Day 5: The other volcano

With another day of great weather, we decided to go see the other big volcano (crater) at Cete Cidades in the Western part of the island. As this is a cold crater, you first have to drive into it, which means there are plenty of opportunities for viewpoints, and we visited them all.

As the clouds were really high today, the sights were amazing! Our favourites are Miradouro Vista do Rei which offers excellent views of both crater lakes: Lagoa Verde and Lagoa Azul. The other is Miradouro Boca do Inferno, which is situated slightly different so you even get to see a third (slightly higher elevated) lake called Lagoa de Santiago. It takes a small hike to get there, but it is definitely worth the effort!

The weather started creeping in on us by now, so we drove down the crater to the city of Cete Cidades, where we had lunch at a great place called Green Love. Luckily, they didn’t only sell salads, but also anything else on a bun. 😉

As the clouds moved away after lunch to reveal even more blue skies, we basically redid the entire morning of viewpoints and got even nicer views. Now that is just great!

Day 4: Volcanoes!

Instead of the promised good weather we were greeted today with what can only be described as torrential downpour, so we had to run to breakfast again. That’s a nice start to our day!

We wanted to go to Furnas to see the islands volcanos activity, but that will need to wait for this weather to clear a bit. And it did, so around 11, off we went.

Furnas is about 35 minutes drive from where we stay, which is not really surprising, as São Miguel is about 65km in length and 16km wide and we are situated in the north right about in the middle of the island (lengthwise). If it is on the north side of the island, it will be maximum 45 minutes by car. Totally splendid!

The city of Furnas is situated in the center of an old crater and still has some fumaroles which can be seen in the city park. There even is a parking nearby, so everything is catered to us tourists. 😉

The crater also has a lake, aptly called Lagoa das Furnas, and there are even more fumaroles over there. The city is famous for a dish called Cozido das Furnas, which typically s a stew prepared in a closed pot in a volcanic ‘oven’ in the ground. The heat and steam from the fumaroles is cooking the stew which takes about 7 hours, but they say it tastes the best! If you’ve ever smelled what a volcano smells like, this seems highly doubtful.

As the walls of the crater are still pretty high, and so we visited Miradouro do Pico do Ferro which provides the best view of the Lagoa and the city of Furnas.

On the way back to our apartment, we found several small signs pointing to Porto Formosa, and seemed to indicate there would be a beach. As the weather not only cleared but actually became really nice, we decided that was the place to end our day. This turned out to be the best decision yet, as we ended up at a lovely beach called Praia dos Moinhos, where we relaxed on the terrace of the Café.

As the low clouds all had gone, we decided it was time to see the other high viewpoint on this side of the island, looking out over Lagoa do Fogo. We tried to see it once before, but were met with a thick layer of fog halfway up the mountain, so we turned back. But not this time: excellent views were to be seen and our timing was the best!

Day 3: Tea time!

The Azores are the only place in Europe where tea can be grown, and today we went to see the only current plantation called Plantações de Chá Gorreana. They have a large number of plants where they grow four types of tea, including Green tea and Orange Pekoe. They are in business since 1883, and are still going strong.

We got to see the men harvesting the tea from the fields, and the process of making the green leaves and tops into what we all recognise as tea. It involves a lot of heavy (originally English!) machinery making lots of loud noises, which didn’t go well with everyone.

On the way there, we visited another viewpoint, this one is called Miradouro de Santa Iria, and it is simply stunning!

The rest of the day has been spent in the excellent gardens at our resort, where they even have a pool and a chicken coop filled with chickens, roosters and geese. The weather has cleared up quite a bit, so we are ready to explore the island further with good forecasts being made for the rest of our stay!

Day 2: Relaxing after the flight

We actually were forced to relax today, as it started raining during the night after being really overcast yesterday, and we were forced to run to our breakfast buffet to avoid getting all soaked.

Breakfast is served here between 8 and 10:30, but everyone seems to start early this morning, so it was packed. A lot of old people down here, and we are the only family. Great.

The rain started subsiding a little after 12, so out we went to find a supermercado, and boy did we find one! It is called Sol-Mar, and is located in Ponta Delgada. There are stores nearby, it we were told this was the biggest one, so off we went.

After getting our groceries back to our apartment, the skies were pretty much cleared up and we even saw patches of blue, so we ventured out a little to a nearby town called Capelas, and went sightseeing to a few Miradouros, like the telling Miradoura da Vigia and Miradoura de Pesqueira.

We loved it! But needed to get back to make dinner for the three of us. Yes, schedules are tight nowadays!

Day 1: Getting there

This year is going to be different as we are not just the two of us anymore, but we are travelling as a family now. This means packing is quite interesting as you need more stuff than you might think at first.

We did prepare for this however, so packing on our travel day could be kept to a minimum as the majority of the hard work has been done the day before. This meant we had an easy start of the day, and were able to collectively leave our house at the right time to get to the airport. Yes, we are going by plane!

