Yesterday was the crew’s only full day on Sao Miguel, and despite the sore heads we were determined to make the most of our time ashore. After being roused at an ungodly hour to make an entertaining appearance at immigration (many slightly worse for wear and shoeless), half the crew (new and old) stayed on board, filling their morning with more sleeping or boat chores such as engine and rig checks, re-fuelling, relocating to the marina, victualing and laundry. Everyone else joined a tour around the island which had been organised the night before through one of the waitresses at the restaurant.
We set off in 2 cars, driving out of Ponta Delgada and towards the western end of the island. Unfortunately in the morning the island was covered in thick fog and it became clear that we were never going to get a view of the lakes from the top of the crater and so instead we headed to a hot spring called Varzea. There were a couple of small pools within a valley that was filled with rainforest like flora and fauna, the smells and sounds from which were quite overwhelming after spending 29 days surrounded by nothing but water. We started off in the higher pool which was slightly warm but had a large waterfall, before moving to the much hotter lower pool. Although there were a few other people around we had the pools to ourselves and had plenty of time for well needed relaxation (despite the smell of rotting eggs)! A lot of the day was spent just driving around the island, stopping at various coastal viewpoints along the way to look at some rather impressive cliffs and black beaches, as well as an amazing waterfall. One thing that was really striking was how green the island was. I had an impression that being a volcanic island it would be dry and rocky, but instead the island was covered in vegetation and flowers, in some areas resembling more of a tropical rainforest, but for the most part lush pasture complete with Friesian cows and horses, or when high up on the rim of the crater, pine forests that wouldn’t look out of place in the highlands of Scotland. Along the way we stopped for a buffet lunch of various local dishes, including some fish that resembled large sardines and some delicious salted cod followed by a very good chocolate cake or cold rice pudding. After we drove on to another hot spring at a place called Furnas. This was much more commercial than the first one with landscaped pools that had been built into the rock, and although relaxing I think most of us would agree that we preferred the tranquillity of the first one, particularly as the pool walls were coated in a thick layer of orange sulphur, that quickly migrated onto anything that it touched, including feet hands and swim suits. After the spring we had a quick stop to look at a field of geysers in Furnace. It was no Yellowstone, but the large walls of steam were pretty impressive all the same.
Once back in Ponta Delgado, we reconvened with the rest of the crew for dinner and said some very sad goodbyes to Emma, Sari and Andy, and officially welcomed our new members Leslie, Benito, Cliff and Richard. I think I speak for everyone when I say that the Leg 10 voyage has been an incredible experience with some great people, great memories and only a little crazy. Leg 11 has got a lot to live up to, but having left the island and seen Fin whales, dolphins and a turtle, after only a few miles, its already shaping up to be a good one.
Alice and Lynda X