Gord on the track around the caldera rim.
Sete Cidades

Gordon: I am approaching the end of the third of five levels of the Duolingo course in Portuguese, so I should have some ability to understand simple things that are said to me in Portuguese, right? Not a bit of it. I can read most things, and make simple requests in Portuguese, but I still struggle to understand anything said to me in the language. It probably doesn’t help that I am studying Brazilian Portuguese, which differs in pronunciation and vocabulary from European Portuguese, but the real problem is that I just can’t catch the articulation of the words. The sound of vowels changes depending upon whether or not they are in an accented or unaccented syllable. If one word ends with a vowel and the next one begins with one, one of the vowels will just disappear in the spoken language. And then there is the “shushing” sound if a word ends in “s”, giving Portuguese a Slavic sound at times.

Not that Duolingo has not been useful. For instance, today it presented me with the following sentence to translate into English: “Você é tão quente que acho que você é a verdadeira causa do aquecimento global.” I was able to provide the correct translation: “You are so hot that I believe you are the true cause of global warming.” Flattering and topical. I have committed it to memory and hope to have an opportunity to use it soon.

We put our bikes back together this morning (we have the process down to 45 minutes) and cycled through the premier tourist site of Sete Cidades. This is a collection of communities and farms, as well as several large lakes, set within a large caldera. From our small town of Várzea we cycled up to the edge of the crater, then followed the knife edge rim for half of its circumference, before dropping down to the floor of the caldera. Later we visited the pretty seaside town of Mosteiros. It was another day with more that 1000 metres of climbing, giving us license to eat as much pastry as we want. What’s more, Ruth says she is losing her fear of cycling in mountainous areas. Worth the price of the trip all on its own.

*What did she say?

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