Hey guys! So…surprise! I’m writing to you from the Azores Islands. Never heard of the Azores? You’re not alone. They’re a part of Portugal and are basically located in the middle of the Atlantic! (PS – thank you for all the comments on my last post! I have read them all but have not had a chance to respond, but I will catch up soon! Thank you, thank you, thank you!)
I’m traveling alone, which is the first time I’ve really done my own solo international trip. I planned this trip several months ago but didn’t really tell very many people about it, the reasons for which I will explain next week. Although Jamaica was technically solo, that was planned for me, so that’s different. Anyway! I’m here. And it’s been…kind of a shitshow.
Here are some things that happened within the first 36 hours of my trip, in chronological order:
- I got no sleep on the plane and arrived at 6:50 am local time, 2:50 am my time. Ok, fine.
- Decided to push through and left my hostel to go on a hike. Could not find the correct bus, so I got on a random one, figuring there are hikes all over the island and I would just consult my guidebook to find one. I did! Hooray! Then I told the driver the wrong stop. Had to pay again when I reached the wrong stop and realized where I was. City gates in Ponta Delgada. Right before I got on the wrong bus.
- Finally reached the trail and start climbing. It is basically straight up. I meet a farmer along the way who points to the sky and starts speaking in rapid Portuguese. I figure he is saying he wishes it was sunny so I’m like “Yeah, totally! Me too!” and smile and go on my way.
- Farmer chases me down after I go the wrong way on the trail and then explains the signage system on the trail to me. The trails are EXTREMELY well marked if you know what to look for…I was just deliriously tired and not paying attention. I take this as a good sign and continue on my way.
- The trail is still going straight up and my body is like “LOL YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE IN SHAPE. YOU ARE NOT.” Take off the 4 layers of shirts I am wearing because I’ve now sweated through all of them. “I can do this! Hiking is great! YAY HIKING!”
- I try to take a picture of myself hiking using my lovely new camera and new tripod! Cannot figure out how to work the tripod and spend probably 20 minutes on the trail trying to get my camera to stop falling off of it. I do not succeed.
- Finally give up and continue on my way. It starts to rain.
- It starts to rain harder. Right around the point when I was thinking that they lied when they said the weather changes every 5 minutes on the Azores. I had long since put my fancy camera away.
- It is torrentially downpouring. I’m like LOL NO PROBLEM and put my rain jacket on and my rain cover on my backpack. My HOKA hiking boots are waterproof so my feet are dry and I am happy.
- It is still raining. I am no longer happy, but I figure I have to be close to the lake I’m trying to reach, so I keep going. I am NOT close and now the rain is coming in sideways and I can’t see. I’d turn around, but I’m almost there and I’m already wet, so I keep going.
- I REACH THE LAKE! Can’t see it because it’s raining so hard. I take a video on my phone of the moment because I am very, very stupid. Sheer joy at reaching the top! See the lake in the background? Yeah. Exactly.
- I turn around and head back. I see a couple on the trail about 10 minutes behind me and they ask me if the view was worth it. I laugh and say no, because it wasn’t, but I did report a strong sense of accomplishment. They look displeased.
- I check what time the bus will be coming back and realize if I run down the mountain, I might be able to make the 3 o’ clock bus. Otherwise, I have to wait 2.5 hours in the pouring rain for the next one. I pull out my phone to check the time.
- NONONNONONONONONONONONONO my phone is waterlogged despite being inside my jacket NONONONONONO it’s not working and NONONONONONONONONONO
- I turn around and head back down the mountain. Rain runs down my legs into my previously bone-dry boots and within minutes there is water literally coming out of the tops of my shoes with every step. Random spot along the trail. The thing that looks like a trough next to me is carrying water down the mountain from the lake.
- I see a couple at the bottom of the trail about to get in a rental car and I ask them what time it is. “3:05,” they say.
- For the first time in my life, I hitch a ride with the complete (very nice) strangers because if the alternative is sitting in this freezing cold rain for 2.5 hours and signing my phone’s death warrant, I’d rather take the risk of signing my own (sorry Mom and Dad!)
- I have not eaten any food yet during the day at this point, so I make it back to the city and rush to buy some rice for my phone and some food for myself. Finding nothing gluten free, I buy a block of cheese and some rice cakes. I then eat the cheese on my bed without using a knife.
- Realize I have no outlet adapters and therefore cannot charge my laptop or do anything else.
- Try every method I can think of to dry my soaked clothing. My roommate kindly lends me her hair dryer. EVERYTHING I own is completely soaked but thankfully, my camera still works and my passport is ok. That’s about it.
- I go to dinner with some girls from my hostel (from Germany, the Czech Republic, Brazil, and Canada). They ask me WTF is going on with America’s elections and I laughed, then almost cried, because REALLY, what is going on with our elections? I eat a risotto that I was promised was gluten free. It was, but it was apparently very high fat because my gallbladder-less body rejected it very, very quickly. Am sick for the rest of the night, but walk to the nearby mall to buy some gluten free food and an outlet adapter.
- Get back to my room and realize the adapter does not fit my laptop charger. Give up.
- Go to sleep. Wake up and my phone is still not working. I put it back in the rice and try to straighten my hair with my new adapter. The straightener worked last night, and now it does not. I have broken my very expensive hair straightener somehow despite the fact that it can be used both European and American voltages. I tell my roommate this and she says “The Azores are like the Bermuda Triangle for your possessions.” I have never heard a truer statement.
- My phone now turns on but has 3% battery left. The charger now no longer fits in the charger hole and I can’t get whatever bits of rice are stuck in there out, so although my phone technically works, I still can’t use it. I figure this out after the mall closes for the day.
Here’s some things that DID NOT happen:
- I did not have a panic attack.
- I did not give up.
- I did not cry.
- I did not ever lose faith that everything would be ok.
Here’s some things I learned:
- I’m a lot more calm in other countries than I am at home. Every time something went wrong, I briefly felt my heart race and then I said “No, stop. No one can help you except yourself. Figure out what you’re going to do.”
- People are kind and wonderful and incredibly helpful, even when they have no idea what you’re saying and vice versa.
- That farmer was probably telling me it was about to storm really bad for the next 6 hours.
- I can rely on myself to get through challenging situations.
Thankfully, Day 2 went much better – hiking with my roommates, visiting hot springs, and exploring the towns around the island! I’m about to tuck away to sleep. Here’s a few photos to whet your appetite for more in the coming days! Spoiler alert: it rains here. A lot.
Day 2: The islands are breathtaking and endlessly green. This is because apparently it is a rainforest in March. Visiting some of the geothermal sites in Furnas! The islands are formed from dormant volcanoes. We watched a movie today that explained that they could erupt at any time, so that was reassuring. Thanks to the geothermal energy here, they cook food under the ground in Furnas! It’s called Cozido das Furnas. Restaurants each have their own pits at the geothermal sites. These men are pulling a pot out of the ground! Everything is green…and pink! And the houses in every town are perfection The weather is a disaster and so is my hair. I’ve given up. Good thing the scenery is on point! The colors are incredibly vivid In case you were wondering how far away everything is from the Azores Like I said…it’s spectacular and also rainy I kind of like my new camera…yeah, I’ll keep it. As seen nailed to a tree on one of the trails today…OK, UNIVERSE. I GET IT. Consider me relaxed.
This has been one hell of a learning experience so far and I have to say…even the worst travel day is still a pretty damn good day. The kindness that my roommates, hostelmates, and complete strangers have shown me is incredible and I feel overwhelmed and so thankful. Do unto others, you know? You never know when you might need it. So thank you, Universe. Now please, please, please fix my phone. Amen.