Azores 2011, day 2, Furnas

August 19 Furnas, São Miguel. Today we took our rental car to Furnas, a small town where the volcanic activity is more visible than anywhere else on the island. There is no problem going there from Ponta Delgada, half of the way is broad and nice motorway. The rest of the road is winding along with beautiful views all the way, but you can see from point to point that there are new parts of the motorway being constructed. On the way you pass a few of the bigger beaches that are situated along the south coast.

We drove about for a while on the narrow streets until we found this restaurant with a nice view where we had a simple meal.

Furnas is well known for its calderas, hot springs with constantly boiling, sulphur smelling water. We visited those at a later occasion, this time we concentrated on the Terra Nostra Park, a wonderful botanical garden with tropical plant from all over the world. Most of all we wanted to have a swim in the big pool that is constantly being supplied with 40 degrees hot water from under ground. It was a treat to swim in the warm, ferrous water. Refreshing it was not, but luckily enough there are showers with ice cold water to get you cool afterwards.

A walk through the Terra Nostra Park is a fascinating experience. This giant of a tree, a Metrosideros Robusta from New Zealand, is next to the entrance.

In the most distant part of the park there are dense thickets of bamboo, an efficient natural fence.

I have seen many swans in my life, but this is my first encounter with a black swan.

Naturally, there are domestic plants in the park, and it is hard to think of anything more domestic on the Azores than Hortensia.

The paths go in all directions in the park, sometimes through pure jungle vegetation, sometimes through pastoral and leafy parts with ponds and streams.

There was some time to walk in the town before turning back. The calderas, the hot springs, we saved for another day, but we managed to have a look at the upturned house. The architect thought it was a splendid idea until he used the bathroom for the first time.

A nice view from Furnas. The millwheel is turning, but that is all it does. The bougainvillea is magnificent.

Close-up of the bougainvillea.

Finally a picture from the terrace of our hotel room in Ponta Delgada. Not much of a view, but then again we didn’t spend much time at the hotel.

Madeira Flowers

Here are some flower pictures from Madeira while I’m tuning the blog. The first one is of flamingo flowers in Funchal during the flower festival.

And here are some wild flowers growing by Levada do Castelejo in the Ribeira Frio valley. They are so bright they look like they are on fire.

A nice meadow, also by Levada do Castelejo, with misty mountains in the background.

Purple and white by our hotel in Prazeres.

Madeira 2010, day 11, Hotel Jardim Atlantico

April 20. Resting day at the hotel. Walked a bit in the surroundings and enjoyed life. 6307 was the number of our nice apartment. Check out day 5 for some views inside the apartment.

Writing postcards.

Writing more postcards.

View from the hotel yard. The glimpse of houses far down by the shore is the old fishing village Paúl do Mar. There is a path leading all the way down there from the hotel. It is beautiful and full of great experiences, but with an elevation of 500 meters it could be an ordeal, at least on the way back to the hotel.

Of course there are flowers.


Madeira 2010, day 10, Levada do Castelejo

April 19 . Levada do Castelejo is not one of the most frequented levadas, but it offers a varied walk along its path, first through the upper parts of the small village Cruz and then along the luxuriant valley of Ribeiro Frio. Occasionally you almost get a feeling of jungle. The narrow path and the sparse existence of railings may not make this levada the first choice for the unexperienced levada walker. The most important rule for any levada is even more important here: Walk or admire the view. Never both at the same time.

Today was not the sunniest day of the journey, but the temperature was nice for walking. When we returned we walked the last hundred meters through pouring rain, but it didn’t matter much since we always have our folding umbrellas in our backpacks. On our way out though, there were quite a few glimpses of sun.

Here we have parked above Cruz. The last bit was the steepest I have ever driven by car. When we returned, the road was so slippery after the rain that it wasn’t possible to brake, the car started to slide immediately. If it hadn’t had ABS brakes I don’t know what would have happened.

This is the slope. The mountain beyond the village is called Eagle’s Rock, it’s a landmark for seafarers north of Madeira. It may be worth a hike of its own.

Madeira is truly an island of flowers. There is always something in bloom, all year round. And you find flowers with such intense colours. The beginning of this levada walk passas a few meadows where we found this plant among others. I have no idea what its name is, but for our personal use I have named it fireflower.

A closer look at a fireflower.

I don’t know the name of this one either. It looks like something belonging to the carnation family. It too has the most intense colour you can imagine.

A closer look at this one too.

I’ve had garden nasturium myself, easy and goodlooking in the garden. This is no garden though, it grows like weed here. (In Sweden we have the expression “grows like weed” about something that multiplies easily and seemlingly without any effort. Don’t know if the expression has the same meaning in English. In this case it’s obvious though.)

Att the beginning of the walk we pass some of the highest situated houses in Cruz. The levada almost seems to be part of the house.

But it is not long before the levada turns south, into the valley. This is the last building before nature takes over. On the other side a waterfall dashes down towards the river.

Here begins the wilder part of the hike. Ribeiro Frio runs a some hundreds of meters below us and to the east the wall of the mountain rises even higher.

We have come to the beginning of the levada. There isn’t a lot of water running in Ribeiro Frio at the moment, but it is enough to fill the small chilly pond, which in turn provides the levada with water. If it had been a warmer day a freezing swim in the pond would have felt wonderful.

The nature of Madeira, exciting and varying.

A last levada picture. Close to this place we had an unusual experience. On our way back, on the one foot wide path, with hundreds of meters of nothing on one side, we met a couple of joggers in full speed. It was so narrow we had to squeeze against the mountain wall on the inner side of the levada to be able to pass each others. And if they haven’t fallen over the edge by now they are still alive and in good condition.