755. Azores Day 17 | Terra Nostra Park + our near death experience

Furnas Azores

Last weekend we decided to visit Furnas again to go to Terra Nostra Park, since we didn't go there the first time in Furnas. We had a pretty bad experience on the journey there and back which was the scariest moment of my life.

On the way there, we decided to take one of the island buses which picked us up at Ponta Delgada and was to go all the way to Furnas. Furnas is quite a distance away (about 40min by car, but by bus it takes about 2 hours since there's several stops in between). The bus goes through small towns along the way, driving on the winding mountain roads with endless turns and bumps. About halfway through I got motion sickness. So we got off the bus for me to recover a bit, and take a taxi the rest of the way. It turns out the place we got off at (Ponta Garca) was the worst possible place to get off. There were no taxis there and we didn't have any luck calling one either. I talked about him in my previous post (which is now removed) but we had 1 driver we used a few times and really liked. Luckily, at that time, he was free so he came from Ponta Delgada to pick us up and drive us the rest of the way to Furnas.
Then we discussed him coming back ~4 hours later to pick us up and bring us back to Ponta Delgada. The journey back was when we had the "near death experience". I will talk about this at the bottom of this post.

Terra Nostra Park is located in Furnas and dates back to 1775. It's a large and beautiful botanical garden with trails, thermal swimming pools and over 2000 different trees from around the world. It costs 8 euros to enter which I personally don't feel is worth it but I guess it goes towards the upkeep of the park. There's also some interesting birds and ducks in there.

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Now about our near death experience..I don't know if this counts as one but for me it was definitely the closest I felt I was to death. Or at least a very severe injury.

So after we finished at the park and was ready to head back, we called the same driver to pick us up as previously discussed. I spoke with him on the phone and thought he sounded a bit weird (like drunk or really tired/just woke up) but didn't think much of it. We got in the car and started driving..on the initial route out of Furnas there are a lot of turns/mountain roads. We soon realized he was going pretty fast and making really sharp turns. Then at one point he scraped the side of the mountain with the car (and said the rocks were in his way) which confirmed he was drunk. Then he started driving on the incoming lane until a car honked at him. He was basically driving really badly and swerving between lanes..and driving really really close to the cars in the front of us.

I started getting really scared that we'd roll off the side of a cliff and how much I didn't want to already die or get in an accident right at the start of our long trip (while also having to avoid COVID). Under normal circumstances I would have gotten motion sickness again due to his crazy driving, but that moment I was too terrified and kept looking at the road watching his driving so I didn't even feel sick. Or I just didn't realize it.

If you are wondering why we didn't try to get out of the car..I would be wondering the same as well, if I wasn't the one who experienced it. Before, I would also think that I'd immediately get out of the car if the driver was drunk. But by the time we realized it we were already on the actual road and I have a strong feeling he wouldn't have let us out of the car. I was afraid if we accused him of being too drunk to drive, he would try to do a car trick or something to prove he is ok. I think we were just hoping for the best. Now, I would never put myself in that situation again and would do what I could to get out of it.

So once we exited the winding roads down the mountain, we got on the highway. It didn't get any better here as he started going really fast (like up to 180km/h), making weird hand movements and doing a dance with the windshield wipers. He also got dangerously close to the highway dividers that I was really afraid we'd crash into it going at such a high speed. A really scary and concerning moment was as we were nearing Ponta Delgada. He suddenly took off his seatbelt!! We thought he was ready to commit suicide. I was thinking maybe he got some extremely bad news or something right after dropping us off at Furnas..then decided to go drink his troubles away, and contemplating suicide.

That whole traumatic ride was around 40 minutes. He dropped us off at the main area of Ponta Delgada. We got out of the car and stood closeby watching him for awhile. He got out and could barely stand straight, then peed on the side of his car.

I hope to never get in that situation again but I have thought of what to do next time if it happened again. I would ask to get out of the car in a way without implying he was drunk and couldn't drive (as you don't know how they would react to that). I'd probably ask to get out and use the washroom. I would also text someone to call the police for me..telling our current location and having the police come and stopping the car.

I feel really lucky and grateful to have arrived at our destination in one piece. From now on I am being way more careful with everything, after experiencing that. We will be leaving Azores in a couple days and will report the incident once we leave.


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