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Travelogue Portugal - Azores trip

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Sun 9 - Mon 10 - Tue 11 - Wed 12 - Thu 13 - Fri 14 - Sat 15
Sun 16 - Mon 17 - Tue 18 - Wed 19 - Thu 20 - Fri 21 - Sat 22 - Sun 23

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9 May - Lisbon
Due to a technical problem, my train to the airport, departed with a 20 minute delay. Luckily, I had foreseen to be in the airport 2 hours before departure of the flight. The flight to Lisbon went smoothly. By 12h I was in Lisbon, it's one hour earlier here, compared to Belgium. The flight to Ponta Delgada was scheduled for 19u, but I already saw on the notifications that a previous flight had already been cancelled. So I could only hope, that it would be getting better in the evening... The aerobus took me the city centre. I've been wandering around near Alfama and have visited the castle of São Jorge. When the sky is clear you got a nice panorama view of the city, as this is the highest spot of Lisbon. In a few days, the pope will be visiting Lisbon. The stage where he'll give his performance has been built already.
At about 5PM, I returned to the airport to see that my worry had become reality: the flight has been cancelled. After queuing for and hour at the ticket selling TAP office, they sent me to the customer service office. After queing again for an hour and a half, it became clear that I should have been in Terminal 2 instead of Terminal 1. But luckily, they did offer me a hotel and a meal. So I'm at ease for the rest of the night, but I don't know anything yet about tomorrow. So first thing in the morning (after breakfast ofcourse), I'll go the airport. In the meantime, I'm without my luggage, coz that would be transfered immediately on the next flight.

10 May - Lisbon
This morning, I left the hotel to get an update at the airport. But that seemed to be a very bad idea...
At the SATA office in Terminal 2, they sold me that I couldn't check out from the hotel. Because of this, SATA claimed they were no longer responsible to cover my costs. The hotel did want to cancel the checkout, but yet, SATA didn't want to give me another hotel voucher. So I went back to the hotel, because they would recontact the main SATA office to get an extension of the stay. Of course, they said that they didn't get permission from SATA (actually, I don't think they even made the call). So I called the main customer service office of SATA to hear how I could finally get information about my next flight. After having on the phone for 15 minutes, they told me to go back to the office at Terminal 2 and I would get a new hotel voucher there. Now I also wanted to pick up my luggage, so they sent me back to Terminal 1 (with a shuttle bus). There it became clear that my luggage had disappeared. There was no trace of it. At the lost-baggage office, they gave me a Brussels Airlines 'overnight package' with a t-shirt and some toileteries. And now I can go to the shop to buy some new clothing.
I've heard the the airport in Ponta Delgada, will remain closed till Thuesday noon.
As I was stuck here again, I went into town again. The preparations for the visit of the pope are still ongoing and many camera teams are installing their stuff. Then I made a tourist tour with the open sightseeing bus. Finaly, I spent some money which I should be able to get from Brussels Airlines.
Upon arrival at the hotel, it seems SATA had tried to contact me through the hotel reception. I should contact them asap. Of course, they hadn't given a phone number. So I contacted the main SATA office again. After several retries, I finally got through. They didn't know anything and gave me the number of the SATA office in the Lisbon airport office. They told me they have had an opportunity to send to planes to Ponta Delgada. Because I just heard this news three hours after their initial call, I was unable to get a seat as the plane was ready to take off. So I have to wait till tomorrow to hear if they can schedule some flights. At this moment, this is not certain yet. During these calls, I had a nice dinner in the hotel restaurant (of course, included in the SATA booking :-).

11 May - Lisbon
I'm still in Lisbon. The hotel resevation by SATA has been extended for a day.
This morning, the pope has arrived in Lisbon. The main streets have all been cleared from traffic. Under strict police surveillance throughout the city, the pope has made his way in the 'pope mobile'. A picture is coming soon. Tonight, he'll be giving a mass under open sky. Probably, I'll still be here, because according to the latest updates, the airports on the Azores will remain closed till at least Wednesday noon.
At Campo Pequeno there is an arena for bull fighting. It's a beautiful building, but I couldn't visit the inside because they were preparing a concert of Mika for tonight. While I was walking through Parque Eduardo VII, it started raining, but after the lunch in the hotel that had all gone by.
In the afternoon, I've made a steep ride in a funicular, a small tram specially suited to climbing hills. It was a ride of at least a minute and a half. Luckily, I could get on with my ticket from the sightseeing bus from yesterday. It's not really worth the 1,4€ ticket. It's much nicer from the outside. At that moment the pope was making his way to the big square to lead the mass. Again, the route was fenced and with a police officer every 5m at each side of the road. There was a big deal of people trying to get a glimpse of him... I admit, I was one of them. After his pass-through, I've went up with the Santa Justa elevator to the panorama platform. This I could also do with the ticket, it's barely takes a minute to go up. Once up, I noticed you can easily go that point by the road behind. My advice after today: at the airport, buy a 3,5€ ticket for the aerobus to take you to the city center. With this ticket, you get a discount of 4€ on the yellow sightseeing bus. And with that ticket, you can enjoy the other attractions as well.
In the meantime, the pops was carrying out his performance. The whole square and the roads with a view on it, were quite full with people. I didn't understand what the speeches were about, but thet were accepted with applause. Nevertheless, in my opinion, the enthousiasm could be more explicit and more people could have been there.
To wrap up today's city vist, I went into a small bar. There were many people outside have a drink in a plastic glass. A Dutch couple who had just ordered before me, told me it's a cherry liquor. According to the guide book, it's mainly sold in this part of the city and always consumed outside, in front of the bar. Like this, I have experienced a traditional part of the Lisbon life!
Well, that was my day... What will tomorrow bring? Where will I sleep? You'll probably read it here.

