DAY 1 Tuesday, August 19, 2014 (bro-in-law Craig’s b’day)
We sailed off our mooring at 8a this morning, leaving Falmouth and our landing port behind.
This town has been an exceptionally welcoming place for us to recoup from our bouncy Bertha passage, and, we were both a bit sad to leave her in our wake,
which included one of Henry VIII’s defense fortresses, Pendennis Castle,
which we had toured over the weekend.
The requisite shower overtook us as we headed out of (what we were told) the third largest natural harbor in the world (and, it’ll need to be that for last night Carolyn of Amanzi told us 42 tall ships are coming in starting Sunday along with 100,000 more folk…).
Our destination was Fowey, or, as locals told us to pronounce it, ‘FOY’, only 20 miles away.
Winds were kicking up, which tends to make Max and JUANONA happy, as we rounded the point of land featuring yet another of Henry’s fortifications, St. Mawes Castle.
Winds, and currents, also require stowing of items that, after five days in port, it’s easy to forget, including some flowers Max bought (yes! he did! FRESH, CUT ones!). They made the head not only decorative but smelling sweet, too (double bonus :).
In honor of our friends Steve and Katie, we played one of his CDs he brought aboard;
and, JUANONA sailed on…
with the drogue line drying (daily rain showers haven’t helped much in that regard);
and, with NO BOUNCING I easily made it to the mast and bow, walking, not crab-crawling.
Sailing between 7 and 8 kts, we passed Cornish cliffs
and, as we neared Foy’s harbor, we passed what we initially thought were manmade pyramids so perfectly formed and silhouetted against the sky.
Yet, we read they are ‘spoil tips’, or china-clay deposits, located outside the village of St. Austell. Called the ‘Cornish Alps’ these deposits are the only places outside of China where this high quality and quantity of clay can be found.
It being Regatta Week at Foy, we passed a number of yachts preparing for the starting gun,
with one reminding us of Peter Stoops and Katie Wilkinson’s boat, a beautiful Swan 35, FREEDOM
Entering the harbor at the entrance of the Fowey River,
it’s as if someone started enhancing all the colors as we gazed around us, taking in the local beach scene,
townhouses clinging to the cliffside with the famous caves (Cornwall, because of its remoteness coupled with caves and rivers, became a haven for smugglers–or, as a local termed it more elegantly, privateers– for those trying to evade England’s tax on luxury goods),
and beautiful wooden sailboats.
We picked up a swinging mooring (i.e., not on a pontoon) after contacting the Foy Harbor Master who, like Falmouth, couldn’t have been more welcoming. He noted we will probably be rafting, which wasn’t a problem for us.
Ensuring all was shipshape (flowers out of the head and bilge emptied), we dinghied ashore where a flamboyance of activity greeted us.
The swans lent a more tranquil air to the scene.
We got some take-away (take-out) sandwiches (my first ploughman’s of the trip, but NOT the last) and searched for a bench on the local quay.
Finding one, we proceeded to chow down (I know he’s going to get back at me for this one)
and met a couple from Yorkshire who were down for two weeks vacation.
We watched more racing in the distance
and just enjoyed being ashore in such a festive town.
Strolling back to the boat
we hopped in our dinghy and headed across the narrow channel. No sooner had we tied up when Max spotted a young man with three damsels in distress; so, off he went to give them a tow home.
We took showers aboard before we celebrated being in Foy, which felt like Falmouth on steroids. But, no complaints here.
But, day’s not over yet. Max spots some activity across the way and says ‘cocktails aboard dinghy!’
and we pointed the dinghy towards the opposite shore.
Sure enough, a crowd had gathered along the town quay
to watch a race of home-made rafts. The first were young-uns.
with finishers being towed home.
The second was for an older age group, who were a little more muted in their celebrations (no water fights or splashing into the harbor) but still into the spirit of it all.
We headed back to JUANONA (boat behind the one with flags and a small one rafted to us)
while spotting a boat named the same as our crew member Dick/Ricardo and Gail’s boat, Namaste.
Arriving back at JUANONA there were the two sailors who had rafted next to us (Andy and Sean aboard CONNOSSOIEUR). We were hoping they were staying but, they were heading back into town to drive home for the night. We’d see them tomorrow as they were racing again for the next few days.
We wished them a good night, then put ourselves below and to bed with an early supper for tomorrow was another big day.
DAY 2 Wednesday, August 20, 2014
We awoke to a bit of a cloudy day, but no worries for us as we planned to visit an ecological park called “Eden”. We had read about it in a guidebook and had purchased tickets the day before at Fowey’s Tourist Office.
So, after breakfast and after seeing Andy and Sean off, we dinghied across, grabbed a pasty (a typical Cornish pastry stuffed with meat, potatoes, and onions)
and a croissant, then got ready to catch the bus to St. Austell where we could walk 30 minutes up to Eden.
While waiting for the bus we saw a pub dressing in a Monty Python theme for carnival, one of the anticipated events of Fowey Regatta Week,
a location we returned to that night.
Hopping off the bus we started to walk while breakfasting on fruit along the way for there were blackberries galore,
and ripe ones neither of us could resist.
Soon we saw a sign pointing to Eden, indicating a footpath.
Our destination appeared after a forty-minute walk from the bus stop, and it only seemed fitting to arrive on foot at what Max aptly termed an Ecological Disneyland.
Remember the china-clay pyramids we spotted on our sail to Foy? Well, mining of that clay had left many craters, and not necessarily pretty ones either. Some local folk had an idea, which germinated into proving humankind could work with nature, not just against it. The Eden Project was born, and we were looking forward to experiencing this transformation.
Entering via paths, signs began appearing preparing us for this environmentally friendly park,
and, we knew we were in for a treat.
Within a few minutes we had entered into this natural fairyland greeted with the words of the founder and a quick explanation for why and how these Biomes (large, climate-controlled structures) appeared:
I immediately thought of my college roommate, Carol W., who had taken a degree in environmental science back when it was still a fairly new concept. She, along with my so many of my friends, gardeners among them, would love this experience.
Below are photos trying to recreate this world for you, but for the much better and more complete explanation due yourself a favor and visit http://www.edenproject.com. In a few words, these two-layered space frames are covered with foil ‘windows’, i.e., three layers of Ethylenetetrafluoroethylenecopolymer (aka ETFE): inflated-two-meter-deep pillows. Transmitting UV light, ‘they weigh less than 1% of the equivalent area of glass, but can take the weight of a car.’ And, with the British humor we found sprinkled liberally in signage throughout this park, the guidebook continued with ‘We got into the Guiness Book of Records for using the most scaffolding, 230 miles of it – sorry to anyone who was needing some that year.’
The idea began in 1994, funding started slowly only to finally reach critical mass in 1999 when earlier planning could turn into reality. Spring 2000 there was an opening for a preview of Eden and completion of this marvelous, educational regeneration project in 2001. As Tim Smith (now Sir Tim) said this “Living Theatre of Plants and People” (also the name of Eden’s HQs) is to ‘celebrate our relationship with and dependence on plants…’.
In short, this educational charity explores how people can work together and with nature to change things for the better. The Eden Project took ‘a 35-acre global garden in a 50m-deep crater that was once a china clay pit to demonstrate regeneration and the art of the possible.’ And, boy, did they succeed…
The landscape was filled with gardens
with descriptive displays explaining the importance of these plants, usually with words causing us to smile.
Some we even recognized from the Azores.
You could see how walking through this fantastical land of plants would encourage questions and discussions. One place even asked for it with structures set up on picnic tables.
Talk about an easy way to start a conversation.
Sculptures were both literal
as well as educational, such as WEEEman (Waste Electrical and Electronic man) constructed of 3.3 tons, roughly one’ person’s trash of a lifetime,
and where I spotted what could be some of my own personal tech waste.
Among the gardens and in the biomes, we saw explorers dressed in period costumes introducing themselves and their life’s experiences to audiences. We stopped for a chat with a lad explaining Ernest Shakelton’s adventures, one of Max’s inspirational stories.
There were two major climate areas to explore under the biomes: the rainforest;
and, the Mediterranean.
We traveled the various countries’ flora, one where our camera became misty
requiring a visit to the Cool Room to recoup.
Created for imparting knowledge gently to all minds, beginning with some of the youngest,
which, of course, I can never pass up…
It’s easy to learn some quick facts as you peruse the signs throughout the exhibits, one by which I was particularly captivated…
as cockroaches are something I desperately try to avoid cultivating wherever I’m living… just ask Max.
This place also sports the longest zipline in England, one we both were eager to try. You can just make out the starting point in the left of the photo.
Unfortunately, it gets booked way in advance, and it being a holiday month here, we had to forgo that Superman/woman experience.
As we took an elevator back to where we started, we saw The Eden Project had been voted winner of Britain’s 2013 Travel Award. We weren’t surprised.
Can you tell from my attempt in describing our adventure that this project, conceived of by a few and believed in by so many, is truly inspirational, one we won’t likely to forget?
But, time to retrace out route,
including juuuussst missing by four minutes our bus back to Foy. No problem for we just grabbed some snack food from acoss the way as well as the local paper.
We got ourselves back to JUANONA to find two other sailors rafting next to us, Chris and Graeme.
They weren’t racing but were here to experience some of Foy’s festivities, including Carnival and the Red Arrows, Britain’s Blue Angels pilots.
Within an hour, Max and I headed back to shore, first to visit the sailmaker located up a narrow street
and in a tiny shop,
then waiting for the parade while grabbing a pint (or two) and viewing some of the paraders.
They weren’t particularly musical but could beat the drums and shoot a canon.
From there we found a perch
AND, a dwarf donkey… (Tricia, this is for you :)
An hour later, after asking a policeman, we found a better viewing site
and proceeded to laugh and clap as homemade paraders went by, beginning with the noisemakers
and continuing with some wildly outfitted participants.
