Liz's Journal - Bermuda to Azores.

Page 24

Departed Bermuda for the second time at 10h00 Monday 10 June 2002. For a two week trip to the Azores, or so we thought…

THE AZORES: Our trip to the Azores should have taken 14 days but due to zip wind it took up 18 long painful days or about 440 hours.

29 June to 01 September 2002
The Azores belong to Portugal and as a subset of that the people here speak Portuguese.
The currency is the Euro, which at the moment is slightly more that the US dollar.
The sun sets at about 9:15pm so days are long.

Pico, one of the many volcanoes in the Azores loomed out from the horizon. We approached the marina and rafted up to a boat rafted to a boat rafted to the dock. Rafting up is common in the Azores, especially in the tourist season, where boats are rafted up two, three and four deep. It is a tradition here that you should paint a mural on the wall or bad luck will befall you, so naturally there are hundreds of paintings all over the place, and the works of many artists. There is a small laundry next to the restaurant, there are four washers and one dryer. There is always a long line for laundry, and some wait days to get their laundry done. The supermarket, Modelo is a 1-kilometer walk from the Marina.

Trying to find the market, is reasonably easy, if you walk down the main road for a little while you will get to a tall red beacon or signaling light for ships and turn down the road just opposite, go down the road and turn left, you can’t go wrong.

Swapping information is common between sailors, and there is often some sort of information being shared. The best place to get information about what’s going on and the occasional wild sea faring story is at Café Sport or otherwise known as Peters Café.

There are many ways of touring the island, we went by car since we had the whole family. We left the marina at 12 o’clock for our family tour around the tropical island of Faial. Twisting up the mountain road we saw many beautiful flowers and trees, we also took some lovely photos of the valley sloping down to the sea, where the suns light shimmers on the calm surface of the water. In the distance, a few clouds touching its highest peaks, Pico, the volcano sits comfortably on the water. Up we went climbing the road higher and higher towards the clouds. Wave after wave, thin wisps of clouds roll over the hedges that border the road that would lead us up to Caldeira, an inactive volcano. The crater of the volcano was very deep, even though standing at the top it feels like only a stones throw away, no seriously people actually through stones down because the depth of the crater fooled them.
One our way down the twisting country road we saw a tap, one solitary tap in the middle of the road on a land island, after having some water to drink we continued our drive down the thick forest road. Fail is nicknamed Illha Azul or Blue Island because of the many hydrangeas that rim the road.
Vulcao dos Capelinhos, this volcano has been inactive since 1957 yet deep town under the earths crust rocks still glow, their unmeasured heat dissolving all life that surrounds it. Yet still you see plants as wind carries sand across the hills and onto? Then step-by-step the toughest of plants start to grow, sticks you think, but no, the beginning of life. Then comes dry bristly grass, weeds, flowers and bamboo. Just think in a few hundred years people will see flowers, streams, lakes, wildlife and houses.

There was once a light house greeting ships into port with it’s gleaming light, and let me tell you after a long crossing nothing is more relieving than the sight of shore. This lighthouse is now about five hundred meters away from the cliff dropping down to the sea, so you can work out how the sand builds up forming new land. Because of the Volcanic sand, all the beaches in the Azores are black, giving the beach a dirty look but don’t let that stop you getting into the water, the sand is quite clean. Everywhere you look you will see building, repairing and altering of houses and roads, this is because of the earthquake damage in 1998, when unfortunately many homes were lost. For the records here is some Geography and History of Faial. Faial covers a total area of 173,42 square kilometers, it is 21 km long and 14 km at its widest point
The history of Fail is much the same as the other islands because they are so close together. The Azores was discovered between, 1317 - 1339 by a group of Flemish travelers and was settled in 1460. Summer is in August, the hottest month, while the coldest is in February as winter starts.

Pico is a volcanic island a few miles to the east of Faial. Pico meaning “peak” in Portuguese well describes the island, which from a distance looks like one huge peak. Thousands of tourists each year climb Pico and gaze at the magnificent view. We caught the Fail /Pico ferry from the dock and began our thirty-minute journey to Pico to visit the whaling museum on the other side of the island. From the Ferry dock on Pico we hitched for a few minutes before getting the three of us a lift plus two friends of ours also from South Africa.
I sat in the back of the pick-up truck, which was fun until we started climbing the twisting mountain road. We were high in the clouds, it was so cold, the carbon dioxide from my mouth turned to steam.
We were all glad to arrive in Lajes at the bottom of the mountain where the air was warm. The Whaling Museum was not open when we arrived so we sat down in a nearby café and had a cup of coffee and a soda. We looked around a little straw market, situated opposite the museum on the shoreline.
The Whaling museum was very interesting, bones of whales which leaned against the wall and ceiling because they were too big to fit on the floor. A video documentary on whaling was seen, it was amazing that about ten men can fit on a little twenty two foot fishing boat and under sail can catch a whale over 60 ft long.
We hitched three times before finally getting back to the ferry port, where everyone was getting ready for the coming Festa. The ferry ride back was rather rolly, surge was coming from the right hand side and we found that we were being rolled around like a toy boat in a bathtub.

