10.11.2016 - 10.11.2016
This day started with breakfast at 8.30 am and then gathering for departure by car and lorry (for the horses) to Remédios. Remédios is an area situated just east of Livramente, not to be mixed up with the parish Remédios on the northwest side of São Miguel. Today, two of the ladies rode with Rodrigo (slower ride) while I and the other two rode with Christina (faster ride).
My horse for today was Cabana, she was a chestnut mixed breed (Lusitano and something else). Cabana was a little smaller at the withers but had plenty of fat on the body, perhaps a little too much. It felt like you sat on a meatball. Today’s ride went in a more hilly terrain and most of the canters were uphill. The first canter Cabana was caught on, but after that she enjoyed it less. Christina gave me a whip as motivation (the “motivation stick”). Then she made some changes. I didn’t even have to use the whip to make Cabana canter, it was enough that she knew I had one.
After a while we came out in more open landscapes with fields and pasture. Majority of the Azorean farmers have mobile milk machines, sort of trailers, which are driven by diesel generators. All trailers are guarded by watchdogs to prevent theft of the generators. The watchdog is tied up when the farmer is not around the trailer and if the dog is loose the farmer is there working. The farmers dock the tail and crop the ears on the dogs because they, besides their job of guarding the milk machines, also are used herding cows. The terrain is often brushy and the less the dog has to get caught and tear up wounds with, the better. The chance of developing otitis in the humid environment decreases as well.
The roadsides are often dominated by a plant called Ginger Lilies. The name Ginger Lily comes from the plant’s root system that looks like ginger. The plant originates from Asia and didn’t exist on the Azores. Ginger Lilies was brought as a decoration plant and then started to spread uninhibited over the islands. Today, the locals see the Ginger Lily more or less as weeds as it starts to take over the vegetation and drives all other vegetation up at higher elevation. The Ginger Lily is non-poisonous and the horses are very fond of eating the leaves.
After the ride the horses were loaded up in the lorry and we the riders were transferred back by car to Quinta da Terça for lunch at 1 pm. Big hamburgers with bread was served in a plate each when we entered the dining room. The bread was a local Azorean white bread that tasted a little sweet. It was delicious and not as dry as hamburger bread can be. You really had enough to eat.
The four British ladies and I gathered at 2 pm for departure to Furnas, together with Rui. We went for about 15 minutes before stopping by at a local café at the city Vila Franca do Campo. We were invited to taste a cupcake called Queijadas de Vila Franca each, one of the city’s main products. It is a very sweet cheese cake, a true sugar bomb. According to Rui, the cake has a secret family recipe that has been passed on for generations. Just outside Vila Franca do Campo, about 1 km out in the ocean, you can see the residue of a volcanic eruption which now forms a lagoon. Today, “the island” is a nature reserve and a popular tourist attraction and during summers boat rides are arranged. In the beginning the number of visitors on the island was unlimited, but it changed some years ago due to safety regulations. Nowadays, the number of visitors is limited to 100 people per day. This small island became world known after the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Championship was arranged here and is an excellent place for diving.
We got into the car again and went to the temple Ermida da Senhora da Paz, built in 1764. The original temple built on this site is believed being dated all the way back to the 16th Century. According to the history, pastors had gathered here in one of the grottoes at Vila Franca do Campo, due to bad weather. There they found an image of a virgin which they brought back to the church and parish priest. Next day, the pastors found the image again, in the same grotto. They also brought back that image to the church. The phenomenon repeated itself during a few days until the people realized the image wanted to stay at its place, alone. They decided to start building a small chapel just below the grotto. The day after when the workers came back to start working, all the material had been stacked and placed on the site where the images originally were found. So on that site, the temple Ermida da Senhora da Paz, with the virgin with Jesus in her lap with an olive branch, was built.
The temple is built on a hill with the same name. The panoramic view over the south coast of São Miguel is amazing and just as we were there they were all painting and decorating for a catholic feast, which took place the day after.
Back in the car we started the ride up towards Furnas, a village situated in a volcano crater at 109 meters above sea level, on the east side of São Miguel. The cloudbank was heavy around the crater and the sun didn’t have a chance to shine through. On São Miguel, the village of Furnas is the place where the volcanic activity is most noticeable, with more than 20 boiling and bubbling hot springs and the sulfur smell cannot be missed.
For a second I got flashbacks about Yellowstone and its hot springs. If you have made it all the way up to Furnas, Terra Nostra Park is a must; a botanic garden which dates 200 years back in time with plants from around the world. It has not only endemic flowers and plants, but also birds and water streams. If you’re not interested in plants, perhaps the Fountain of Youth will attract you. A hot spring that is warmed up by underground sources and the water temperature is about +40 °C.
The water is tanned and full of iron and is told to have a rejuvenating capacity. I want to add that I didn’t swim, since the air temperature was chilly and on top of that the water color wasn’t that attractive. And it should be mentioned that you swimsuit easily gets discolored by the iron-rich water.
We went for a turn in the botanic garden and even though it was autumn and cloudy, it was still green and lush. Before leaving Furnas, we visited a souvenir shop where we were offered a liqueur-tasting with different local liqueurs. I’m not a big fan of liqueurs, but the one flavored with pineapples wasn’t that bad.
Returned to Quinta da Terça for a shower. Tonight’s dinner was a surprise dinner back home at Roland and Yves, two of Claude and Christina’s friends. The four British ladies had been over there before, so it was just me who had no idea who they were. Roland and Yves is a married couple from Belgium (or was it Netherlands?), where Roland is a chef and cooked all food for the dinner, while Yves took care of the serving during the evening. Yves Decoster is an artist and gave us each a limited edition art he had painted. He earns the living by selling his paintings but also by paint walls, houses and other buildings (with owner’s permission of course) on São Miguel. After a 3 hour long 5-cours dinner you were full of food and super tired. After a short taxi ride we were back at Quinta da Terça.