Our flight was a little delayed, but we made it through without much effort, and we finally boarded OR699 to PDL, which would take about 4 hours. The flight was great! We all were on our best behaviour, and despite not sleeping at all, our neighbours hardly noticed us. That was awesome!

After negotiating the line at the rental desk, we finally were able to get to our car with the rented children’s seat, and were off to our destination for the day: Quinta de Santana. That’s only a 20 minute drive away, but as night crept in on us as it was nearing 7PM we grabbed a quick bite to eat at a nearby restaurant and basically turned in for the night.

We anticipated a little drama, but none was to be had today and we felt great about that. So proud to be able to do it this way!

Namibia & Botswana: the aftermath

Our 25 days in Namibia and Botswana yielded a lot of good memories, some anxious moments and lots of laughs, amongst other things.
Below is a non-final list of things we got from being on holiday this year:

  • A lot of pictures (> 200GB!)
  • 2 new tyres
  • 1 tyre repair (costing only 30 pula!)
  • 21 new beers/ciders added to my inventory
  • 3 new countries visited
  • A PDF invoice in my email inbox from the rental company after the return of the car (WUT?!)
  • 2802 air miles
  • 7 new species of antilope seen (& photographed!)
  • 2 new Facebook connections ( 🙂 )

All in all, quite a few novelties for us, and the biggest adventure we’ve embarked on so far. Awesome!

Flying back home

Today is the last leg of our journey home, the one where we get on a plane to Johannesburg and finally to Amsterdam. It also marks the last day in Namibia, and the last day of our trip to southern Africa. I’m really quite sad that it ends already, as we’ve had an absolute blast over here!

The owner of the game farm has decorated his house with some of the animals he farms, including a full size giraffe. Yes, that picture indeed features a mounted bust of a giraffe. 0_o

The trip to Windhoek airport was rather uneventful, and we fuelled it up without any issues near to the airport. The guys from the rental company didn’t even complain about the absolute state we left the car in: “It’s Namibia, it’ll get dirty over here!” was their response. Yay!

There only was one oddity on the flight to Johannesburg: the meals we were served actually differed from each other. We both had ‘meat’, but one was a pie with chicken, and the other was a beef pastrami sandwich. Being served two different meals which are supposed to be the same on a plane is really peculiar, and we were as baffled as the flight attendants! The flight back home (after a long wait in South Africa) was long and sleepless for me, and was in a plane from KLM Asia. 😉

Driving to Namibia

With a full tank of diesel and 4 working tyres, we start the 530km long first leg towards Windhoek. It will take us from Maun (Botswana) to a lodge just outside of Buitepos (Namibia) and back from the lush green world to the arid dry land.

The lodge we are staying at is called Kalahari Bush Breaks, and they offer a 4×4 track on their land. Besides catering the tourists, it also is a working game farm, which means they have about 22 species of animals living on the farm which are bred for their meat and hide. The track is meant to provide the users a nice way to view the game, but it proved to be just a little too much for our Duster.

The ground clearance of the car is just too little for us to drive the track as we almost got stuck, after which we decided to turn around and drive back. We got to about half of the 22km track, and it turned out to be a good decision. Tim & Rosaline have a car with much more ground clearance, and they informed us that there was at least another point where we would have gotten ourselves in trouble. In the end, it is just not worth it. We started the drive together, as we were unsure what it would bring. 

Our room overlooks a water hole which is lit by night, and we drank the last of their beers sitting on our porch while viewing the Water Buck, Kudu and Impala, while listening to a male Impala trying to impress the females by grunting and barking. Quite amusing yet rather scary as the noise that small animal makes is really low and loud. You wouldn’t guess that it was an Impala making that sound.

Back to Maun

We are not woken up by the heavy breathing of an elephant this morning, but by the rather stark “hello” from our guide. This also meant that walking on the pathways was safe again, which is also nice.

We chose to do a boat tour this morning after our breakfast, and it turned out to be a great decision! With elephants munching on the grass around virtually every corner, and lots of other animals showing themselves or basking in the morning sun, it was a wonderful boat tour. Unfortunately, it was cut short as our flight back to Maun was at 11:50, so we arrived back at the lodge at 10. This left us plenty of time to have a really early lunch and grab all our stuff to get on the plane. The people at Moremi Crossing have been really nice to us, and the place itself is ultimately serene while the scenery is stunningly gorgeous. If you ever find yourself in the vicinity, please visit the Okavango Delta: preferably from a camp almost inside the National Park. It will not disappoint you!

Our pilot today was Mitch, and the flight back rather uneventful. Only a short 20 minutes later we were at the Arivals/Departures hall in Maun, and after a quick call to the place where our car is parked we got picked up and brought back to the Duster. 

We spent the rest of the day relaxing and fixing our front tyre as it has a slow puncture. This was skilfully mended by a guy from Tyre World for the hefty sum of 30 pula, which is about €2,75. Yeah!

Tomorrow, we’ll start our two legged journey to Windhoek with a long drive back to Namibia. With fixed tyres and enough air in them, we feel confident everything will go swimmingly. 😉