Wednesday September 10, 2014
Once upon a time last summer I wrote an article for The Monkey’s Fist on Young Cruisers and how it seems to be that when a boat with crew members under the age of 40(ish) finds another boat with crew members of the same age, they’re drawn together like magnets, …. for the most part all relative newbies looking to share in new world experiences while knowing that most of our comrades are sitting behind a desk somewhere. Although it seems by the number of young cruiser blogs popping up out there that our numbers are growing, so watch out old timers, we’re taking back the seas!*
From what we’ve noticed so far in these two Atlantic Islands we’ve visited, there don’t seem to be many Americans crossing the pond in these parts, so when we see each other it seems to be an instant bond as well. “Wait a minute, you’re an American? I’m an American? What are the odds?!”. Kind of like how the French always stick together wherever they are in the world. (Side note, we love all the French boats we’ve come in contact with, they’ve been so incredibly nice and generous toward us) And so it came to be how we met our neighbors Barbara and Stuart of La Luna. Twice now the stars and stripes flapping from our stern has brought over others flying the same colors.
A few days ago we had a little knock on the hull and when we went to check out the source we found Barbara coming to introduce herself and let us know that the two of them were going out for a day of sightseeing around Ponta Delgada in the next day or two and would we like to join them? Normally our version of sightseeing in a town is wandering the streets until we get lost and then make our way back to the boat saying, “Ok, so that was the town”. So when Barbara mentioned actual activities such as a fort and local caves to be toured, we hopped back on the train of itineraries just like when we were traveling with Rode Trip and jumped at the chance for someone else to plan an activity where all we had to do was follow along. Meeting this morning in a cafe across the street from the marina, the four of us sipped on cafe con leche while looking over maps and planning out the day. There didn’t have to be much coaxing from us on what to do though, they asked if we were up for a few things and all we had to reply with was “Sure, lead the way!”.
The first spot we were led to was a military fort positioned on the water about a half mile from us on the marina. We spoke a little broken English to the officials at the office, handed over our 3€ apiece, and began wandering through the exhibits. They really were very interesting visually, but that’s about all I can tell you since every single plaque or information giving tidbit was in Portuguese. From the little bits of data we had been able to receive in our native tongue though, we knew that most of what we were staring at belonged to Portugal’s Colonial war with African colonies in the 1960’s although the era looked like it could have been out of the first World War. For the next hour we wandered from room to room, through tunnels and into rooms that Matt and I had to say to ourselves, ‘You know, we could turn this into a really cool home’, as we took in more visual tidbits of the Portuguese military back in the 60’s.
Plus, with someone else in the group besides just the two of us, it was a rare opportunity for the two of us to have our photo taken together. Something that happens only about twice a year. It’s an occasion that I cherish as the photographer stands behind the lens, getting about 15 shots while repeating, “Ok Matt, I’m going to need to you smile. No really, I mean it. Smile this time. Let me just…sigh…well, yeah, I think I got one that might work”.
From there we roamed the streets of the city center before stumbling upon the local market. I guess it’s one of those things you need to be there early in the morning for the best pick of items, because as we strode in around one in the afternoon the place was a ghost town with only a few onions and tomatoes left to be pilfered. Since the two of us had just found the mega supermarket yesterday and fully stocked up like we hadn’t seen fresh produce in months there was no need to fill up baggies with anything here, but it might still be fun to come check it out some morning in full swing.
The last item on our list for the day was to tour the local caves, but before we could do that we had to find them. I know Matt and I like to get lost for the fun of it while wandering around a city, but the four of us truly did get lost while trying to walk to these caves on the outskirts of town. After much searching for names of streets, asking directions, and pointing at maps, we finally found a sign on the side of the road that would lead us the right way.
Discovering the small building that sat upon the entrance, we paid our fee and watched the instructional video before descending the steps to the depths below. Donning really awesome hair nets and hard hats we were led into two different sections of the caves that ran below the city. Although these caves extend for miles all the way from the waters edge into the center of the island, the fact that they only sit between 10-30 feet under the surface of a budding town and expressways has meant many cave-ins and unsafe areas for tourists.
Taking in the views of the areas we were allowed to explore, we found these particular caves were formed when lava flowed down from the islands volcano, creating tubes underground where the outer area cooled and hardened as the hot lava ran through the center. What remained were two different types of lava, a certain kind of the top that I don’t remember the name of but left cool staglamite , and another kind on the floor called AhhAhh (sp), a Polynesian name that literally came from the sounds natives would make as they walked across it. Kind of like walking on hot coals.
Although the tour wasn’t incredibly long as there weren’t terribly many places we could walk through these caves, just a few hundred feet in each tunnel we were shown, it was still fun and completely different from the things we see when we normally visit a place. Thanks Barbra and Stuart for dragging us out of our own little cave to show us that nature has some of it’s own.
*I mean this in a completely loving way