Diving is my passion. It has been my passion since forever! Well not exactly but it’s been quite a long time since I started to take my diving seriously. The urge to dive into the blue would come up every few months away from taking a dip. It is something automatic. It starts gradually without me realizing it. It starts with me browsing diving articles online and watching diving videos on YouTube and going through my old diving photos, just mesmerizing, reminiscing. I'm sure all scuba addict know this feeling!!
So that is how the trip come about. The urge to dive struck! I was studying in Switzerland and it would have been ridiculous to fly all the way to South East Asia, where various top diving destinations are. So I turned to the person everyone always turns to, Google. I put in ‘diving in Europe’ and Google introduced me to the exotic Azores. At that point I had never heard of such place but I was instantly interested and went in and found more info.
Approximately 1,525km off the coast of Portugal, a group of 9 Islands situated between North America and Europe in the Atlantic ocean. I don’t remember how I came to the conclusion that I was going to go to the Azores. I was in a blackout state. The next thing I remember was me choosing the islands I wanted to visit. With my limited time, I chose to visit 3 islands; Faial, Pico, and Sao Miguel for different reasons.
The first Island on the list is Faial. I caught an early SATA International flight at 8 AM (S4 151) from Lisbon, Portugal. SATA International is the only airline that offers flights between the Azorean islands and the mainland Portugal. It was a flight on a small airplane (A320) and it would usually take 2 hours and 40 minutes from Lisbon to Faial BUT that day was not a usual day. And instead of 2 hours and 40 minutes, it took me half a day!
It was rainy and foggy. The plane was circling above Pico and Faial for some time. I thought the pilot was just waiting for the que to land because it was such a small airport. Before landing, the captain made an announcement through the speaker entirely in Portuguese. Then at 9.40 AM we landed. YAY!
When the other passengers and I got off the plane, an airport staff came in and spoke to us in Portuguese and when she finished her announcement, everyone followed her. Me included. I followed the crowd with zero idea of what was happening. There was an American couple who seemed as confused as I was, if not more. We followed her to the airport departure gate and people were taking seats. So I went to the staff and asked what is going on, how come we are not going out of the airport?? Then I was told that we are not in Faial! The captain landed the plane in a nearby island called Terceira because the fog was too thick to make a safe landing in Faial. Ta da!!!
So we all had to just wait. After an hour and a half of waiting, the staff made another long announcement in Portuguese again. Everybody, except me and the American couple, started to make angry comments (I guessed from the tones) then an argument between the crowd and the staff happened. I and the couple just made eye contact like WTF is going on?!?! There was no opportunity to ask the staff as she was being bombarded with questions from the angry crowd. So I just stood there and watched. But then one of the passengers probably saw how confused I was and decided to help me out. He approached me and told me that the captain said that the weather is still pretty bad out there and he would like to give us passengers options;
- To just keep waiting until the weather clears up then we fly there
- Fly there now and try to land the plane anyway. If he cannot land the plane, he will fly all of us back to Lisbon and we fly back again tomorrow (WTF) If I’m not mistaken, if we choose this option the airline would compensate us with some sort of voucher to get food in the Lisbon airport and a hotel for the night.
Everyone voted for the first option. To me this option makes the most sense anyway. Nobody wants to waste one whole day flying back to Lisbon!! So we came to conclusion that we will wait until the weather gets better.
It was such a long wait. We received complementary voucher for lunch at the airport. Then it was just waiting time. I walked around for quite a while then I decided to go out of the airport to see what is out there.
Unfortunately, I walked into a farming neighborhood where an aggressive watch dog was waiting for stupid tourist to stumble upon. The dog approached me so quickly and I just ran and screamed for help. Then the owner jumped out of the fence and called back his dog. The dog was not a big dog but regardless, it scared the crap out of me. Not such a great start to the trip.
At 4 PM, the airline announced that the new departure time has been set and it will be at 6.15 PM. This time with another airplane, the one with propellers!
At 6 PM, everyone was on board. The rain was still there. It has been 7 hours!! I already missed the things I wanted to do the first day in Faial. I missed going to the volcano. I just wanted to be in Faial already. Another issue is with the dive shop I had been in contact with. The guy was supposed to pick me up at Faial airport since 10.30 AM but I wasn’t sure if they know about the flight situation or not as I was not able to e-mail them because my phone was dead and the charger was in the checked-in luggage.
The plane went up and it took around 20 mins until we were hovering over the designated Island, Faial. I saw Pico island on my right side with Mt. Pico right in the middle of it. The plane started to descent into the fog. I could not see anything. I kept thinking to myself ‘I don’t want to go back to Lisbon!!’ We made it down through the fog then the airport came in to my vision. What a great feeling! Then I felt the plane wheels bumped onto the concrete floor. The captain has landed the plane successfully in Horta airport. Everyone cheered and clapped their hands.
Now I can really start my trip!
Continue to Part 2