Isn’t that great? That’s me at the end of the trail that appears in this stock photo I posted the other day.

I regret to tell you that I’m in a lot of back pain. I threw my back out a couple of days before leaving, but it’s been manageable with meds. So manageable that I walked a lot yesterday. I woke up this morning and was having trouble moving. It’s excruciating getting in and out of a car. Fortunately, I brought the big guns on meds, so I’ll be fine, but I’m going to be spending the rest of this day flat on my back in bed. My party just drove from Furnas today to Ponta Delgada, the capital on the southern coast of São Miguel. Now that we’ve checked into the hotel, I’m going to check out. I hope to be back on my feet tomorrow.

Before I forget, please let me encourage you to come visit these beautiful islands. I have only been on São Miguel so far, but we’re headed to Terceira later. I cannot get over how lush this place is, and how friendly the people are. We stayed at the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel in Furnas for two nights. It wasn’t enough. The hotel is beautiful, and the staff could hardly be nicer. I’ve mentioned that it’s attached to a gorgeous botanical garden. I deeply regret that I was in too much pain this morning to get up early and go explore parts of the garden that I had not seen on the first jaunt through it. If this place has seduced me, the guy who only likes nature when it has been prepared well and served on a plate, you can well imagine how much it will please people who love the outdoors.

Last night I was talking to a young traveler from Houston who is here with his wife. We couldn’t get over the fact that the Azores remain relatively undiscovered by Americans. That’s not going to last long, especially now that Delta has a daily flight here from JFK. “This is going to be the new Iceland,” he said, repeating something I’ve been hearing all week from the friend who brought our group to the Azores. He has been to Iceland, and loves it, but said it has become prohibitively expensive. Not the Azores!

UPDATE: Ran into this statue in a small town today. Seems to have been a local Catholic priest, but this unfortunate statue makes him look like a minor Soviet dignitary: