In my previous post, D1602 – Well drilled, I described my visit to Praia da Vitória on Good Friday, the first of two ports of call in the Azores archipelago on this Island Hopping cruise. This post describes my visit to the second of these ports of call – to Ponta Delgada on the largest of the islands, São Miguel, the next day.
We had enjoyed a lovely bright sunny day in Praia da Vitória, but overnight the clouds and mist had rolled in, and it was a very gloomy outlook that greeted me when I pulled back the curtains in my cabin. I went up on deck to watch us sail in as usual, but as I had seen and photographed the port in much better conditions on my two previous visits, I didn’t bother to take any photographs this time. The weather forecast for the day ahead wasn’t promising either, cool and cloudy all day.
These volcanic islands are located in the Gulf Stream, and therefore enjoy a mild but wet climate. The combination of the fertile volcanic soil and moisture make the islands very lush and green, and large numbers of cattle are kept out in the fields all year around. The hedgerows are filled with flowering plants and shrubs – this time we saw plenty of azaleas in flower, later in the year there are masses of hydrangeas.
On one of our previous visits to the island, my friend Barbara and I took a shore tour to one of the volcanic craters, Sete Cidades Massif. In this crater there are twin lakes, Lagoa das Sete Cidades, separated by a narrow strait. In the right conditions, one lake looks blue and one lake looks green, making for quite a spectacle. The legend has it that a Princess was forbidden to marry a shepherd boy she loved by her father the King, and her tears from her green eyes formed one lake, and the shepherd boy’s tears from his blue eyes formed the other. In reality, each lake reflects the sunlight in different colours.
On this previous tour the conditions were not favourable, and both lakes looked the same colour, so we decided to take a shore tour to the crater and lakes again to see if we would be lucky this time.
By the time we boarded our coach the clouds were starting to break, despite the forecast, and as we left the port and drove into the countryside the sun came out and raised our spirits. They say that on the Azores you can experience all four seasons in one day, and we saw what they meant as within a few minutes as we drove higher into the hills the clouds closed in again and there was light rain on the windows. Fortunately by the time we reached the viewpoint at the crater the rain had stopped, but it was still cloudy and once again we didn’t get to see the lakes in different colours:
On the other side of the road to the viewpoint is a derelict hotel. It opened around 30 years ago, and only lasted one season as it was very remote and didn’t have many facilities. Even in the last year nature and vandals seem to have taken an even bigger toll on the building, which is now looking extremely forlorn:
We took a different route back to the port and our waiting ship, making a photo stop on the way to see the views across rolling green landscape to the coast:
After an early lunch on board ship, I went ashore by myself to explore and photograph Ponta Delgada. I had explored the area close to the port on both my previous visits, so after taking a few photos there of familiar landmarks, I took the advice of the morning tour guide and walked the back streets up to the Jardin Botânico José do Canto botanical gardens:
In the botanical gardens while there were some flowers, it mostly contained specimen trees:
After wandering the paths for a while, I came across a large area of rose beds, with just a few plants in bloom. It was only when I explored further into the gardens to a level overlooking these rose beds, I could appreciate the extent and maze-like nature of the beds – they must look quite a spectacle when all the bushes are in bloom:
In another part of the gardens there were a series of 11 tiled signs depicting the history of the island:
Walking back down to the ship through the narrow back roads I found some other buildings of interest on the way:
Around 6pm we set sail for our next group of islands on our Island Hopping cruise, which we will reach after three days at sea: