This morning we were up early and downstairs quickly for a breakfast showcasing local produce. Good cheeses and fresh fruits, bright eggs and tasty juices. The sun was out so we stretched out on the terrace a little. It’s warmer than our bodies are used to. Edgar then bounced us around the pineapple farm. They grow custard apples here as well, and avocados and bananas. “Growing pineapples is never going to make you rich,” he tells us. It takes two years for them to be ready, they take up a lot of space, and each crop usually just yields one. It’s a labour of love. In the summer they have to spray the greenhouse windows with whitewash so they don’t cook. In winter you let it wash off so the sun gets in. Once there was an accidental fire in one of the greenhouses. All the pineapples went into stress mode with the smoke and pushed out big flowers that became an excellent crop. Now they set fires in there on purpose. Clever.
One of the greenhouses has a jacuzzi in it. Lou and I end up in there briefly before checking out.
Then it is into the car and up the side of a volcano. And the rain comes.
This volcanic island is almost impossible lush. The colours are so bright. The vegetation is like nothing I have ever seen before. The birds are all overjoyed. But such incredible fecundity comes with the price of extremely regular rainfall. It all gets soaked up into the vegetation, or it sinks down to purify and well up again as natural hot springs. It’s a small price to pay for such beauty. But our first stop, the lake of fog – it lives up to its name. We stand in a cloud, with sudden gusts of impossible wind. For a moment the clouds shift and there is a huge volcanic lake below us.
Then the rain comes again and we run back to the car. We drive back down to Ribeira Grande and eat fresh fish stew overlooking the Atlantic and one moment there’s hail and then sunlight and then rain. We have seen so many rainbows already we might get jaded before long.
After lunch we arrive at our spa hotel. You can never predict an upgrade, but we lucked out again. For €200 we get two nights in this room which would cost us €700 if we tried to book it. To my right as I write the most incredible botanical gardens are falling to evening darkness. The birds are crying the death of the sun. The hotel is switching on the uplighting in the trees. “We’re going to go to the jacuzzi in the dark,” says Lou. And yes. The public are out. The evening is coming. The rain is stopping, and a short walk from this room the natural iron hot springs have been tamed into little flowing jacuzzis surrounded by old trees, some from before settlement and others introduced by generations of enthusiastic rich men with boats before that sort of thing was discovered to be irresponsible.
This island is beyond description. The weather is operated by a drunk chimp with a bunch of random levers. But I’ve never been anywhere so bright. I have no idea how I lived to be this age without anybody raving to me about The Azores. I would recommend it to anybody. Good food. Good people. And just so astonishingly fecund.
However, I’m starving and I want a swim in the hot springs. The iron is so strong in the water that the ducks are dyed brown. I have brought some crap trunks. I’m going to stink of blood and be happy about it.