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quarta-feira, 24 de junho de 2015

LAGOA DAS FURNAS OR THE ALCHIMY HOW TO TRANSFORM STEAM INTO GOLD!

Once upon a time Lagoa das Furnas was a bucolic, peaceful place where you could contemplate nature at work, watch a lake mirrowing its surroundings, have your cozido cooked with the helpful hand of a local employee. You did not spend any money safe for an occasional icecream or a tip to the "cozidoman". Tempi passati....

Mankind nowadays attributing a price on everything, this public area could no longer stay unexploited and run over by locals and tourists for free. Therefore at its entrance you now find a display announcing an entrance fee of 0,50 euro per person and the cozido comes to 3 euros. As the cozido is not brought by helicopter, it will cost you at least 3,50 euros if you are two to carry your pot ( the driver is free, thank you). At a first wooden shack you thus pay your dime of 0,50 euro, only to read on the ticket that at a stone house, The Reception, 50 meters onward you should stop to have your ticket exchanged against an official receipt. I pity the poor employee selling the tickets. Indeed it must be of utmost frustration to sell tickets which become worthless 50 meters onward. If the aim was to create a phony job, the success is complete. So once you got your ticket (under the watchfull eye of a policeman who was present each time we drove up) , the pickpocketing continues: together with the entrance ticket, you are handed over a parking ticket to be paid for when you leave (at a rate of 20 cents per 15 minutes). The parking fee was of course not announced on the official entrance board so that it is most doubtfull if legally you have to pay. But police will calm you if your temper hots up....You might of course try to park prior to reaching the entrance, but by miracle since a few weeks this has become forbidden.....

If you come with a cozido you MUST stop at the Reception. Because there they confiscate your pot, put it on an electrical golfcart (we are an ecological town, aren't we?) and hurry it to the earthholes. Hurry they do indeed and when seeing them drive around recklessly on various occasions I came to the conclusion that they were training for the SATA Rallye Azores. But I do doubt if their cart held until that event. Anyway they seemed to train hard to be able to compete with Ricardo Moura....

Exit the times when you could take close-up pictures of your pot being laid into the earth. The fact that you dare to trespass the compound awakens 4 otherwise bored employees to life to tell you that you are not allowed to enter. Do not think to rebel ! In case you forgot : there is a policeman at the entrance!

Don't try to be smart and cheat on the entrance fee by walking around the lake and approaching from the other side: Bad luck : the zealous employees have an eye on you. So you might prefer to just walk back the way you came.

I ask myself if this robbing of a public area against money is meant to be a profit center or a cash drain. If the aim was to create jobs at all costs it is a success. I have nevertheless doubts about the quality of these jobs when seeing how the workers hung around, not overzealous to say the least. Around 20 people seem to be employed up there and to me it is evident that if after one year this experience is evaluated there will be but one solution: to raise the entrance fee to have the accounts balanced.

If at first glance the idea seemed brilliant to those behind this project (creation of jobs, additional revenue for the town, additional safety), the negative points take the upper hand: abandonment of free access to a public area ( how much does it cost to picnic for a family of four from Povoação parking their car for 4 hours...) , creation of mean jobs with no perspective, too many employees (why put someone at the entrance selling tickets if the tickets should be exchanged 50 meters on; the Soviet Union collapsed in part due to these " working"methods), police present (were they afraid of riots; why not make more traffic controls instead ?), milking of locals and tourists (double fee : entrance and parking), utmost dishonesty (parking fee not announced at the entrance; once you are in you are trapped unless you prefer to run away from the thieves which is precisely what we did)...

Why not call this a social project and explain to the locals and tourists that this project was meant to (re)employ people who were previously on the dole; levy an entrance fee per car and bus at a reasonable price, regardless of the number of passengers or parking time....and the pill might be easier to swallow ! And why not grant free access (be it on week-ends only...) to all inhabitants of Povoaçao county; their share of the total entrance fee is surely so low that it would not make any difference.

Maybe I am just an oldfashioned, stingy, grumpy (foreign) citizen and I do not understand anything about progress, about the economy or the Azorean way of doing " business"......

Guy Anen

Povoação

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