12 May - Flight to São Miguel
Because there was no news from SATA this morning and because SATA had not confirmed to extent my stay in the hotel, I did grab my stuff and went to the airport. The other guests who had ended up in the hotel, had done the same. Somehow, it's easy to have no luggage when you have to travel back and forth that often :-). When I arrived at terminal 2, there were several flights scheduled for Ponta Delgada. Why haven't they contacted the hotel to bring me the news??. After a lot of queueing again, I got my hands on a ticket. I would be leaving at 1pm, but there's already a delay till 2pm. The flight scheduled at 2.40pm has already been cancelled. So I still have my doubts, whether I'll actually leave Lisbon or not. The other thing concerning me, is that the flight to Horta remain cancelled, even today. And this is actually, the airport where I'm supposed to get my flight back home (Horta - Lisbon - Brussels).

13 May - Ponta Delgada
This morning, I have filled out the documents of Brussels Airlines to describe the content of my backpack an its value. I had to fax it within 5 days. By noon, I went again into town to visit it. I spent many hours walking but it's worth it. Nice buildings, pretty churches and picturesque squares. Of course, there's also the dike and the marina. When it got dark, on the biggest square in front of the fort, a band was playing. There's a church there which is fully decorated on the outside, with coloured lamps. That makes a wonderful view at night. So there were many people there and many many popcorn and hot-dog vendors. I think it's actually the festival of Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres.
Early evening, I've gone to a bar with wireless internet for the customers. So I could finally upload yesterdays update. I did as well chech the ferry schedule. They are much less frequent than I expected, so I might have to rethink my plans and maybe even catch a plane instead of the ferry.
For tomorrow, I've been looking to book a hike to Lagos do Fogos with an agency, but due to a lack of candidates, they couldn't do it. So I have to try to get up early, go to the tourist office (if it's open already) and get some maps with tracks. Then I can take a bus and try it myself.

14 May - Cete Cidades
I have managed to get up early. Quarter to eight, I went to the tourist office, but it seemed to just open by nine. So I just went to the bus station to see which bus I could take to one of the hiking trails. Actually, I didn't know very well yet where I would go. There was a bus waiting and and a couple of tourists (Germans). They were going to Cete Cidades, one of the most famous lakes of São Miguel. So I just got on the same bus. They do the hikes without a detailed map, so I guessed it would be easy enough. At some stop, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, they got off, and so did I. The Germans tourists and me have made the same tour. The stop was actually at the start of the trail to Vista do Rei. We finally made a 20km-walk (or a little more) as we walked the complete tour round the lakes. We've done two waymarked routes like this, connecting them through a walk on regular roads. We had great views over the caldeira in the morning but we were unlucky early afternoon. There came a thight fog covering the complete sight. At some moments, we could see no more than 10m ahead. Luckily after an hour or so, it cleared and we had again splendid views over the lakes. It consists of two lakes, the big one is blue, the small one is green.
After we finished the complete tour, we only had 15 minutes left to catch the one and only bus back to Ponta Delgada. That's how the public transport in the Azores work: a bus in the morning and a bus in the evening. It's targetted at the working people and not so much at tourists. So you have to watch out while hiking and ensure you're on time at your destination to catch the bus. Otherwise you would have to call for an expensive taxi.
While we were waiting for that bus, SATA called me. My luggage had arrived in the airport of P.D. As the bus was passing by anyway, I got off to pick up my luggage. I returned to the hostel by taxi. At the airport, they told me they had received 50 bags from Lisbon, without any explanation. There must have been many people in a situation like mine. Actually, I was quite comfortable without luggage...

The flight to PD did finally leave, with an hour and a half delay. One hour later (actually two, but I had to turn back the clock one hour again), I set food on Azorean soil. I have checked again here in the airport about my luggage, but they hadn't received it either. Maybe on the next flight tonight...?
So I'm finally in the youth hostel of PD, without wifi, so I can't put my update online.
After my check-in, I went to a big shopping mall around here. I still got some budget to spend and especially, since I'm no longer on hotel, I need some stuff like towels and toileteries. I ate a pizza there and went to the sea side for a short visit of Ponta Delgada by night. Tomorrow is a holiday, so there was a lot people still enjoying the warm weather and the bars. I don't have any plans yet for tomorrow, but I'll take it slowly so I can make some plans for the coming days. After all, I have three days left to spent, but I still have to get to Horta by next Sunday.

