When I landed on São Miguel it was raining. I didn’t know it would continue raining for almost 5 months, luckily with some intervals. A driver picked me up and it is just now that I realize I should be grateful for having the support of a university when travelling. The convenience of being a student is something I really miss now. The driver dropped me by at the hotel residence where I struggled to communicate with the guard. It was the first time I would put my Portuguese into practice.
Five days were enough to settle down, but I never got used to the crazy weather. The guard of the residence had already noticed that fact: “Quatro estações nο mesmo dia” he was telling me while laughing at my difficulty to put on the right clothes. His words were actually true, as in one single day one could experience all the seasons of one year because the weather changes every 15 minutes. The only constant thing about the weather in Azores is humidity. It stays stable around 90% which is why all your clothes are always wet, even within your wardrobe.
I visited the capital of the island, Ponta Delgada in a surprisingly sunny day with some friends. Most of the buildings are low, painted in gray, green and red colors and the traditional rocky pavements of Portugal, known as “Calçadas”, give your knees a hard time. After some time around the city centre I climbed up to a very famous church near the university: Ermida da mãe de deus fulfilled its reputation for having the most beautiful view to the city. I would return several times to that place during my five month stay in this city, to rest my mind under the beautiful trees of the church’s yard.
Sooner or later we felt trapped in the city. The means of transport are not the best choice and Antonio, the owner of a car rental company helped us to escape. We headed east to one of the many volcanic complexes of São Miguel. Once we climbed high enough, the wild beauty of the lagoon of fire (Lagoa do fogo) literally took our breath. Lagoa do fogo is a crater lake within the volcano Agua de Pau, completely protected by the government who does not allow any construction around, not only because of the scenery´s astonishing beauty but also because of the numerous endemic plant and bird species that live there. Unfortunately, there was a time when we had to leave this place.
While descending again to the city we stopped in Caldeira Velha, a geothermal spring hidden within exotic vegetation. We followed the path for 10 minutes and after meeting geysers with boiled water we reached the small waterfall. The combination of colors in the scenery was unique: green from the plants and lichens that grow nearby, orange and yellow from the traces of iron and sulfur the water leaves on the rocks, and the shiny white-blue color of the small lake. I don´t remember how much time we were standing there without moving or talking. The silence was broken by some other visitors who arrived talking though they had the same reaction with us the moment they faced the waterfall.
We left this magnificent place speechless and afterwards we all started talking about the people we would bring to admire this exotic place. During our way back to Ponta Delgada I was trying to think what makes these places so unique. It´s not only the images of a paradise that it offers. It is that there are no big five star hotels, fancy restaurants or shiny touristic signs. There is not a single trace of this aggressive tourism industry that builds the same resorts in every part of the world. Instead, all you can face there is the authenticity of a protected natural reserve, with its creatures, sounds and smells left unchanged and free to take your breath away.