After an hour or so, it was over, or so we thought as we headed back into the center of town.
But, no, not quite because we had been at the START of the parade, and by the time we got to where we could possibly walk back to our dinghy was EXACTLY when we heard the Foy Town Band come around the corner…
So, we tried to find a different route home, climbing back up the hill (one, which Max claims we must have climbed six times already today).
We didn’t find an escape route but did see some fine views, one being some majestic trees.
Spotting a large open gate, we strolled down the drive and had a lovely view of the harbor (JUANONA is second boat from the left)
and where Max found a wall (his first wall pose since landing in England :).
On the grounds was a very impressive castle,
which I thought was a private home, seeing two cars in the driveway and no signs saying ‘Welcome to…’; but, Max said no, until I saw him beckon me and oh so quietly unlock a gate where a stately “PRIVATE GROUNDS” sign was plastered to the wall.
Fortunately, we made it out undetected. Later, Andy and Sean, two of our rafting neighbors, told us the family’s ancestor (and, the same family still owns it but not too popular in town apparently) built the little tower atop his castle to be taller than the church. Evidently, there had been a falling out with the local vicar, and the castle owner decided to annoy him further. Must have worked to some extent if the family’s labeled a bit off-putting.
Retracing our steps back to the same street we had walked twenty minutes to avoid, we decided just to fall in line behind some of the paraders (we saw others doing it) and wound our way to another awe-inspiring sight, the dinghy dock,
FULL STEAM AHEAD
Untangling our line, we hopped in and motored back to JUANONA and went to bed happy to be in Foy and just as happy to be looking back at the crowds and not in them.
DAY 3 Thursday, August 21, 2011
And, we thought the town was already packed full… well, the dinghy dock from yesterday looked tame compared to this afternoon when we got off the boat to run some quick errands in town.
Circling back and forth three times after already trying to wedge ourselves amidst the other crammed dinghies, we finally found a spot and managed to boat-hop our way to the dock. Ashore we realized the dinghies were only a precursor to the throbbing milling of folk all here to see the Red Arrows, an air show we had specifically sailed to Fowey to see having missed them by 12 hours in Falmouth.
Back to JUANONA we went, prepping (loading dinghy on deck, stowing anything that could go airborne below, and emptying pee pot before harbor races) for an early morning departure for Weymouth, one of my LAST (for a long time) overnight sails.
We then awaited the traditional Cornish workboat races, one of two classes from Falmouth (they had raced here and stayed for Regatta Week, returning on Friday for the Tall Ships the following week in Falmouth).
Sean and Andy appeared happy to have done well in the first race but,
as they put it, knackered from having to handle their boat for another two races (an extra one to make up for the cancelled race the day before) in strong winds. We asked them aboard for beer and nibbles and proceeded to get more local knowledge from these two sailors.
Andy, an oceanographer, told the story of how he took his now-21-year-old daughter out in a small boat only to see the head of a sperm whale pop up. He realized it was quite small so took it for a baby whale; and, while his daughter squealed in delight, all he could think of was ‘where’s mama?’ Fortunately, no danger was involved: it was a rare sighting of a pygmy sperm whale.
The working boats raced around in this little harbor, how they avoided other boats, I don’t know, but they did!
Before too long we heard the zoom of nine jets as they swooped down on the town,
alerting everyone to a thrilling air display. Hard to take photos but managed to capture some while exclaiming as they darted and performed aeronautically.
And, the shoreline and harbor were peopled with many who came just for this show.
After the Red Arrows left trailing their plumes of red, blue, cream, and white, we heard the Foy Town Band striking up again on the community boat.
Andy pointed out they were bringing the giant pasty from the town across the harbor, Polruan, to Foy, where they then paraded it up the ramp and to the Town Quay where they distribute pieces to the children.
Andy and Sean left to meet a friend or two in town
while we prepared for our tomorrow’s passage to Weymouth area. All in all, Foy was another top spot on our cruising along this coast. Two-for-two now with Falmouth being our first. And, even better, we can sort-of pronounce Fowley as a local or, at least, as a visitor who’s been there before!
Which is why, on Thursday morning, August 14, a shout went up as we spotted the southwest coast of England, and it couldn’t have come soon enough, at least for me.
Although, like with Dick, aka Ricardo, our passage was blessed with yet another enthusiastic and helpful crewmate, Steve, who arrived from Boston on Tuesday, August 5th, only to be fast-forwarded through a shower and coffee, before being impressed by Juanona’s captain. Within three hours we were heading out to sea.
Steve donned his special blue shirt
and later presented us with a book of poems from him and Katie.
It took just a bit before Max realized Katie had personalized the cover with a recent photo of Juanona.
With clear skies and some minor (thankfully) head winds, we motor-sailed along the length of Sao Miguel until we could turn north for our passage to England.
After relaxing a bit,
Steve introduced us to his grandfather’s ditty bag;
and, he meticulously demonstrated the how-to of the old sailing art of whipping lines.
Since life at sea can be snoozeville at times, i.e., BO-ring, (again, Sailor girl writing) and, since Steve must have seen a comotose look starting to creep across my face, he asked me if I’d like to do some.
So, now I can add whipper to my resume, and, if we’d been out much longer, I can safely say more than lines would have been decorated with thin, waxy string…
There are times when all you do is bounce on a boat, and, thanks to tropical storm Bertha, the fast miles we covered were primarily due to being bounced up the Atlantic Ocean to England.
And, just so you can get a feel for what I mean, here’s a composite of some sea days…
This meant adjusting the number and size of sails we had out.
I smartly kept watch from the cockpit to make sure our snack bin below didn’t overturn or get too jostled (the snickers bars took exceptional watching, I found) while Max and Steve were either reefing the mainsail,
setting the staysail (a smaller one between jib and mainsail),
and, at one time, prepping the drogue (something to toss off the back to reduce boat speed and help keep the stern perpendicular to the waves),
then deploying it, which was the fun part.
Again, I safely watched from the companionway as the spray started to coat Juanona, and I began to realize I should probably slap another half of a seasick medicine patch to my head. This also contributed to my sleeping A LOT, which then contributed to Max and Steve not having to hear my ‘oh, dang!’ as yet another body part became indented by some previously innocuous, but now lethal, piece of Juanona.
Due to our being on designated watches every three hours from evening (8p) until early morning (8a), you typically grab sleep during the day…
which also means, if you’re the one up, you can dress up the sleeper however you want.
At times there are some interesting events at sea, and one of ours was the pee pot episode. No photos but just imagine one crew member doing the early-morning ritual of emptying the pot while another crew member gets up to use it without realizing the most important piece of the composting head isn’t there.
Thankfully, no harm was done but suffice it to say it did require an extra thirty minutes of clean-up…
On August 10th, halfway to our designation, we decided to have cocktails, so we opened up our cans of Schweppes ginger ale and toasted our not being bounced out into the ocean’s cold waters.
Then we returned to enjoying the bouncing seas once more on August 11th… (note the lovely swaying towels)
Max occupied himself by inventing his coffee runway to hold the all-important caffeine vehicles on the stove.
The bouncing and swaying and grabbing every handhold was pretty much the norm for most of the trip, which is why it wasn’t a surprise when I caught our GPS one day clocking at 12kts.
Just so you know, we are aware of what’s coming our way, thanks to the Internet access via the satellite phone. Every morning at 9a Max checked and analyzed the weather.
And, most of the days it showed nice, strong winds (thanks to Bertha)
with accompanying lumpy, rolling, sloshy seas.
One of the true marvels to me is our AIS (automatic identification system). It takes (almost) all of the fear of running into a much bigger ship than us in the middle of a dark night. By broadcasting its course, its bearing to us, the CPA (closest point of approach) and timing of that (TCPA), size and speed,
we could easily avoid it and vice versa because we also transmitted our location as well as received theirs.
The only concern was when the white triangle turned black;
but, I had their number to contact via our VHF radio if I REALLY became nervous.
As the night turned to day
the tanker’s silhouette
brightened to full color as morning approached. And, I relaxed my sweaty grip on the microphone’s PTT (push to talk) button.
Because life at sea can be a bit uninteresting (sailor girl’s take on it), you can look for ways to spice it up, which is exactly what we did on August 12th.
And, yes, we were a bit punchy by our seventh day out…
Sometimes I didn’t have to find something to make the days and nights interesting. It just happened, such as hearing yet another humoungous SPLAT! against the hull, peering into the cockpit where Max was on watch, and seeing him perched on the seats to avoid a rather large dump of salt water landing in the cockpit.
By the time I got the camera on it, the foot of water had sloshed and drained down to less than half that.
But, the fun wasn’t over, because I became complacent and, after checking on Steve above, I ducked below without closing the hatchway cover and, yes, sure enough, another BANG and there we go… several gallons of salt water flew below.
The saving grace was that now the boat was really clean below because of all the applying of precious fresh water along with the mopping and wiping I had to do to eliminate it. FYI: These episodes are called pooping, which to me was the perfect description.
We didn’t see many ships at all until our approach and entry into the English Channel, and then it was as if we were on an entrance ramp trying to cross two lanes of traffic. It wouldn’t have been so hairy if they were our size, but, as Steve and Max related (I was asleep below), these were BIG ships.
On our ninth day at sea we entered the English Channel
and toasted with coffee our entry into historic Falmouth Harbor (YAHOO!!!).
Within three hours, we had picked up a Visitors’ Yacht Haven guest mooring, checked in with customs and the harbor master, SHOWERED (we again followed our pattern of one every five days…, and, Carolie, yes, I was slack on the clothing changes…) and proceeded to R&R while the activity unfolded around us.
