The weather forecast for today had been wet and sure enough, when we opened the blinds this morning we had a very damp and cloudy view of Ponta Delgada. It was hard to know what was best to do, because lots of activities require the view not to be obscured by clouds, so we had a bit of a slow start to the morning. One of the things which we had originally planned to do yesterday (before we knew we were going to have the hire car!) was to visit some of the parks and gardens in Ponta Delgada. There was one garden quite near our apartment, so we decided to go and visit that as a test-run to see how wet it really was outside.
It turned out to be a little bit wet, but not too bad.
This was the Jardim António Borges, a botanical garden created in the nineteenth century.
There were lots of interesting little paths to explore...
...and some fascinating vegetation.
We've got no idea what this tree was...
...but its roots were absolutely huge!!
The garden also had some little pools...
...and some unexpected grottoes.
There weren't many flowers, but there was lots of green vegetation and the day was so humid that at times it felt like we were walking through a hothouse.
After we'd finished exploring the park, we made a trip to a local supermarket to stock up on some supplies (it had the worst fish counter I've ever had the misfortune to see!!) and then back to the apartment to make a decision about what to do next. There's a website called Spot Azores where you can check webcams at various locations on the islands to see what the weather is currently like, so we consulted that and decided that the place which looked driest was Furnas.
Furnas is a village located around 45km to the east of Ponta Delgada. It is known for being a site of volcanic activity and for being home to a small lake, which we had seen from the air on Saturday
Unfortunately, as we drove towards Furnas it got progressively wetter and by the time we found somewhere to park the car, it was most definitely raining. When researching the holiday, I'd found a leaflet for a walk around Lagoa das Furnas and was keen to give it a go, not least because it seemed to be one of the few circular hiking paths on the island. We decided to give it a go despite the rain, and began following the trail signposts which led from the car park through the village.
It seemed like a pretty little place
We crossed a stream...
...and began to climb up a small road towards the lake, which is situated above the village.
Eventually we arrived and got our first proper view.
Despite the weather, it looked like a beautiful lake...
...and on the far side we could see some rising steam which looked like it might indicate volcanic activity
We followed the path around the lake, getting closer to the source of the steam.
We stopped to admire a beautiful family of ducklings...
...and then we were there.
We walked past a car park and I suddenly noticed a puddle of bubbling water to the side of us
Sure enough, it was boiling!
This area is called Caldeiras in Portuguese. I'm not sure exactly how it translates, but it is basically an area of hot springs and holes where steam comes out of the earth.
It normally costs a few Euros to enter and walk along the wooden walkways, but entrance is free if you are hiking the trail around the lake
This area is particularly famous because the locals cook stew - called Cozido das Furnas - in holes in the ground. We could see a man at work by one of the holes.
There are lots of different cooking holes, all belonging to different hotels and restaurants. The stew seems to involve a lot of cabbage though, so I'd decided it wasn't for me
It was amazing to stand and watch the steam rising out of the ground.
The only problem was that when it blew in your face there was a very very strong smell of sulphur (think rotten eggs!).
I could have stood and watching the bubbling water for ages, but we were getting wet and needed to crack on with the walk.
We went back down to the lake and began to make our way round.
We had to cross a river with stepping stones.
Luckily this water wasn't bubbling
The trail was 9.5km and took us through some amazing forests by the edge of the lake.
It was so wet and humid that it felt like we were walking through a rainforest.
At one point we walked through an avenue of bamboo...
...and every so often we passed enormous ferns.
In between the trees, we got glimpses out over the misty lake.
Eventually the path turned into a cobbled road, which took us past a lakeside church.
The weather definitely wasn't improving, and at times we could hardly see the other side of the lake.
A kilometre or so outside Furnas, the route took us away from the lake and up a steep hill towards a viewpoint.
There was supposed to be a great view of the Furnas valley from here, but today wasn't really the day for it.
The worst part of the walk was then walking down this very steep road back into the village. It would probably have been okay on a drier day, but the rain made it pretty slippery today.
We made it down in one piece though and found a little cafe in Furnas where we were able to dry out a bit and have some snacks before starting the drive back home. The rain seemed to get progressively heavier the closer we got to Ponta Delgada, so I think we were lucky with our choice of destination for today
All in all it's been a really exciting day, though I can't help hoping that tomorrow is a little drier!