Departing Ponta Delgada at 06.45 in November; the streets are empty and there is only one other passenger and me waiting.
After the strong and often howling winds of the previous two days, the pre-dawn gentle warm breeze softly caresses the face and is quite welcome. Travelling through town we soon pick up more passengers and, with the streets empty of traffic, and to a glorious fiery sunrise, we hurtle along and are passing the Gorreana tea estate after 40 minutes. Then come the many charming villages along the coast. We are now into rugged country, formed by volcanoes and subsequent erosion that has created a series of deep valleys and ravines. On the land between these ravines many of the villages have been established, but sadly we do not turn off and descend to their centres.
It would just take too much time, and the bus is too long to wind easily through the narrow roads, although we do go down to Achada and have great problems negotiating a parked tractor. Circling the connecting loops to the new highway can be quite confusing, but one feels sorry for the many tour buses that stick to the highway and miss the fun.
The bus becomes quite full as we get nearer to Nordeste, where it terminates. Arriving at 09.00, it gives a comfortable seven hours for exploration before catching the 16.00 return bus.
This is time enough to visit the two museums, walk along to the miradouro overlooking the Ponta do Arnel with its handsome lighthouse, and wander up to the forest park, perhaps with a picnic lunch. Should you miss the last bus back, it is €50 by taxi to Ponta Delgada!
(Photo: © Andre Goncalves, Shutterstock)