When we were deciding on our activities in the Azores we came across canyoning as an option and decided to try it. We had never done it before and the idea of being close to nature and trekking through canyons really appealed to us.
When we reached Ribeira dos Caldeirões where our activity was going to begin we met Hugo and Gonçalo who were going to be our guides. I instantly liked them. They were young, warm and friendly and it was very easy to feel comfortable around them. They gave us our wetsuits, helmets and boots and fitted us with rappelling belts. I wasn’t nervous about the activity because I had no idea what was to come.
We started out walking and pretty much immediately entered dark, muddy, narrow paths that were also quite steep. I was huffing and puffing and thought ok this is for real! After walking for a bit, we approached an opening which to our delight was a natural pool and beyond that was a beautiful waterfall. I instinctively wanted to swim toward the waterfall. The water was cold but refreshing after the sweat I had built up from trekking up the steep terrain.
We received our safety briefing there and then set off to continue our climb before we would begin coming back down the canyon. The descent was the really fun part for me. We experienced so many new and exhilarating things and all around us was lush greenery and foliage that grew thick in the wet environment of this protected canyon. We slid down muddy slopes on our backs. We jumped off waterfalls. We rappelled down cliffs. Finally, as we neared the end of our adventure we came to the biggest challenge of all - jumping off a 30-ft. waterfall! Our guides were very good at offering the right kind of encouragement but not forcing us to do anything beyond our limits.
They coached us about how to jump and where to jump. At each point, they instructed us as to whether we should jump out and in which direction to avoid any possible rocks beneath the surface of the water. At this final point, they told us to simply take one step off the cliff when we were ready to jump. It was pretty wild looking down because it was such a high jump.
When the time came, I was very, very nervous and when I took that step, it felt like I was in the air for a very long time before I hit the water. I went in a little sideways on one leg and felt the impact. I was okay but knew I would have a bruise there. Nevertheless, it was amazing! They offered us the chance to jump again and I took it. The second jump was easier. I was less nervous and kept my body straight because I looked down into the water as I jumped which allowed me to keep my bearings. At this point, a crowd had gathered around the walls of the canyon and they were watching as our group took these final jumps off the cliff. It was quite amusing to look out at them as we completed our jumps and got out of the water and climbed the winding stone staircase out of the canyon. We were all excited and flush with adrenaline as we recounted our experience. It was so exhilarating and simply put, FUN!!
We arrived in Ponta Delgada on Delta which operates a daily flight from JFK. Our flight arrived in the morning so after reaching our accommodation we decided to take a short nap before our scheduled tour which was in the afternoon. Our tour guide, Leandro picked us up around 2:00pm and we set off. Our first stop was the pineapple plantation which was pretty cool. They showed us the various stages of growing pineapple and we got to sample pineapple liqueur which is pretty strong!
Next, we drove to see the massive volcanic crater of Sete Cidades. We were in awe of the sweeping landscapes surrounding the blue and green Empadadas and Canario lakes. These lakes are the result of volcanic eruptions occurring long ago. The last eruption occurred at approx. 500 years A.D. Besides the two lakes, there is a village in the crater, as well as forested areas and grasslands.
The views were simply amazing! You will notice hydrangeas in the pictures. They are everywhere! We learned that they are not native to the island, however. They were brought here and just took to the soil and grew like crazy.
That evening we walked into town to explore the town of Ponta Delgada. It is quaint and charming. A travel tip is that you must have reservations for the restaurants so plan ahead. Also, they do not always answer the phone so email in advance if possible. The restaurants are excellent though. The specialties I most enjoyed are octopus and fresh caught fish.