11.11.2016 - 11.11.2016
Breakfast was served at 8.30 am and we gathered at 9.30 am for departure by car (horses in the lorry) to Sete Cidades. From Livramente and out to the west part of the island where Sete Cidades is located took almost an hour by car. This is mainly because the road followed the coast’s windings and the speed was adjusted thereafter. If the road had been a bit inland it could have been much straighter and higher speed, but then you would have missed out on the stunning coastal landscape. Anyway, we arrived at the starting point for today’s ride.
My horse today was Imperador. Sounds very powerful, right? He was a roan gelding and also a mixed breed (Lusitano/draft horse) where his draft horse genes were the dominant side. He was big and heavy and you could barely see he had Lusitano in his pedigree. But kind he was, like a little lamb. But that’s about how they breed their horses in the Azores. It’s especially the temperament they breed for. Ii doesn’t necessarily has to be a pure bred Lusitano, they happily cross-breed their horses with endurance breeds like the Arabic thoroughbred or draft horses. Every year the Azores borrow different Lusitano stallions from Portugal to breed their mares, in order to get some new bloodlines for the islands.
We started the trail ride together as one group and rode along a volcanic crater ridge which surrounds Sete Cidades. In the beginning it was a little chilly and the sun was hidden behind the clouds. But as we got closer to the viewing point Vista de Rei we had the offshore winds that somehow blew away the clouds. Along the crater ridge we had beautiful view over the ocean coastline to the right and on the left we could increasingly glimpse more and more of Sete Cidades in the caldera (with the twin lakes) the longer we rode.
At the site of Vista de Rei we tied up the horses and approached the viewpoint. We had a clear view of the twin lakes but the sun wouldn’t completely shine through the clouds. To be able to see the color difference between the waters of the lakes it must be a cloud free day, which unfortunately it wasn’t today.
Sete Cidades (“the seven cities”) is the name of the village inside a 5 km in diameter caldera, Sete Cidades Caldera, on São Miguel’s west side. The Caldera also includes Sete Cidades Lagoon, consisting of Lagoa Verde and Lagoa Azur (“Twin Lakes”) which unites by a shallow canal. The Twin Lakes are the largest fresh water lakes in the Azores and its water is normally slightly turquoise. But during a sunny cloud-free day the color differ between the lakes where the larger lake, Lagoa Azur, is deeper and therefore reflects the blue sky instead. The lakes are said to have been created by the tears from a shepherd and a princess’ forbidden love. Sete Cidades is one of Portugal’s seven Natural Wonders, which is easy to understand. It’s a fascinating wonderland with the volcano crater ridge steep green lush slopes surrounding the calm turquoise lake waters, which can only be seen on site. An abandoned hotel is still standing which once was built by Vista do Rei. But the profit wasn’t that great as expected so the owners left the hotel as it was, with furniture and all. When the local people found out the hotel was abandoned, the hotel was ransacked on everything. Today it still stands, though empty and abandoned.
Even though it was sunny today, it wasn’t cloud-free. So we never got to see the two Twin Lake and their different colors. But the view was amazing and it’s really hard to understand that there are places like this on our Earth. After a number of pictures taken of the surroundings we started to lead the horses downhill the crater ridge slopes to Sete Cidades. It went well in the beginning but as the ground became more muddy, both humans and horses started to slip and skid around. So once we all had come down from the slopes we mounted the horses and continued the ride through the caldera to Sete Cidades. After many canters we had arrived at the bridge between Lagoa Verde and Lagoa Azur. Traffic was heavy and you got a little nervous about how the horses would react. But our horses didn’t care at all about the cars, trucks or buses passing us by on the bridge. Still today I’m amazed how cool temperament and mind the horses had. We arrived at the shore of Lagoa Verde, where a picnic lunch had been set up for us. We untacked the horses and put them in a small pasture and fed them. My horse, Imperador, felt a huge need to roll in the mud and did so three times during the time we ate. It was served potato gratin, ribs, salad, bread and beverage (wine, beer, soda, water).
When it was time to tack the horses again, Imperador wasn’t a roan anymore. But lucky for me I didn’t have to brush him though since one of the grooms did it. Now we split up into two groups; one group riding with Rodrigo for a slower ride and the other group with Lara in a faster ride. Unfortunately we couldn’t circle around the Twin Lakes but had to ride along one shore, turn around, and then back and along the other lake’s shore, turn around, and back. But it didn’t do anything, the experience to ride down in the caldera itself was amazing. So green, so calm, so peaceful. And towards the end of the ride the sunset began and the sunshine got a warmer color. So unreal! We rode down to a sandy beach and tried cantering along the water’s edge, but Imperador thought trotting was good enough. The horses knew very well when it was the last canter and it became a real race in the end. So much fun! Now the lorry had arrived at our meeting point and we took care of the horses after the ride. And as nice as usual the horses went in turn up the ramp into the lorry.
We who had been riding during the day got seated in the car and started the long car ride back to Quinta da Terça. It took about an hour to drive uphill from the caldera, over the volcano crater ridge and down to Livramente again. On the road back we got to see a magnificent sunset showing off all its colors and shades. Dinner was served as usual at 7.30 pm. It started with a tomato soup, then fish and potatoes and finished off with a superb chocolate cake. One of the topics discussed at the table this evening was the EU. The Azores are under Portuguese rule but has successfully managed to get money directly from the EU marked for the Azores. They were afraid Portugal would take almost all money themselves. The Azores have used the money wisely and invested in new paved roads to benefit both locals and tourism. Portugal still has a major economic interest in ruling the Azores, since the US has an established military base here and pays millions every year to Portugal.