Sao Miguel

Back Across the Pond - Summer 2017
John Andrews
Mon 27 Jun 2011 06:09

Just the quickest of blogs about Sao Miguel. The troops are about to arrive and my life will not be my own!

We have loved all the islands we have visited so far, but in many ways we have saved the best until last. Sao Miguel is a spectacularly beautiful island. We have had a three day car hire and seen the most famous of the highlights, but there is a lot more to see.

We first made our way to Sete Cidades, to see the island’s most iconic view, two lakes, one green and one blue, high in a volcanic crater separated by a narrow causeway. There are the most fabulous views over the lakes, which are distinctly green and blue. The air here is so clear that all the colours seem to be intensified. Just driving along, you get the bright green of the grass and roadside shrubs, setting off the brilliant blues of the hydrangeas, which are just coming  into flower and the deeper blue of the agapanthus that line the roads.  These then provide a framework for the black and white cows that you frequently see just wandering up the road, often apparently on their own. We drove down to the village that lies at the causeway, joining the two lakes. This is a very simple village, in the past, obviously very cut off from everything, and it hasn’t really joined the modern world, even today.

We then drove through  spectacular countryside, stopping at various miradouros to look down on lakes set in craters. We had a good but typically filling lunch at a restaurant we had been told about, followed by a quick descent to the sea on the North side of the island, where we stopped to look at the big rolling waves that were coming in. We stopped briefly in Ribeira Grande,  a most attractive town, before setting up over the mountains again, past small spa villages, and rather unnerving notices regarding ‘gassing off’ and  warnings  to stay too long, and definitely not to lie down, before we reached our second destination, Furnas.

Furnas is famous for its hot springs which were in evidence all over the village, steaming and bubbling away.  It is also famous for the Terra Nostra gardens, which were started over a hundred and fifty years ago by the American Vice-Consul. They are now mature and luxuriant gardens, the highlight of which is a stone pool, about 50 metres in diameter, filled with ochre yellow water, constantly topped up with hot water from a natural spring. We stayed in the hotel that now owns the gardens, and were able to use the pool for free. It was just like getting into a warm bath, a very hedonistic experience.  The pool closes at 8 oclock, but on our second night, we were taking an evening walk through the gardens, and spotted a couple who were enjoying an illicit splash – I quite envied them! The hotel itself was built in the 1930’s and was very art deco – a slightly Germanic feel – perhaps in part due to the  fact that all the fellow guests were German!

The tourist office recommended a walk up a valley on the South of the island which was brilliant, not too difficult, but obviously an old track leading up to a fabulous water fall – very reminiscent of Dominica. Part of the route took us through an abandoned village which was slowly coming back to life. One or two of the houses had been done up and there was evidence of others in the process of being restored. A fabulous remote location overlooking the sea, they will make glorious homes.

Our final trip in the car took us to a sea pool beyond Ponta Delgada which was heated by a thermal spring. It was a very strange experience. When we looked into the water, we could see a lot of ropes strung up and down the pool. When we got in, it became obvious what the ropes were for. The sea would surge in from one end, and everyone was swept towards the head of the pool, before being washed back again towards the mouth as the water swooshed out, so the ropes were needed to hang on to, to stop being swept onto the rocks. There was the strangest sensation of swimming through streams of cold then hot water as the warm volcanic water mixed with the sea water. Unfortunately, the surroundings were very unattractive, a mix between an abandoned quarry and a landfill site, so interesting though the experience was we didn’t hang around very long.

Provisioning the boat was a delight. There is a wonderful market selling largely local produce grown on the volcanic soil, so very tasty. I bought some of their fabulous beef to make a stroganoff. I would have bought cheese there too, but the cheese shop was full to bursting with people jostling to get at the counter so I had to abandon that and buy the local cheese from the supermarket, which I am sure will be just as good.

The team have arrived now, so we are out to dinner and then onto the square for Caipirinhas – they make the best ever here. There will be no sense in me after that so logging off now until the start of our journey back to Falmouth.