Falling in love with Azorean waterfalls.

It’s usually the case that if an area is volcanic, wet and not too cold, then there are going to be lots of waterfalls. Take, for instance, Iceland, Hawaii, Kamchatka, the Faroe Islands – and other places that have temporarily slipped my mind.

And the Azores are no exception. On the island we’re exploring – San Miguel – there are several waterfalls worth seeing; we had time to see two of them.

I. Salto do Cabrito – a picturesque double waterfall. On the internet, the water looks crystal clear, but we got there just after it rained, and the water was anything but clear. We decided to skip having a swim and just enjoyed the view :)

You can drive almost right up to this waterfall, and can go down a cool little path, alongside the pipe to the local mini-hydroelectric station. I recommend approaching it from above.

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Aquatic tour of the Azores.

And now for another installment about the Azores.

But this time with a difference: what NOT to do in the Azores.

It’s probably not worth going to watch the whales in June, despite the fact that it’s advertised as a ‘must’ for tourists. We fell for it a little … And we only saw one part of one whale – namely, the dorsal fin of a sei whale. After two hours of chasing, that was it as far as Azorean whales were concerned. If it’s whales you’re after, check out my Antarctic stories.

But there were some revelations! I saw my first Portuguese man o’ war! This is a very poisonous jelly-like thing with a bubble on the surface of the water, which is not that deadly for humans, but leaves nasty burns on the skin (look for pictures of victims yourself – it makes me feel a bit squeamish even describing it).

Note, this is not a jellyfish! It’s a colony of different organisms in a symbiotic relationship that’s designed to cause pain and death to anything in its vicinity. Read the wiki page at the link above, it’s amazing. It’s worth it just for bizarre phrases like gonophores, vestigial siphosomal nectophores and gastrozooids with tentacles!

Anyway, here’s a Portuguese man o’ war for you, swimming next to our boat:

But no whales, killer whales, dolphins, or penguins. Even the flying fish seemed to have flown south. I had to take photos of homo sapiens instead. There were plenty of them ->

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Azorean volcanism.

The Azores Islands – and that includes its biggest and best, São Miguel Island – are, as mentioned, very volcanic. Rumblings, steamings, smokings, stones flyings, even sometimes lavas flowings. Re the latter though – it’s been a while since there’s been any of that – the last eruption was around 300 years ago (in the westernmost part of the island). Between the rare appearances of lava, the fumarole activity on the islands is constant and busy – just how we like it: bubbling mud and hot springs.

The largest fumarole site is at Furnas, which I mentioned earlier. Of course, these aren’t as grand as the fumaroles in Kamchatka (Mutnovka) or New Zealand or in fact many other places, but they are still gurglingly impressive.

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Azorean calderean – but no swimmean.

The parks and botanical gardens of the Azores I’ve already told you about. Now for something else no less important – the islands’ volcanisms; in this post, about two of them – the Sete Cidades Massif and Lagoa do Fogo (Lagoon of Fire).

Volcanism No. 1 – the Sete Cidades Massif – a stratovolcanic complex made up of a volcano, a caldera, and a lake in the caldera:

The caldera has a complex structure. It is some 5km in diameter (imagine the eruption involved to create that!), and inside it there are seven partly destroyed and very overgrown younger volcanic cones. Sounds amazing? Looks amazing! ->

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Sweltering Switzerland.

Mid-summer in Zurich – it’s bound to be rather warm. But flying in from the subtropical Azores I wasn’t quite expecting a considerable hike in the temperature – up to 35 degrees. Also unlike in the Azores – there was no breeze (at all) cooling things down, and no moisture in the air. The sidewalks were too hot to walk upon barefoot (when taking off shoes for a dip in the river:), and the sun kept blinding you as it reflected off the numerous shiny surfaces in this generally shiny city. And it looked like half the city had taken the afternoon off work to sit and sip beer by the river. Well, if you can’t beat them – join them (more on that in a bit).

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Azoresome!

There are just nine Azorean islands, and we visited just one of them – São Miguel Island, the largest and most populous. We were told by locals that this is the most interesting of all nine – so we settled for just it – to keep things simple; however, this one island we investigated and examined and inspected rather exhaustively and from top to bottom so I think it’s fair to say we’ve ‘done’ the Azores experience by and large ).

