Up From the Ground Came a Bubbling Hot Spring

The bubbling cauldron at the Caleira Velha, near Ponta Delgado, Azores.
The bubbling cauldron at the Caleira Velha, near Ponta Delgado, Azores.

I love it when a place surprises you, and you don’t have any pre-conceived ideas about what it will be like. It’s like going to a movie and never hearing any reviews or knowing even what the film will be about.

That’s been our most excellent feeling about these nine islands located about two-thirds of the way to Europe. We had a blank slate and so far we love it.

Today we toured the town and learned about oranges…these were the mainstay crop back until the 1850s..and all about the countryside are fences made of volcanic rock that used to shield the trees from the wind.

Today no more oranges grow here, but instead pineapples, tea and and tobacco have taken their place.  We drove up a winding road to a 1000 meter summit where down below we saw one of the famous sites here, called Fire Lake. It was formed a mere 250,000 years ago when a volcano collapsed into itself. Today the island generates nearly 40% of its electricity by geothermal means…using the steam that pours from the earth to turn turbines.

You can see how hot that ground is by this photo of the spring, where there is also a tepid pond fed by a waterfall to plunge into. We saw hardy Azoreans swimming in the ocean down by the harbor, but no one was swimming in the spring.

Fire Lake, in Ponta Delgado, Azores.
Fire Lake, in Ponta Delgado, Azores

Now we’ll fly over to Santa Maria a smaller island about 90 km away. The other islands in the archepelago are hundreds of kilometers way, but we’ll have to save those for another visit.

The scenery is reminiscent of New Zealand’s north island, that same young geology and green wavy hills.

We will see a lot more of this the biggest of the islands, Sao Miguel, when we fly back here tomorrow night.