Two different Futurismo tours went to Sete Cidades, in a high volcanic crater in the western part of the island. One was more adventurous – biking, kayaking the lake, and some hiking to King’s Viewpoint, led by Claude, which is the one Clare chose.
I took the “easy” hike, which was about 11 kilometers around the rim of the big crater overlooking Blue Lake and Sete Cidades. This was led by Trine, the young mother originally from Estonia. But due to my injured arm and fear of falling again on uneven or slippery terrain, I ended up alternating walking with the group (most of the uphill climb) and riding in the accompanying jeep with Pablo (downhill during steep portions and when it was raining).
We drove to Sete Cidades via Arrife, where the large milk production plant was shown to us, then off on “farm roads” (similar to county dirt roads in the US).
We had to stop for about 15 minutes when a large herd of about 200 cows came down the one lane road toward us, being moved to new pastures. I laughed that the bull was being driven on a flatbed truck at the very end; I guess it would have been too tempting to turn him loose with all the bovine ladies.
Part of our morning hike took us through private land, where the Japanese cedars had just been clear cut. I explained that in the Western US, clearcutting damages soil, so that even though it is more expensive, not all the trees in one area are harvested at the same time. I was told that since the land is private, and the trees mature in about 30 years, each generation depends upon the income from one tree cutting.
When we met up with the jeep again, the group was going to go down a steeper, more slippery part of the hike, so I joined Pablo in the jeep, until we could meet up again. It started raining about then, so I avoided both the steepest part of the walk and getting wet in the rain.
We parked at the Queen’s viewpoint overlook of two lakes, where we would meet up with the rest of the group again. I had a private explanation of the color of the blue and green lakes at Sete Cidades from Pablo. The scientific explanation has to do with the depths of the water and whether they reflect the sky or vegetation. But the local myth is that a royal princess fell in love with a farmer, the king found out and of course, forbade their love, and they met one last time at the bridge, the young man crying tears from his green eyes, the young princess crying tears from her blue eyes. (Since women weep more than men, Blue Lake is larger.)
After documenting the view with our cameras, I joined the group continuing to hike downhill, until the last mile, which was steeper and rugged, so I waited for someone to come from the village and fetch me.
My pick up guide said he’d been with Clare at the mountain rim earlier, and seen her kayaking on the lake before I got there.
She got a gorgeous photo of the Lagos de Sete Cidades with a blooming azalea bush in the foreground.
Cete Sidades has picturesque houses, a large church, a couple of restaurants/cafes, some tour offices. I enjoyed a café at the lakeside snack bar. I imagine in summer it is full of visitors and tourists. But fall through spring the population is very low.
Apparently a large hotel was built to accommodate anticipated visitors, but it went out of business after a couple of seasons.
There was a church to St. Nicolau in the town center, set again in a beautiful plaza area. The Azorean blue tiles decorated the sides of the sanctuary.
For the mid-afternoon we headed north up to Mosteiros. This is where the most recent volcanic eruption in 1811 added some “land” to the western tip of the island. There is both a “piscine natural” there – a rocked in place to bathe fed both by hot thermal water and incoming tidal water from the ocean, and also a spa with a swimming pool also using the thermal waters.
Unlike the Furnas thermal pool in the Botanical Garden, the minerals in the water were not yellowish but clear and did not stain clothes. Clare tried both the natural piscine and the spa one you had to pay for. The volcanic rocks made it hard to get to the piscine natural, and since the tide was high, the water wasn’t very warm. But the spa thermal pool was warm and delightful – Clare hated to leave so soon.
I was able to switch tour vans and travel back to Ponta with Clare.The return trip went around the southwest part of Sao Miguel, retracing my route on Monday, but Clare hadn’t yet seen this part.
Instead of heading back across the island to Dos Hisbiscos, we wanted to stay in town to eat dinner. We’d had such a great meal at A Tasca in downtown Ponta the first night, we tried that again. Instead of entrees, we tried 5 tapas dishes. Although one of the same dishes was ordered as Sunday evening, it wasn’t quite as tasty. The sautéed mushrooms were also pretty salty as well as garlicky – if I have one complaint about Azorean cuisine, it is that even the most delicious sauces and meats were a little too salty. But then again, the saltiness did encourage the consumption of not just water but wine.
For dessert, the appeal of the passionfruit meringue at the Palmeras de Quinta back in Lagoa was too strong to resist, so instead of staying in Ponta, we drove the several kilometers back to Lagoa. The waiters were puzzled when we said we only wanted dessert, but understood when we explained we’d been there a couple nights earlier. We promised a good review in Trip Advisor.
When we returned to Dos Hibiscos, Clare went on up to our room, but I stayed up and talked a while with Susana. I was very impressed with her efforts as a single mother of a teenage daughter to provide. She’d been widowed when her daughter was very young, and moved from the Madeiras, where her family still lives, to the Azores, where she works as a special education teacher. Only the 2009 economic recession had been so back that Portugal and the Azores still hadn’t recovered. She hadn’t had a raise since 2008. She originally got the house in Fenais da Luz with a former boyfriend, but he wasn’t good for her and was soon out of the picture – leaving her with a house she couldn’t really afford alone. But she got a loan, did renovations to make two bedrooms into rentals, and was using the income from the B&B to help sustain her. 2015 had been her first year to open, and it wasn’t all year. Her last winter booking had been in November, and April was just the beginning of new seasonal bookings. While we were there, she got another booking for the few days between our leaving and new guests coming, so she was quite content.