Friday, July 31, 2015

Africa-Europe 2015 Day 19. From Sao Miguel to Faial

I woke up late, and didn’t come down to breakfast until 7 am. I had to eat quickly, because I had but short three hours to make my final scooter exploration of the island. My goal was to reach Lagoa do Fogo (the Fire Lagoon), which is a crater lake inside Agua du Pau volcano. It was a long steep road, but I was rewarded for my efforts when the shroud of clouds opened at just the crucial moment to reveal the sun-reflecting lagoon inside the deep green crater of the volcano (and at the same crucial moment my camera decided to run out of battery juice).

Agua de Pau was also of great interest to me, because it is here that the geothermal power plant is located, which provides for 40% of the electricity consumed by the island. One must remember that this is a small island, with maybe 50,000 inhabitants. Assuming 2.5 inhabitants per residence to make the math simple that would give us about 20,000 houses, or an average energy consumption of 20 MW, and 40% of this would be about 8 MW provided by geothermal energy. Not huge, but not too shabby either.

I made it back to Ponta Delgada just in time to return my scooter and take a nice, lazy walk to my hotel, pack, and be ready to go at noon. Then I got a reminder of the first of the reasons why I dislike group travel. Somehow everyone else’s ticket had been bought, except for mine! The travel agent was very apologetic, but he would have to find out from California, and it was 5 am there, and … I finished buying my ticket and will have to see if I get a refund when I get back.

A quick 45 minute flight landed our expeditionary force in Faial, the westernmost of the central cluster of islands of the Azores archipelago (the other islands in the central cluster being Pico, Saint Jorge, and Terceira; Sao Miguel is the only island in the eastern “cluster”; and Flores and Corvo form the western cluster). We were met at the airport by our new tour guide, and half an hour later we were installed into our new hotel.

A group got together to go to the afternoon mass in the parish church (today is Saturday June 27, 2015) at 6 pm, and then we learned that a dinner reservation had been made for us at 7 pm. Church was lovely, but I managed to get every prayer mangled trying to say them in Spanish while everyone was reciting them loudly in Portuguese.

Then we headed for the restaurant, and then I remembered my second thing I don’t like about group travel: An order of 14 dishes saturates the kitchen, so your 7:00 pm dinner turns into a 9:00 pm dinner. So you wolf down your meal, hoping that by 9:30 pm you can head for a well deserved night of sleep. The end result is that it was close to 10 pm when we got home, and this is the third time in a row! I am bushed.   

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