Gordon:  What if there was a place like Hawaii, but a few degrees cooler, so that hiking is more comfortable, only a few tourists, and, say, at a third of the cost?  If that sounds like a good destination, may I suggest the Azores?

We went on our first hike today, in the popular Sete Cidades area.  This is a large volcanic crater enclosing two lakes, one green and the other blue.  The crater also contains the town of Sete Cidades (“Seven Cities” – I don’t know the origin of this as there is only one small town in there) and some agricultural land.  

We approached Sete Cidades along a portion of the crater rim on a dirt road only just wider than the car (a Toyota Ayga, which I believe translates as “go-cart”).  There was a dense fog, which was just as well, as it prevented us from seeing the 500 foot drop on either side of the road.  A highways crew was working on the road, which included planting a hydrangea hedgerow on either side.  This was done simply by cutting hydrangea canes in 50 cm lengths and jamming them in the ground.  Conditions are so conducive to growth that the canes are already sprouting leaves.

Later, at the bottom of the crater, we walked around the smaller lake, Lagoa Verde.  The forest was lush, with native trees that reminded us of cedars, but undergrowth that was more reminiscent of the tropics. The air was filled with birdsong and scents that recalled Hawaii.

On our return drive, on a larger, paved road, we encountered a number of tourist vans and buses.  The sudden appearance of so many tourists was explained when we returned to Ponta Delgada and found an enormous cruise ship in the harbour.  Our apartment is half a block from the waterfront on a narrow street perpendicular to it.  The view down the street is now dominated by the bow of the cruise ship.  I understand that cruise ship visits, particularly now, in low season, are eagerly anticipated as they provide a significant stimulus to the local economy.

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