This morning we woke up in Villa Varzea, The Garden Nest. This is an old manor house owned by a doctor who helped put this little village on the Azorean map by expounding the delights of the hot springs and by generally being a decent and philanthropic fellow. It’s still in the family and Monique has converted it into a number of beautifully appointed “nests”.
Ten minutes drive from here is Ponta da Ferraria. There, if you pick your way across the pumice, you will find ladders in the sharp stone leading down into the water of a small natural bay in the rocky Atlantic shore. At the landward side of this little cleft, boiling hot water flows right out of the magmatic rocks and into the sea. At the seaward side, the cold hard waves of the atlantic crash in, but the shape of it offers some degree of protection to bathers from the hard waves of this ocean. Ropes are secured across the cleft as additional handholds. It’s hard to describe. At low tide it is a little pocket of vigorous and hot sea. “It’s like being in a washing machine,” our hostess remarks.
I come out feeling invigorated and beaten up. Low tide was early morning so it was my wake-up. I shunned the ropes and found my way into a crevice with hot water at my back and the crashing waves at my front. Apart from the very real danger of having my head wanged against the pumice, it was a brilliant start to the day.
Water was the theme today. Water IS the theme here. We went up to caldera lakes and stood beside them in the cold. We went down to caldera lakes and sunbathed beside them in the heat. It is every season simultaneously here. Today is our last full day. We made the most of it.
I’ve been avoiding the local speciality but it’s my last day. I couldn’t go any longer without a plate of grilled limpets. I am never going to eat grilled limpets again. But it’s always worth a try. Like snails, they taste of what they are prepared with. Unlike snails they also taste of the sea and have bits of sand in them.
The end of the day found us watching the sun set over the ocean from one of the rare black sand beaches – this one at Mosteiros. We just sat and absorbed it all. The darkness falling on our last night here in the middle of the deep ocean, surrounded by all these mystic waters – hot and cold, red and blue and green, hard and soft, old and new. This is an extraordinary place and feels ancient even if it’s young.
“In six years it will be much more crowded,” predicts our hostess. Perhaps. It’ll help their economy. But we seem to have caught it at a powerful time. People are pleased to see us and there aren’t too many of us. Granted we never spent time in the city but I don’t think it’s going to be Chicago down there.
I’ll be sad to leave tomorrow but I’m rested and warm and happy and calm. I’ll miss all of that and more next week if I’m going to be running around like a maniac in the Arabian desert.