Saturday, August 19, 2023

Portugal Day 19: Lava Caves and Fairy Tunnels

We rented a car for two days in order to better explore Terceira's sites. Our first stop was the Piscinas Naturais de Porto Martins. They have built platforms on top of the volcanic rock with steps leading down into the water to make for easy entry. You are able to swim right out to the ocean, if you'd like. 

We had a lot of fun looking at fish through our goggles. We saw many fish that were colourful, a flounder shuffling in the sand, and a few sea cucumbers!

The blue hydrangeas that were everywhere!

We stopped for lunch in a small town, Fonte do Bastardo (Bastard Fountain in English apparently, though we cannot find the origin of the name). At the restaurant our lack of Portugese was letting us down, and when we were asked a question we assumed was about food we just said yes again assuming that we would be brought menus. Instead we were brought a delicious stew of local meats (deduced from looking at their menu online). Thankfully Erin carries cash because we had neglected to read the large sign on the patio which indicated that they do not accept cards. 

From there, we drove up into the hills to the Furnas do Enxofre, a site with lots of volcanic activity. Walking the path feels like you're in a mystical realm. Smoke from underground wraps up around you, as mist from the clouds blankets you from above. The various types of moss look like nothing you've touched before, all colourful and varied in texture. It all looks like a place that fairies would live in.

Our next stop was the Algor do Carvao. This is a cave created by the volcano long ago. You first walk through a narrow tunnel down into the earth. It opens to this specatcular cave adorned by moss and small plants. We weren't expecting its impressize size and lush vegetation. We descended further to a natural pool and admired the cave's opening from many angles. 

Onwards we went to the Gruta do Natal. This time we were given hard hats to wear and shown on a map where the tunnels would lead. There was an "easy" and "difficult" path. Not sure what to expect, we embarked on the easier trail and found ourselves navigating along a (well-signed) path underground in tunnels created long ago by lava. It was fun to feel the sense of adventure once we hit the "difficult" part of the path and needed to crouch down and crawl. Many a "thunk" could be heard echoing through the tunnels as people hit their hard hats on the stalactites above. 

We finished the day by driving back home along the many hydrangea-lined pastures, back towards the coast and our cosy home.

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