After exploring both Sete Cidades and Lagoa do Fogo with the Teacher and the Brown Student and enjoying countless beers at the local watering hole in Ponta Delgada, I joined the boys the next day for a short road trip around the south coast of the island ending at the lighthouse in Nordeste.
We got a late start, like 2pm late start, because the Teacher needed his beauty sleep. Actually the Teacher rented an Airbnb room in the small village of Vila de Agua de Pau and needed to get his stuff and drive the 20+ minutes back to Ponta Delgada to pick myself and the Brown Student up at our hostels. Downtown Ponta Delgada has free wifi in many of the historic and tourist areas, but free wifi is hard to find in other parts of the island making communication hard with fellow travelers staying in different places. But, we were able to make contact and on the road by mid-afternoon.
While staying in Vila de Agua de Pau, the Teacher did a little exploring around the tiny seaside village and found a sandy beach and cave that he wanted to show us so we headed back to where he just was that morning. Our on way there the Teacher decided that he liked driving on the wrong side of the highway and thus we had a close call with death as he drove us into oncoming traffic! Just as I was starting to like this guy, he was quickly losing points. I don’t know about you, but dying by head-on collision is not the way I would like to go. Thanks dude. Luckily the sun was shinning brightly today and the crazy hurricane force winds from the previous couple of days had died down. The tide was low so we were able to walk down to the tiny gray sandy beach to explore the natural cave built by centuries of waves crashing into the black volcanic rocks. The sand was deep and the beach was littered with dead seabird skeletons and tiny clear jellyfish washed up by sea-foam to their death.
After basking in the sun while it lasted on the beach for a few minutes, we jumped back into the car for a short drive to the very tiny fishing village of Caloura where there is a small black volcanic rock beach next to the fishing pier and saltwater pool. The boys wanted to “borrow” a couple of rocks and I just strolled out onto the pier to take pictures of it. Undisclosed to me, the Teacher snapped a few pictures of me on the pier. I guess the few pictures serve as proof that I was actually on the island since I much prefer being behind the camera than in front of it, but I think I must now be under surveillance by the government because I’m about 89.5% sure the Teacher is in fact a spy and not a real teacher….
As we were standing on the pier and looking back towards the lush green island of Sao Miguel, we could see the impeding rain clouds coming over the hills towards us. We hit the road towards Povoacao, the original settlement of Sao Miguel, but decided to take a detour to Furnas to see the geysers next to Lagoa das Furnas. Unfortunately the clouds and drizzle we saw coming over the hills towards us in Caloura were coming from Furnas. I was hoping for clear skys as I was really hoping to photograph the lake and its famous church, but as we were bouncing our way down the cobblestone, tree-lined road towards the geysers, the clouds were hanging low over the lake blocking much of its view. We stopped at the geysers to see where the Cozido Caldeira is cooked. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot I could smell the telltale smell of geysers… that sweet smell of sulfur. Despite the lovely rotten egg smell, the geysers let off warmth that felt amazing in the cool drizzle encompassing us at the moment. Even the stray cats knew where to lay dangerously close to the geysers to stay warm.
As we drove through the town of Furnas towards the coastal town of Povoacao, the clouds started to break and the sun began to shine it’s heavenly rays. The roads towards Povoacao are situated high above the town on the ridge surrounded by vibrant green cow pastures. Around one curve of the twisting road, a rainbow appeared above a cow pasture creating a picture-worthy moment. The Teacher quickly braked and we dodged under the single strand of electric fence, which was electrified as the poor Brown Student found out. The guard dog attached to the water tank barked wildly at us as we encroached on his territory. I tossed the remains of my sandwich over to him and his tail started wagging as he dismissed our presence in his field. We dodged the massive cow patties and got up close and personal with a few cows that eyed us carefully. Most of them just continued to munch their lives away near the ocean. Only if these cows knew how lucky they were to spend their lives overlooking the rocky coast of an island. It is truly a million dollar view.
We arrived in Povoacao after more twisting around the roads down the ridge to town. At this point my motion sickness was starting to set in and I needed to get out of the car. Our timing was excellent as the sun was shining brightly and we decided to snack on sandwiches on the rocky pier. We walked along the pier chatting about family and life as the golden hour was starting to settle in over the island. The sun was beginning to set over the horizon setting off a beautiful glow over the whitewashed village of Povoacao. We knew the light was fading fast so after the boys finished their beers, we jumped back into the car to make our slow exit up the switchbacks to the main road on higher grounds. Just as we made it back to higher ground, we drove pass a lookout point only to do a 360 turn because the sun was setting over the town in an epic fashion.
I jumped out of the car while grabbing my camera. The sun was letting off beautiful hues of oranges and reds behind the clouds. The contrast of the tiny whitewashed homes down below and the deep greens of the grassy pastures and hillside created an awe-inspiring scene that took my breath away. I love a good sunset and I was excited to finally see one on the island! A family of cats with a couple shy kittens kept us company as we walked around trying to get the best view of the sun kissing us goodnight.
We made our way to our ending point of the night in dusk. The narrow twisting roads situated right next to a giant rocky cliff is a wee bit scary in the darkness. Thankfully, the teacher got us there in one piece (and he stayed on the right side of the road). We arrived at the lighthouse and may or may not have gotten a closer look at it. Our stomaches were growling at this point and we located a snack bar in the middle of town for a couple of sandwiches. My stomach was still a little upset from the car ride and the copious amounts of beer I drank the night before, but I managed to get a small turkey sandwich and a pastry down the hatch. As we got in the car to leave, the Teacher realized he lost his wallet. Awesome! We split up and looked in various spots. Finally the woman at the snack bar found it and we were on our way back to Ponta Delgada.
The ride via the main highway was long and the fog was settling in heavily in the valleys. It was slow going but it gave me a chance to pepper the Teacher with 5000 questions about teaching and the education system in the United States. I also informed the Brown Student, who is a computer science and economics double major (smart boy!), that he needed to find a job in health care technology. Seriously, those are good jobs!
After an hour in the car we made it back to Ponta Delgada in time to head back to our little bar for another long night of fun. Alas, those stories are the ones that we stay between our little Azorean family.