With the passing of a quick rain shower, a rainbow appeared and all we could do was gaze in thankful awe
while we spotted land all around us and we weren’t bouncing!
For the next two days we enjoyed getting our land legs while strolling along the seaside street of this charming village.
Friday morning we awoke to the harbor master asking us what our plans were (signed on for almost a week) and issuing an invitation from the boat we saw picking up a mooring behind us the night before.
Not being quite certain if it was a joke or not, we weren’t sure if we should hop in our dinghy and drift downwind to Scorpio Lady; but, Nick, captain of said boat, saved us the embarrassment and dinghied over to formally ask us aboard for eggs and bacon and coffee with him and Jim, a friend from Norfolk. It didn’t take more than one second before we all said ‘Sure!’ and off we went for our very first eggs+bacon breakfast since we left Maine June 6th, and, boy, did they taste good.
We contributed melon but never got around to it
but did have a wonderful time sharing easy conversation with these two old friends (Jim had been sailing with Nick every summer for a week or so in the past 12 years).
Friday night was our official celebratory dinner, which we began with champagne toasts with a bottle Steve managed to bring
followed by a dinghy ride into town to check out the scene and where we met Clint, aka Mr. T., and his other costumed friends (Falmouth Week hosted a wild costume party) at the Cutty Sark Bar. They just reinforced the friendliness of this enchanting town as we toasted being amidst friendly folk.
We managed to grab a reservation at a South African restaurant, Amanzi, owned and operated by this great couple, Carolyn and Ian.
A sweet young waitress, Gallia, who announced she was new to her job, was also South African. I asked if she knew Johnny Clegg, one of my favorite musicians and, frankly, a hero to me having formed and toured with a mixed band in South Africa during apartheid.
Well, my mouth dropped open and kept doing the jaw drop when she softly said yes, she knew of him… she was his godchild. OMG, it was as if I had met Paul McCartney’s god daughter. Of course, having the Mala Mala (translation: Crazy) drink helped with my dopey, smiley gaze.
Anyway, we had an amazing dining experience and promised to be back.
[which Max and I did our last night in Falmouth. Like Tasca in Ponta Delgada, we could see coming here at least once a week and we may possibly return by train this winter it’s that wonderful.]
Returning to our mooring, we decided the night wasn’t over yet, and we proceeded to sip some port (again, brought by Steve) with some Cornish cheese and grapes.
and, the dancing began (poor Steve, I think he thought he’d escape this…).
The next morning Max dinghies Steve to shore for the start of his trek home,
With the sun staying up late, we’ve been staying up late, dining at 9:30, to bed after midnight.
Which means we’ve also been slugabeds in the morning. Where I typically would be up at the crack of dawn, now I’m lazing mightily into the morning. My family and friends wouldn’t know this creature. I’m stunned myself by my change of diurnal (big word, hope I’m using it correctly. Carol E.? :) habits.
So, it’s been awhile since I’ve been up before the sun, and today’s the day.
I’m sitting at Ponta Delgada’s airport, sipping an americano cafe with a bottle of water and a chocolate croissant (just a little treat) awaiting our crew member, Steve Palmer, to land on his overnight flight from Boston. Which is one of the best reasons to be up before the sun wakes up.
Today will be the first of several to come where I’ll be seeing the night sky before light. Because we plan to untie from the dock and head for England or close to there weather depending as soon as Steve’s aboard and we’re officially released. Max is back finishing up last minute tasks (tieing dinghy down on the foredeck, taping the v-berth hatch, getting boat papers ready for customs) while I’m R&Ring in a nice little airport cafe. Actually, he was still getting a well-deserved snooze.
Yesterday was a whirlwind of activity due to last-minute activities, you know the type, the ones like oh-god-did-I-forget-the-eggs activities. I must admit if I have to do another stowing of an apple or tuna can I’ll push myself into that crevice. At least the loads of laundry are done and stowed, head and galley cleaned, berths readied, and the pineapple carefully placed so it won’t poke the plums.
So, relaxing peacefully with nothing to do but relax is really very pleasant. So pleasant, a little sparrow inside the airport alit one table over eyeing my croissant; but, it’d have to be a much larger predatory bird before I’d give up my bread item.
As his plane is almost here, I’ll sign off. We are thrilled to have him aboard just like we loved having Ricardo (Dick) with us. Life offers up so many wonderful memories and gifts. It’s been awhile since I’ve been up before dawn. I’m thankful I have such a great reason to be so.
[photos to come when we land as camera’s battery didn’t work… otherwise, you’d know see Steve post-shower with his blue shirt on that Katie found for him. Looking like a sailor man already.]
After a morning visit for coffee and wifi served by a lovely waitress at Doris Bar,
we said good-bye to our friends on Chardonnay.
Martin, Arnie, and Martin’s older son Tom took off for England, and it was another sad time aboard Juanona to see more friends leave.
Not wanting to sit around the marina, Max and I jumped in the car and headed along the northwest coast, partly to see if we could spot Chardonnay on its first leg home, and partly to see if we could find some 2002 memories from our Sete Cidades hike.
