Continuing on from my first 3 days of exploring São Miguel Island…
On Day 4 it was time to explore one of the two tea plantations on the island. We were going to visit the Porto Formoso tea factory for a change of scenery for Pedro (he’d visited the other one previously), but it was closed on Sundays. So we went to the Fábrica de Chá Gorreana (the oldest tea plantation in Europe) instead.
They started growing tea in the Azores after the orange orchards were decimated by a disease in the late 1800’s. The tea industry was of great commercial importance in the Azores up until WWI, when many of the tea factories closed. Then, with the emergence of African teas, all the remaining factories – with the exception of the Fábrica de Chá Gorreana – folded.
We started out by walking through the display of machinery they have (unfortunately not a lot of explanation)
and discovered the difference between the 3 types of black tea they produce here. Turns out that Orange Pekoe has the strongest flavour and is made with only the first leaf of the plant, Pekoe is made with the second leaf, and Broken Leaf (mildest flavour) is made with the third leaf.
There is free tea tasting at the factory (you can also try the green tea they produce) and they made the best queijada I ate during my whole visit. If you are there – do try the orange queijada – it is incredible!
After our little snack (and trying to avoid buying more of the orange queijadas “to go”), we went for a stroll through the tea plantation itself. You really could be in Asia right? Would have been great to have a tour actually – to learn more about the how the leaves are processed into tea.
From there we continued our drive around the Eastern side of the island, which had some beautiful towns with very typical architecture – black volcanic rock used as decoration on whitewashed buildings,
and delicious food!
We ended the day again at another swimming spot – this time the Ponta da Ferraria. The fascinating thing about this spot is that the water is actually geothermally heated! On hearing this, I have to admit I was expecting temperatures akin to those found in the hot springs, so you can imagine my shock when it turned out to be only slightly warmer than the temperature of the ocean normally. OK, admittedly it was high tide so the warm water was being overwhelmed by the cold ocean water (they tell me that at low tide it is so hot that sometimes you can’t enter at all). And I did manage to find some “mostly warm spots” to hang out in. Interesting experience!
On Day 5 we headed out again into the classic vistas of São Miguel – happy cows, hydrangeas delineating fields and lining the side of the road, and verdant green hills.
We got a more moody vista this time of Lagoa do Fogo on our way to the Caldeira Velha hot springs.
We didn’t actually go in for a dip at the hot springs here, but just checked out the nature surrounding them. Essentially – Australian Tree Ferns, Australian Blackwood and Australian Cheesewood trees! I felt right at home 🙂
And I have to put this photo in because I love it so much. Me trying to take a decent selfie of myself (I still don’t have the knack!)
Our plan was to do the 7.5km Caldeiras da Ribeira Grande – Salto do Cabrito hike, but we ended up not finding the start point and just ending up at Salto do Cabrito itself. Oh well.
We walked down an enormously steep hill to arrive at the river below the falls and followed the sign to a mineral water spring. It was a beautiful spot.
We refilled our bottles from what I assumed was a still-water spring, so imagine my surprise when I took the first sip and realised that it was sparkling water! Yes – fizzy water straight out of the ground! How does that even happen naturally? And it was different to the normal carbonated water that you buy, somehow it was “softer” – kind of like the sensation you get with sherbet on your tongue. It was strange but awesome!
We checked out the “Little Goat Waterfall”, which was in itself quite pretty, but unfortunately located right beside a rather noisy hydroelectric plant … “Ah the serenity”!
And then hiked to the top of the waterfall up a lot of stairs and along a metal walkway which would definitely not meet OH&S requirements in Australia. Note in the picture below that there is no handrail on the right hand side of the walkway. While this is fine in this part where it is pretty much flush against a rock wall, there were other (quite elevated) parts where it was just a sheer drop into the abyss!
We finished the day at my favourite of all the beaches we visited – Praia do Moinhos (it is also Pedro’s favourite). This beach had waves, wasn’t too crowded and, I don’t know, just was very relaxing and nice.
Day 6 was our to return to Porto. We had just enough time for a short walk in front of Conceição’s amazing home
before boarding our Ryanair flight at lunchtime.
Million thanks to Conceição and Laguita (her gorgeous puppy)! I had a fantastic time and it was wonderful to get to know you both 🙂