The autonomous region of Azores in Portugal is one that provides a variety of cultures in every aspect. Compromised of nine major islands, all of them share the same geography and volcanic origins – which makes the region a home to many wonderful, natural formations such as its caves, lava-like fields, and subterranean lava tubes. The climate in the region is generally oceanic and subtropical but can be very unpredictable. So, for Portugueses like Carlota Caldeira, the sudden fog on the island during sunrise came as a surprise for her. Check out the breathtaking views of Azores as Carlota captured through the Simple Use Film Camera in Purple.
It was during a turbulent time that, on a whim, I traveled to the Azores. Whatever path I was on was obscured by a blinding fog, raging anxiety kept pounding through my chest day in, day out. For a Portuguese used to sunny days and the calming sound of the limitless sea, London’s ever-grey skies, the constraints of concrete and the crowds are a heavy weight on one's shoulders. I wanted to go home, but simultaneously I felt an immense thirst for the unknown. What a complicated heart I've inherited - roots directed towards home; arms stretching long to the horizon, a nomadic gene, the soul of a Portuguese Discoverer still alive and kicking. This is what made me decide on those islands, lost in the middle of the vast Atlantic Ocean. They were the perfect combination of Portugal and an exotic escape, a place balanced between home and away.
I have a thing for sunrises, to catch one in each new country I visit is an obligation. So, there I was, on the island of São Miguel, lying awakened in bed by one of those annoying alarm clock jingles. 5h30 in the morning. Why, oh why are you so obsessed with the sunrise, when you are not a morning person? No idea. Still, painfully, I got up. My goal - to see the sun peek through the iconic Fire Lagoon, tucked between the highest mountains on the island.
The Azores have some of the most unstable weather conditions one could encounter. So while the skies seemed fairly open, I had no clue whether I would actually be able to see this lagoon. The clouds are magnetized by it. As I was driving through the winding roads leading up there, I could feel the air getting colder. And suddenly, as I turned around the bend - a wall of fog, sitting just above the lagoon, covering everything I had come there to see. Disappointed, I stepped out of the car, light already coloring the sky, the wind howling, all that white swirling around before me. That's when I remembered an ancient Portuguese tale.
At 24 years of age, King Sebastião I crossed the sea to fight in a battle from then on known as Alcácer-Quibir, the Battle of Three Kings. Not one soul lived to see him again. But according to legend, on a foggy morning, he would finally return and reclaim his rightful seat on the throne. This myth has been told across the country for generations, ever since his disappearance in 1578. Fog brings mystery, lurking danger. We humans never liked to be blindfolded. But for Portuguese, fog is also a sign that a young king will return, it’s hope, an unknown lying dormant and waiting to unfold.
I got back in the car and drove down, amid that sea of clouds. All at once, the windshields breached through the whiteness and, finally, I saw it - the Fire Lagoon, in the glorious golden morning light.
I walked to the edge - no one was in sight. I guess not many people share my masochist obsession with the sunrise. Nature was waking up and I watched, breathing the cold breeze in and out. Seagulls flew in circles, up following the green mountainsides, then down towards clear turquoise waters. Perhaps they too felt intoxicated by the view. The lagoon sat perfectly still among the landscape, its imposing throne. I looked up the mountain and saw the fog was still standing, on that same spot. A change in perspective, that's all it took.
It's curious, that piece of land I was standing on. Its nature ever-changing, as tumultuous as my mind can get. Through it, everything comes in passing; raging storms, massive waves, blinding fog, cold rain. Even its core is wavering, boiling water and lava a constant molding hand. That lagoon is a scar from it all. Yet, this land still stands. A solid rock in the middle of the Ocean, somehow stable, refusing to drift away with the currents and the blowing wind...
That anxiety is still sitting here, lodged between my lungs. But now I know - the fog always clears and the sun will show up, eventually.
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