We headed out of town, taking more photos of the art scattered around Sao Miguel,with Chardonnay in the background.
The first spot was Mosteiros where we both exclaimed ‘that’s it!’, the ‘it’ being the bench we had sat on in 2002 waiting for the bus after our Sete Cidades hike.
We checked to make sure of the exact placement
then asked someone to take our photo.
From there we travelled back along the northwest coast towards Ponta Delgada, where we saw Chardonnay from a lookout point.
With bittersweet memories we headed for home, remembering earlier times both in 2002 and in 2014.
Finally! Clear enough weather to hike around the rim of the caldeiras! Two lakes, the green and blue, fill the two holes left by extinct (I hope) volcanoes. We had been waiting patiently for the perfect day, and on Friday, August 1st, it dawned.
Arnie, Martin’s crew, joined us and the three of us set off to conquer the trail. Well, we set off.
Potentially a 4.5 hour hike, you can leave your car at the beginning of the trail head, hike around and then down to Sete Cidades, the village between the two lakes (with a smaller lake close by), and return by taxi to your parked vehicle; or, you could hike part way around, reverse, and hike back; or, you could hike all the way down to the coastal town of Moisterious taking a cab back to the car; OR, you could hike all the way to Sete Cidades, reverse, and hike all the way back. Or, you could just start and decide later. Get the picture?
We decided to start and decide later as it was a beautiful day, not too hot with clouds covering the sun enough to cool us off.
The first part was a steep road,
one where Arnie, who had trained with an army ranger a few years back, tackled while talking. I just breathed.
We made it to the top of the rim, then took the side path to the very top where, yes, we took the obligatory ‘we did it!’ photo.
You did feel you were on top of some thing
with views galore.
We stopped for a picnic lunch, where Max found some not particularly pleased-to-be-photographed hikers.
Finally, I got hold of the camera.
We spotted some familiar seascape, the dramatic monoliths rising out of the ocean off of Moisteiros,
as well as Bessie contentedly munching on Azorean grass.
Other items found included remnants of the original natives,
with Max proving two heads aren’t always better than one…
Finally, we arrived at the end of our hike (deciding not to continue onto the coastal town of Moisteros) in Sete Cidades where we dunked a bit, Max and Arnie more than I as both had swim trunks and/or extra clothes.
Both Max and I remembered we had done this hike in 2002 with Chris and two other cruisers; but, all of it was vague with only a few landmarks spiking our memories, one being this grassy area next to the lake. Yet, we still weren’t convinced because we also remembered our ending spot in 2002, sitting on a bench sipping beer while waiting for a bus; and, we couldn’t find anything similar in Sete Cidades.
With a bit drying in the sun, we headed for a treat at the lakeside cafe.
Then, it was how-to-get-home time. We were hoping the bus sitting next to the town square would be our chariot but, no. The driver, though, offered to call a cab, which was hugely appreciated. By now we were looking forward to stopping walking. He returned saying our ride would be here in ten minutes.
Thirty minutes later, we’re still waiting with Max standing under the reserve the cab sign just to be sure we were the obvious waiters.
After the thirty turned to forty, we thought we should try again. So, Max stopped in at the restaurant across from the sign and returned saying a taxi would be appearing within five to seven minutes. This time, it was closer to the stated ETA.
The three of us piled in and were dropped off at our car after being severely admonished by the driver NEVER leave our car where we left it. (We had driven to the start where our guidebook had indicated.) Evidently, crime does occur here, although, as a tourist, it feels particularly crime-free in the Azores. Probably because you think everyone knows everyone, making it difficult to get away with anything.
But, all was fine and the car untouched. With that, we waved good-bye and piled into our car to head home.
While exiting onto the main road we saw a young woman with a heavy backpack studying a map. We rolled our windows down to see if she needed a ride (having experience now with frequency of rides and knowing how far it was to a village we were sympathetic to carless hikers). Turned out she was figuring out a way to get to a village on the north coast, thinking she could always walk or hitch there.
We convinced her it would be easier to grab a ride with us, so she joined our pile and we pointed our car towards the north.
During the ride we discovered she was a biologist with a PHD studying climate change at a university in South Africa. Originally from Portugal, she had arrived just that morning for a week in the Azores. The purpose being to celebrate a friends’ tenth anniversary.
Within twenty minutes we had dropped her off in the center of Sao Vicente, and then headed home for real. All in all a day wonderfully spent.
If you’ve seen Part One of July 31st, you’ll know our ultimate day’s destination was Furnas, the spa village of thermal pools. Martin, a huge fan, had been here two times before, to what he called the lovely yellow pool. It was our second time, having visited two days prior.
We found the changing rooms (this time I located the women’s), put on our swimming trunks and hit the water, some more slowly than others.
Luckily Martin had told us before we went the first time that Hillary, his wife, bought a spare suit to use for these waters. Wondering why, he told us it was due to the water turning your suit the same color as it. In other words, you and whatever you’re wearing end up the same color as the water… mustardy yellow with a slight ordure of iron and sulpher.
