathers we returned to our cars to seek other thrills.

Deviating from the metalled road we took a rough track to a see a spectacular gurgling and gushing spout of steam that was part of some island thermal power source. Not long afterwards we deviated again to see another waterfall, this one used as a source of hydro-electric power and made more interesting by the foolhardiness of a mini-bus driver who had got his vehicle stuck in the damp ground and had to be extricated by a recovery lorry. Embarrassing but amusing to watch.

We returned to Ponta Degada via several cloud shrouded lakes and calderas. Leaving the car at the hotel we walked into town making our way to the small fort at the end of the harbour. Paying the entrance fee we roamed the walls, tunnels and rooms of this ancient monument, observed the military items on display with interest. I have previously been to the fort on two other occasions and it was pleasing to note that they continually update theit exhibits.

We spent the next couple of hours sat people watching from a small bar in the main square, before finding a restaurant in the harbour for our evening meal and more people watching. Later in the evening we returned to the bar of last night’s downpour to shelter again with refreshment and other patrons under another deluge.

27th Sept. A day of incidents.

We woke to heavy rain and news that petrol in the UK had hit £1.50 a litre. It turned out that here in mid Atlantic we had other vehicular problems. With breakfast stored away and the rain having abated, we ventured out to find that our little run-about refused to respond to the central locking key, the battery was flat! Deflatingly, Jamie had neglected to switch off the lights last night. Despite me breaking the 10 second sprint barrier when pushing the car down the hill, it obstinately refused to jump start. Luckily it came to a rest next to a motor sales outlet,  and after explaining to the sales rep on duty about our predicament, he kindly dug out a ‘jump starter’ and soon had us revving along the coast road towards Lagoa.

Again, we hugged the coast avoiding the mist and cloud shrouded inland, visiting little bays and fishing villages that took our fancy. Spending time in each to satisfy our curiosity before moving on. At around 11am we stopped awhile at a small café for coffee in Vila de Agua de Pau and admired the view over the pretty harbour with its backdrop of towering vegetation covered volcanic cliffs. We are getting quite adept now at clambering over coastal lava flows to investigate their weird and wonderful shapes. What a sight they must have been when they first met the sea millennia ago.

Reaching Vila Franca do Campo we parked in the main square and had what I first thought was a very satisfying lunch in a small café off the concourse. However, on returning to the car we discovered we had a parking ticket. Not knowing what to do with it we drove to the harbour where I discussed our problem with a guy serving in a burger bar who just happened to speak perfect English. He informed me that we could pay the 5 euro fine at an ATM, but when I explained that the machine would be in Portuguese and I wouldn’t have a clue how to do it, he offered to pay it for me with his phone, online. With the task soon completed a gave him 5 euros for his trouble and we were back on the road, conscience cleared and heading towards Lagas das Fumas and Furnas.

The lake, set within the caldera of the volcano is quite stunning, but surprisingly couldn’t be seen on our descent from the rim, but its ‘reveal’ is that more special for its surprising appearance. Plumes of steam from the far shore brought back pleasant memories of a previous visit, so we turned into the narrow access road that took us to the thermal springs. Times have changed, now there is a ticket to be bought from a uniformed, female ranger waiting outside her little hut. Fee paid we parked up to be instantly surrounded by geese, cackling for scraps. They were hugely  unimpressed by the bag of peanuts on offer from Jamie and spat them out! What were they expecting? Goose liver pate on toast?

We took the walkway which meandered through the thermal springs, taking as many photos as the steam and obnoxious fumes permitted. It was as we were marvelling at one of the larger pools that a family Messenger conference call came in. We chatted for a while, but sights and things have to be seen and time is short. Reluctantly we brought the conversation to an end. Moving on we reached the forest walk which took you up to the base of the spectacular waterfall which fed the lake, when we were stopped by a male, uniformed ranger emerging from another small hut. He demanded more euros to follow the path. We politely declined, mentioning that we thought that we had already paid and returned to the geese and car via the bank of the lake.

We were soon in the very picturesque village of Furnas. Plumes of steam seemed to be erupting throughout the settlement and on closer examination they appeared mostly to come from hot bubbling ponds of angry water, though the small stream flowing rapidly through the centre contributed to a feeling of an eerie and hidden danger. Not a safe place to live I consider, it can’t be too many metres below the ground that molten lava is fermenting away, biding its time.

As we were leaving Jamie got a call from Ruth with the good news that she has sold her house. That only leaves Jamie to sell his now. Moving on we came across a small hydroelectric museum located in a tiny village off the main highway. The building was closed but a kindly old gentleman appeared from the window of the house next door and gestured us to wait. He was the key holder and though spoke no English showed us around the sparse but important exhibits. It transpired that it was the first such generator on the island, built in 1902 and though not working now, it had been lovingly renovated from just a shell of a building and rusty broken machinery.  Afterwards we chose to follow the course of the piping that once carried the water through the village and up the valley. It was as I leapt across a small stream that the second incident of the day occurred. Missing my footing I plunged into the water completely soaking myself, the plan had been to swim in a pool underneath a waterfall further up the valley, but as I had already just ‘experienced’ a similar activity I left Jamie to carry on while I sloshed my way back to the car and change into dry clothing. As I completed this task and was considering where I could hang my sodden garments to start the drying process, that the heavens opened up. So, inside a rapidly steaming-up car I waited for Jamie. Idly checking Messenger on my damp mobile, I noted that at just about the same  time I fell into the stream I received a message from Sue asking when we were going for a swim. Hmmmm!

After Jamie returned with tales of a wonderful time in the pool, we headed to a tea plantation in Porto Fomosa. On a previous visit to the island we had looked for this  place but failed to find it. It is a shame that I don’t drink tea and Jamie is also not keen on the liquid, but to his credit he did try a couple of the brews while I satisfied myself with a walk through the plantation itself.

Next stop was our hotel in Ponta Delgada. It was as we were ascending the elevator to our room that my stomach began to complain. I knew what it was, sometimes you can taste it in your mouth. The chicken I had for lunch was to blame, fortunately for Jamie he had pork. Instead of walking into town for dinner and drinks that evening I satisfied myself with ridding myself of the offensive fowl as quickly as possible, while Jamie went alone.

 

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