However, we like this island and its capital Angra do Heroismo from the start; no comment on that name. The building style of these black and white houses is Renaissance style from the 16th century. Later houses also have very colourful window frames or façades. When the Spanish controlled Portugal and the Azores this was their most important harbour on the isles. The gold and silver ladden galeons from Central and South America stopped over on their way to the mainland.
In the book ‚Indian Givers‘ I read that the Spanish took so much silver from Bolivia alone that a solid silver bridge could have been built from Bolivia to Spain! This liquidity is what enabled the forming of a Bourgeoisie or middle class and democratization in Europe in the first place because power spread with the money. Interesting thought.
Together with a French sailor couple we hire a taxi and visit Algar do Carvao. This is the spectacular funnel of an extinct volcano and you can hike down into it. Due to the high humidity the inside of it is green with plants but lower down you can still feel the power of the vulcano when looking at the different colors and layers of the rocks. On the way back the windshield of the taxi is wet all of a sudden without a raindrop in sight. ‚This is not rain, we call it Champagne of heaven‘ is the taxi drivers sarcastic comment before he launches into the lament of all the Portuguese about this too cool, too foggy, and too rainy summer. He honks loudly to chase the cowherd moving in slow motion off the road and drives on without further words.
On one of these grey days we sail on to our next island, Sao Jorge. On the way we witness a breaching whale from afar. He or she jumps out of the water and makes a huge splash numerous times. Sao Jorge itself seems to be the back of a huge whale rising from the sea. Flat and green at the top, steep and rocky on the sides with the exception of the Faias. They are flat outcrops close to sea level caused lava flows that were chilled by the ocean water. The road leads down in steep switchbacks to a handful of houses of fishermen and farmers. On Sao Jorge there are said to live more cows than humans and they cheese they produce is famous. People’s mainstay seems to be breeding and dairy. Everything is very simple here, there are only a few of restaurants in the main town and tourist accomodation is scarce. The few tourists we encounter either sit in another rental car like us or on a scooter or the hike around in trekking shoes.
From Sao Jorge you can get spectacular sights on the vulcano Pico on the island of Pico (not hard to remember that name) when the cloud cover lifts. We sail past it to Horta, the main town on Faial. At the harbor entrance we encounter SV Delos, the YouTube-stars that have been sailing around the world for the past 8 years. Unfortunately, there is no time for a beer and chat together and find out about their tricks.
Every muslim is supposed to make a pilgrimage to Mecca once in their live and every serious sailor must go to Peter’s Café in Horta once. The walls of which are plastered with flags and burgees of sailing yachts that have passed through here. In the meantime there is a souvenir and clothing store, where you can get everything with the label of the café. Branding they call it.
We rent a scooter and drive up to the volcanic caldera and the highest point of the island and hike up to enjoy the grandiose into the wide round crater. Along the roads there are kilometers of hydrangea and the meadows are ouf a lush green. If you drive to the west end of the island the landscape turns brown, grey, and eventually black. You might feel like you are on a different planet. In 1957 a volcano just offshore erupted here and formed a new island of which a large part has been reclaimed by the sea in the meantime through erosion. The old part was buried under volcanic debris and the old lighthouse stands as a witness of this violent outbreak. In the architecturally interested subterranean visitor center and museum you can learn more about this powerful event.
On the way back we stop at a natural ocean swimming pool between lava rocks. Here the local youth meets up and on the parking lot the old sit around having a pic nic or barbeque. In the Azores there are not many beaches and these natural pools are therefore popular. Rightfully so, the water is very clear and the power of the ocean can be felt even though outlying rocks will dampen it to a safe level.
We must move on as northeasterly winds are predicted and this is the direction we have to sail. This will be Tara’s last overnight passage for now sailing to Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel, the main island and airport. Her summer vacation is over soon.
For pictures click here.