Sure enough, when we returned home the first time, Max rinsed, and rinsed, AND rinsed our suits until the water turned from mustard to lemon to clear. (We did the same with ourselves to ensure Juanona’s cushions and bedding weren’t dyed a Furnas yellow.)
Now, we were seasoned goers and knew what to expect, and soon we were all frolicking in the warm yellow pool.
Max headed towards his spout
Martin tried it but, like previous attempts, he had always found it too hot.
After an hour or so, sufficiently pruney, the three of us languidly slurped ourselves out of the pool.
Unlike the states, even though the garden (and pool) closed at 7:00p, you could remain on the property as long as you like, which Martin knew from his earlier visits. The ticket-taker told us just to exit via the hotel, which abuts Terra Nostra.
Martin also mentioned he, his wife and son had enjoyed some amazing mojitos on the hotel’s outdoor patio. Well, that perked my ears up, so off the three of us trooped to mojito-ville. After all, a bit of minty liquid would go well with the sulphorous-iron glow we all sported.
I took a self-timer, yet, it wasn’t the best…
however, for purposes of documentation, I’ve included it. I wanted you to view the mojitos, which the bartender presented with a flourish. And, yes, they were delicious.
To end our adventure, we then decided on dinner at Tony’s. Again, Martin had previously partaken of the traditional, regional meal cooked by the thermal, surphorous waters in Furnas. He convinced Max to share a dinner
whereas I decided on something tamer.
Now, completely sated, we headed for home, saying good-bye to one of the most relaxing days to-date in the Azores. And, I must admit, I feel quite differently if asked about swimming in a ‘warm, yellow pool…
Two days after our initiation in Furnas’ hot springs we found ourselves heading back with Martin, a huge fan of the warm yellow pool. But, before we got there we decided to explore the northeast coast. Little villages dot the coastline, including one where we stopped for lunch, and I snapped a man photo (one where two men stand stiffly no closer than three feet apart).
Continuing on we found another man-made, natural swimming pool
where, in spite of a few jellyfish
Martin took a dip
while Max and I walked around the perimeter admiring the local phenomena.
Refreshed from a dip and watching Martin dip, we headed to Furnas via a dirt road taking us into Parque Forestal da Cancela do Cinzeiro Pedreira-Nordeste, aka, Park of the Priolo, aka, the Azorean Bullfinch.
Roughly ten years ago there were only 300 or so of these little finches, with Sao Miguel their only habitat. Now, thanks to the work of the Centro Ambiental do Priolo, they have migrated from the critically endangered list to the endangered one.
I wanted to visit the center, so we turned in once we saw the sign
and were greeted by a young guide,
one who pounced on us and led us into a fifteen-minute tour that started to feel like fifteen hours. But, he was earnest (remember the tuna lady?) and kind and knowledgeable.
Fortunately, Martin knew some of the birds. I say fortunately because, unfortunately, when the guide asked ‘do you know what bird this is?’, it wasn’t a rhetorical question. He waited for an answer. Max and I did recognize one, the woodcock, thanks to staying with our friends Carol and Jim, who once took us to a woodcock mating cocktail excursion.
Glancing surreptitiously out of the corner of our six eyeballs, we saw there were several of these displays that we knew would also have non-rhetorical questions posed; so, we kept inching to our left trying to lead our gentle guide along. It worked to some degree. At one point he must have caught on, probably when I jumped from photograph two to photograph six on one linear display asking my own question ‘oh, and what is this showing?’ Alas, he answered then backtracked, but at least it was only to photograph four.
Finally we appeared to be totally versed in the birds and their habitat when both Max and Martin saw a video room. But, the gods were with us for, by then, the guide knew we were priolo-ed out and were heading to the WC and front door.
However, we politely looked at the shop’s wares, inquired about the health of their organization and took our own Priolo photograph.
We left knowing it would be a rare day, indeed, for our spotting one of the 700+ remaining.
Yet, we did! As we meandered down the road in the Park heading towards Furnas, we did our usual stopping and snapping
including seeing up close the heather used for brooms.
All of a sudden Martin saw two birds flitting away from our car’s front tires as Max slowly maneuvered around some potholes. He exclaimed ‘I think those are the bullfinches!’
Sure enough, we stopped, hopped out, and caught sight of one in the trees.
We had spotted our own Azorean bullfinch! And, you know what? If we hadn’t listened to our gentle, earnest, kind, knowledgeable Priolo guide, we wouldn’t have recognized the fella and, thus, been able to say we honestly saw an Azorean bullfinch in its native habitat.
Driving back from our inaugural dip in Furnas’ warm, yellow pool, we decided to look for another Sao Miguel tourist attraction, the Gorreana tea estate, which, thanks to our inability to speak Portuguese, was quickly dubbed the ______ tea estate. (Interestingly enough, other tourists immediately understood where we had been when we used our new name for this location.)