15 May - Pineapples
Dear dairy, today we didn't do what we had in mind, did we? Instead of walking up to Lagoa do Fogo, we stayed near to São Miguel. This morning, I decided to stay on the Pico island for the second part of my Azores holiday. It means I'll skip Terceira. There are too few ferry services to comfortably visit all islands. I have booked my seat for Monday morning at 7pm. I have to check in at 6am and will arrive at about 10pm. It's going to be a long day on the water. I do hope though, to spot a whale, but I suspect they avoid the ferry routes.
After this heavy decision, I went on foot to Faja de Baixa, a neaby town. There's a pineapple growery (Arruda) which you can visit for free. The visit if free, but they get their profit from the liquors they sell: 14€ for a small bottle. I have tasted it, and although it's very good, I didn't bring one home.
On my way back, I noticed the sign 'Moinho do vente' with a symbol of a wind mill. It involved and extra half hour walking up to Faja de Cima, far away from the tourist footsteps. A lovely mill awaited me there, with fantastic views over the surroundings. It has been a very sunny day. I can feel my neck is burnt. Such a contrast compared to yesterday.
To cool down, I made a swim in the public, open air pool near the bay of P.D. At 7pm, the water is surprisingly warm. Who will do this, swimming in the Atlantic, 1300km away from the mainland?
At this time, it's quarter pas eight, and I'm fully enjoying the sun on a terrace. What a life, right?
Tomorrow, I'll make the hike around the Furnas lake. I hope my sore heel, due to my new walking boots, will be better then. That's why I didn't make a big hike today, although I still have done my share of kms anyway. At Furnas, there would be hot water springs and they frie food in natural ovens in the soil. Just this afternoon, an Italian guy has arrived in my room (I've had the quadruple room all by myself all this time) and he might join me for the walk tomorrow. I have to take the 7am bus, and that for a Sunday... Travelling can be cruel!

16 May - Furnas
It was an early day! I had to run from the hostel to the busstation. I was just in time to catch the 7:15 bus. It's a two hour ride to Furnas. Once again, it was really worth the effort. In the village centre, I was welcomed by clouds of steam coming out of the ground. I have made my way to the start of the trail which makes a tour around the Furnas lake. At first, it didn't look too spectacular. But the trail crossed another trail, going up steeply to a viewpoint over the lake. It was was a hard climb, I sweating like hell, but after 45 minutes, I was rewarded with a splendid view. Just as I arrived at the top, two tourist buses arrived. The good thing was that I could pick on tourist to make a picture of me. A few minutes later, they left and I had the place for myself. I have taken the same trail back down. It's very slippery and I had to be careful where I put my feet. It goes through dense forestry. Back down, I had a chat with a couple from Liverpool, UK.
Now I could continue my initial trail. Soon I arrived at new geisers, just like the once in the village centre. An open field where water is bubbling out of holes in the ground. The water is not cooking though, as I could put my finger in it. It was a fascinating view. The soil also feels very warm. They have a tradition of preparing food here. Holes are dug in the ground and buckets with meat and vegetables are put inside. The whole thing is covered again, and they leave it there for a few hours. I was there at noon, and they had just started to dig them out again. It was similar like what I've seen in Jordan, but there they put a fire to keep 'the oven' warm. I haven't been able to eat this meal, because it seems you have to make a reservation in a restaurant in town.
The next part of the tour round the lake was adventure. Because the water level is so high, it was difficult to find the track. First, a stream had to be crossed by jumping over stones. Next half of the length of the trail was covered with trees which had come down from the steep slopes along the road. Sometimes you had to climb over it, sometimes I had to get down on my knees to get under them. It felt like every moment, a new tree could come down.
At the end of the hike, about six hours later, I had a quick visit to the Terra Nostra garden. It's a private garden where they manage to grow all kinds of trees from all over the world, in open air. There's an open air swimming pool with very warm water as well. It's possible to have a wellness treatment for a week there.
My intention was to return to P.D. by bus. But while I was waiting for that bus, in the entrance of bar, a retired man in a jeep stopped and offered me the ride to Ponta Delgada. Of course, I did accept the offer. He loved it to take tourists around. Sometimes he even invites them for the traditional meal at his summerhouse in Furnas. This morning the bus had taken the Northern coast of the island, now we returnd by the south coast. He made some detours to show me some wonderful viewpoints near Campo do Villa Franca and Lagos. This way, I've seen more of São Miguel than I had expected.
Tomorrow, it's going to be day very early again. And it's going to be a long day on the ferry, on my way to Pico. It's my last evening on São Miguel.

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