Saturday, December 19, 2015


Caldeiras da Ribeira Grande: the renovated bath building

Waiting game
The hamlet of Caldeiras da Ribeira Grande (Caldeiras for short) has seen better times. 
And I mean not earlier in the day or such. 
But sometime in the past when many of the now abandoned buildings formed part of a thriving community.

Much of these structures stem from early nineteenth century (an inscription in the building above refers to 1811), when bathing in the hot waters at Caldeiras seemed to be taking off. 
However nowadays situated around the square are a number of empty buildings, a restaurant (today closed for seasonal repairs), the caldeiras themselves (caldeiras would translate as boiling cauldron) and a bath house, which surprisingly looks open for business.

And though there a couple of vehicles parked here (most probably those of fellow hikers) the square itself seems quite deserted.
That's other than the odd cat stretched out in the sun and a lady seated just outside the bathhouse. 
The bathhouse itself is open. But not open for business. The hostess announces that we can use the toilet facilities, but that since it's restoration (the year before?) the bathhouse itself is yet to welcome it's first soakers. No medical professional stationed here yet is the explanation; no medical advice to be proffered = no soaking! 
It looks like old habits die hard here as they anticipate to re-establish old-fashioned Portuguese style hotspringing here. That's  despite the huge popularity of soaking else where on São Miguel in highly natural circumstances. This must be evidence that focusing on tourists is certainly assisting the bottom line of these businesses.

I'm allowed to wander about the hallway of the quite small bathing house. Onto this hall a few doors open. Behind the doors are stark cubicles with a bath tub, very non-descript. That's all! Well, that does not spell well for the future of the bathhouse, doctor or not. 
I would imagine knocking out the rear walls and placing larger tubs which give a view of the luscious garden along the stream which runs behind the bathhouse.

Between the caldeiras and the bathhouse a channel flows, so one can at least soak ones feet. But let's go for a ramble first.

Ah the ramble
This leads one to the waterfall named Salto do Cabrito (Tripadvisor rates as no. 5 thing to do in Ribeira Grande). 

From Caldeiras the walk starts at what seems like a public possibility to cook your meals with geothermal warmth, see the photo following: 

The hike then continues, up a bit beyond numerous degas signs, to a swift flowing channel, part of the inlet for the nearby hydro power plant. Here you still smell sulfur (sulphur) so there are still sources nearby, probably fumaroles. 
From the here the trail heads down into the forest and crosses the river which it then follows to the waterfall itself, as pictured below.

The Salto, no skinnydipping for a change.
Note that one can also get to the Salto do Cabrito by car from the opposite direction as the waterfall ends at a hydro power plant. 

The walk itself continues and after the valley passes the geothermal power plant called Central Geotérmica do Pico Vermelho before returning back to Caldeiras. Certainly the walk between Caldeiras and the waterfall is worth the effort. 

Jessie on a Journey has a more expansive blog entry on the hike itself.

View towards Ribeira Grande.

Usually I would add a section about how others experienced their visit here, but there's precious little to speak of, certainly nothing noteworthy with the possible exception of the description under the following photo, which describes an original bath (?) as still on display in the bathhouse of Caldeiras.

The bath-house, which has been built by the town's people at Ribeira Grande for the good of the public, and is open at all hours of the day for their accomodation, is a long building, like a double coachhouse, and is divided into four compartments, in each of which a bath, six feet by three, has been sunk in the floor. Each apartment is paved, and each bath lined with a rough, honeycombed, scoriacenous stone, which time and water, and the backs of bathers, have worn sufficiently smooth to suit all but the most fastidious skins.
So I'll proceed with a little more info on the surroundings.

Caldeiras de Riberia Grande sits among the third concentration of geothermal activity on the island, north central roughly alll near the town of Ribeiria Grande. Besides the hamlet of Caldeiras, there's the Caldeira Velha hot spring (forthcoming and a hot spring which is often confused with Caldeiras), the eerie Lago di Fogo (fire lake) atop the water divide with the southern part of the island and the geothermal station of ...

There's more geothermality in the neighbourhood. Has anyone ever heard of the nearby balneario Ladeira da Velha, a seaside bath not so far away but seriously in ruins? There's a full description on  geocache
Pity, if I had knew on forehand I might have made an effort.

As noted above the surroundings of Caldeiras stand witness to a plethora of signs warning for desgaseificaçao (photo below). Apparently extracting geothermal power has lead to higher levels of CO2 discharge from/through the soil.

I've looked some info up on internet, here is a Portuguese news report. Fear not if coming for a visit, it is only prelonged exposure which may be hazourdous.

A bit off topic, continuing up the valley from Caldeiras you come to further ruins in this case from the Lombadas mineral water (Agua das Lombadas) bottling plant. Famous earlier last century, the waters that were used for bottling are still there to take a fill yourself. How to get there:
'To reach this place in the middle of nowhere with only wild volcanic nature around you have two options: Either you leave the car in the village of Caldeiras near the hot springs and the restaurant and follow the road you have just passed at the entrance to the village up to Lombadas – it is nearly 5 km of a fairly nice hike oneway ...'.
Landslides late last century resulted in the abandonment, though it could have been a conscious decision by owners to re-invest elders.

Just a couple more photo's to finish:

The cauldron

The cat (in shade)

The modern bath room (yuck?)

The source itself

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