We timed our arrival with that of a large tour bus
and became part of a mob scene as the bus riders sampled the three types of tea, all produced without herbicides or other nasty elements.
Women and girls use to hand-pick the leaves, which grew right around the plant;
but now this task is performed by several men pulling a machine over the tops of the tea bushes.
Once harvested, the leaves are processed using old, but beautifully maintained, machines, such as this heater and dryer.
Having been to a cheese cooperative and tuna factory, we expected the same level of glamorous plastic sheathing; so, we were taken aback when it seemed hairnets were the only concession to hygiene here.
Having read this industry employed a lot of manual labor, we saw women hand-sorting the leaves
and then bagging them for sale.
Being one of two remaining tea plantations on Sao Miguel (and, the only ones in the Azores), this began in 1874 with seeds from China. Due to the popularity of the tea, they later introduced plants from India. All are sold both here and abroad, with bags shipped to the Azoreans who emigrated.
We looked in the shop, along with the other 40+ visitors,
but decided to stick to our coffee; yet, we enjoyed seeing this Azorean production still going strong over 100 years later.
On our way home, we saw a billboard and took a pic for Cam, Iain and Thomas,
ending our day with dinner at our favorite Sao Miguel restaurant, Tasca, shared with Martin and Arnie with our waiter Bart.
These past few days we’ve hopped in the car to explore more of Sao Miguel. Promising museums that Max had circled in the guidebook popped up on our radar as we headed towards some small villages, both inland and along the coast.
We decided to check out the yellow swimming pool other cruisers had described as glorious. Located in the spa village Furnas, which is in the mountains, the pool eluded us; but, we did find the steaming, burping mud holes at Lagoa das Furnas
where they cooked one of the regional meals, cozido has caldeiras, by placing a pot in a hole
and covering it up for several hours. (Martin said it did have a tinge of sulphor, something this gooey mud and hot steam promised in its discharge.)
We didn’t try that but Max, a corn-on-the-cob aficionado, did succumb to an ear also cooked geothermally.
We also spotted some of the famous oranges, an export crop until the late 1800s.
Leaving Furnas after driving around and around in search of the yellow swimming pool, we headed out of town saving our hot dips for another day.
We ended up in Provoacao watching the constructing of either a new or a rebuilt seawall.
All of a sudden we noticed a little head appearing next to the gigantic claw of the crane.
Thinking, no, it can’t be, we continued staring only to see the little head become a frogman directing this mechanical arm with hand signals.
One appeared a bit frantic, although that’s our interpretation and not necessarily the frogman’s meaning…
He repeatedly dove
All in all, pretty impressive.
Our cultural destination, Museu de Trigo (Wheat Museum), was on the road heading out of Provoacau; and, you wouldn’t think it would be difficult to find in such a small town. Hah! Numerous wrong turns including driving for 15 minutes behind a farmer and his tractor until he stopped, got out and pointed downhill when we pointed to “Museu de Trigo” in the book.
Described as ‘a splendid watermill… skillfully restored in a glorious setting of pastures and hedgerows’, this museum seemed destination-worthy.
Well, it certainly was splendid…
what we could see of it…
which wasn’t much.
The book said it was open 10:30-12:30 and 12:30-18:00 Tue-Sun, but just not today.
Back in the car, we still enjoyed our day in spite of no Museu de Trigo interior.
We figured we could try another cultural destination the next day (Saturday, July 26), which was when we decided to head up the north coast to see the Oficina-Museu M j Melo located in Capelas. Filled with artifacts and displays of bygone days, this jewel of a museum had been created and funded by a retired school teacher. Hours were Mon-Sat 09:00-12:00 and 13:00-18:00.
We had a leisurely poke along the roads, including behind another farmer but this time in his horse-drawn cart.
The ever-changing sea provided dramatic contrast to the black cliffs
from which we spotted a pool.
Drawing us down the road from the miradoura, we found this Punta Ferraria offered both a natural hot spring located in the ocean (at low tide)
as well as a manmade swimming pool (not tide dependent). These warm waters served as another spa treatment for those folk who couldn’t afford to travel to Furnas.
The parking lot also gave us another opportunity to exclaim over the clever paving, similar to the one we saw in Graciosa with Tricia and David.
Knowing our destination was still an hour away, we hopped back in the car and meandered through small coastal villages where, it seemed, many were sprucing up their homes.
The fact that the streets are amazingly narrow didn’t faze them as they perched their ladders as cars whizzed by (not us, but the locals).
We saw some monoliths rising from the ocean reminding us of the film starring Kurt Douglas as Uylsses,
another restored windmill where some emigres from Brittany settled way back when,
beautiful picnic areas,
and, finally, our destination of the day, the Oficina-Museu M J Melo.
WHICH is where we found, no, it’s NOT open, you touristy fools… at which point Max did his usual viewing of the exhibits.
So, when the book says when a museum is open it means it’s open unless it’s not open. Go figure.