As mentioned yesterday, the Azores sit where three tectonic plates meet in the Atlantic Ocean; accordingly, the Azores are as volcanic as any islands can possibly get. The climate here is comfortable: an oceanic-subtropical thing going on; the sun does actually burn hotter than… jalapeño, but it doesn’t get too crazy hot because of the cooling effect of the surrounding ocean. The temperature of the ocean is practically always around 20°C, while that of the air wavers between 15°C in winter to 25°C in summer. And it rains a lot too. So, in all, what do we have? Volcanic, super-fertile soil + a pleasant, moist subtropical climate = yep, more green than you can shake a… Saudi flagpole at – everywhere.

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Ah – the Azores.

Been a while, I know…

Too busy traversing the planet to put fingers to keyboard. But in the meantime much has happened that needs reporting on and pics shown of – so it’s time for some catch-up…

First up – a few posts about the Azores, where I ended up unexpectedly on business the other week.

The Azores: another amazing place on the planet: green volcanic isles at the place where three of the largest tectonic plates (North American, Eurasian and African) meet amid a vast ocean – they’re bound to be something special. And they are. Especially their… flowers!

Now, any regular reader of these here blog pages will know I often mention and present pics of various plants and trees, but very rarely of flowers. Well that all changes here. This post is mostly all about flowers; in particular – the hydrangea.

Why? Because flowering hydrangea plants are literally everywhere. This was first pointed out to us by the driver of the taxi from the airport – kind of as a warning, so we wouldn’t be too shocked. These white, blue and purple flowers line roads and parking lots. They even act as hedges between fields (to keep cows from straying into neighboring fields), and they blanket-cover parks and botanical gardens – everywhere:


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Why gold’s so expensive – ver. 2019.

Around a year ago, I told you on these here blog pages about an excursion I was given around a gold mine. Down we went deep into the bowels of the earth, where we were shown the whole process of beneficiation through which they extract out of every ton of earth a mere 7-8 grams of gold (which eventually find themselves in a .900 – ~20 karat gold bar).

Now, during that excursion, I recall how we were told by our guides how, though the mine we were in was really quite sufficiently modern, mechanized and automated, it still remained somewhat a ‘diet’ version of a gold mine. If we wanted to see a ‘full fat’ version, we needed to get ourselves… somewhere like this (which, a year later, is just what we did):

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Wonder – on a wander round Rwanda.

Hi folks!

And the news and tales from Rwanda go like this:

1. We’ve just opened a new office here! Our business is doing really rather well here, so we needed local specialists for the local market. Maybe we’ll need some for the neighboring countries too. For now though – our Rwandan office is on the fourth floor of this building:

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And now – gorillas!

Hi folks!

Back just before a busy business schedule in Rwanda the other week (more on that in a few days), we had a half-day spot of tourism scheduled. We’d heard great things about the Volcanoes National Park – those great things being gorillas! So we decided to get on over there for a look…

Gorillas! Large, muscular apes with black fur that inhabit the forests of central Sub-Saharan Africa. The males are huge, reaching body weights of up to 250kg, but they’re vegetarian, and also rather unaggressive beasts; that is – unless you provoke them, as our guides told us: 250kg of muscle and sharp fangs are not something you want to get angry. (Interestingly, on the Russian Wikipedia page for gorillas it states that ~ “if an enemy decides to bottle it and turn and run, the gorilla will catch him/her up and take a bite out of the back or bottom thereof. In some African tribes the most shameful of scars one can have are those from a gorilla: it means that the person ran from one; therefore he/she is a coward.”!

Our expert guides told us how wild-cat predators like leopards and also other powerful and fearsome thuggish beasts like buffalo tend to steer well clear of gorillas. Gorillas are just too strapping and brawny to mess with.

(Regarding their strength, I quote my travel companion, A.S., btw: “Woah! I just saw a young female who was slowly, calmly building up a nest (I think). She grabbed the branch of a tree some five centimeters thick and simply snapped it off without any effort at all! And that was a wee lassie”:)

Did you know that gorillas (and also chimpanzees and orangutans) are the closest species to Homo sapiens? We made a genetic split from them some seven million years ago. Apparently our DNA is just slightly different to theirs – by just two percent! That’s why they look so much like us the fitness trainers in our gym ).

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