Fort Santa Cruz, outside the Marina in Horta was built in the 16th century, and occupied by Spaniards. It was under a great attack in 1597 it has since then been repaired to a superior standard. Everyone who visits Faial would finally find themselves at the door to the legendary Peters Café Sport. The café is not however just a bar and a get together place it also holds one of the greatest collections of Scrimshaw in the world. Scrimshaw is the carving of whalebones and teeth.
The sun was bright and waters calm the day we left Horta for Sao Jorge another island in the Azores just a few miles away. On our way there we saw huge dolphins, a mother and her baby. The young dolphin only half the size of its mother was about the same size as the common Bottle Nosed Dolphin.

Sao Jorge
Velas is a charming little town, where some of the older houses are a sign of its past grandeur. We arrived in Velas at five that afternoon, after dropping anchor. Dad and I launched the dinghy into the water and planed ashore, it was good to hear the engine running again after about six weeks.
Where the cliff face has worn away you can see the layers of the sands and rocks in the earths crust. Silica and rocks over thousands of years of pressure seep into one other giving you a gray rock with what looks like colourful crystals ebbed into it.
An elongated island with a length of 56 km and a maximum width of only 8 km. Sao Jorge has and area of 246.25 km2. Created by successive volcanic eruptions in a strait line, of which creators remain, its central platform has an average altitude of 700 meters.

We arrived in Angra do Heroismo at about three in the afternoon. Our slip was luckily right next to some friends of ours on a boat called ‘Music’.
Terceira is known throughout the Azores for its “Bull Fighting” and “The Running of the Bulls”, so naturally we went to go and see some people fly, literally. There are four bulls, they are let out individually to run around the streets tethered by a thin line and ten guys holding on for dear life, five in the middle and five at the end. The running of the Bull is a men’s sport and can be very dangerous. People go flying this way and that knocking others off their feet as the bull throws them as easily as throwing a glance. Bull fighting, the other sport is quite different. Four Toreadors, this time four young boys ride horses in an arena with a bull. The object is to try and get the colourful spear stuck into the bulls hide and then to break off. There are about four of these spears that the rider must successfully jab into the bulls hide. Each spear gets shorter as the game continues making it more difficult for the rider to reach the bull. The game is over when the rider has successfully stuck four spears into the mad bull.

Monte Brazil is an inactive volcano and fort. Its twisted paths lead you up a rocky mountain trail to spectacular views, greeting you after your long hike. The flat North Atlantic Ocean is below you glistening in the sun, birds of many a shape and size glide in the gentle breeze. Praia Da Victoria is where we spent the Terceira Festa. Parades came right past our boat and a fair ground awaited us whenever we left the yacht club. I made a friend with a girl my age named Michele and together with Meg and Dylan on “Music”, we had a ball at Praia Fest. My favorite attraction was a bungee set where you jumped on a trampoline while doing tricks in mid air. We made friends with the guys that ran the trampoline and got on a few times for free. We only stayed in Praia during Festa and we didn’t do much touring around, but to tell you the truth I enjoyed the festival much more.

Sao Miguel The first big thing than happened while we were in Sao Miguel was Cids birthday, a friend of ours that sailed with us from George Town on the boat “Voo Livre” which means ‘Free Flight’ in Portuguese. We made him a cake with 40 candles on the top, wished him happy birthday. We hired a little green car for two days to tour the island. Sao Miguel is a big island and even though we drove around the island for two days we still didn’t see the whole island but here are some of the things we did see.
Day one was partly cloudy with the chance of scattered showers around the early afternoon. There, now I feel like a weatherman on T.V, the only difference is, I am correct. There are many Azorean style churches on the island, white with black volcanic rock bordering the window frames, doors and garland. The island is incredibly green for its position on the earth. In the middle of the north Atlantic ocean, a thousand miles away from any continent and yet life blooms. The green light overwhelms you as you drive through a tunnel of trees swaying gently in the breeze.

Lagoa de Fogo was our first lagoon and stop. An abandoned church sits motionless as the cool lake water laps against its shore, plastic bags cover the openings that were once stain glass windows. Down a narrow country road small little houses you spot on the hilltops and with the light shining just right the hills sing. Locals walk along the road giving you a nod of the head before continuing with there daily chores, even if it includes only sitting and waiting, waiting for what I don’t know and by the looks on their faces I don’t think they do either.

The Gardens, where we met up with Cid and Junia and quite by accident really, but we enjoyed a walk in the botanical garden. My favourite part was crossing an old wooden rickety bridge. Dad and I had lots of fun trying to throw off the others balance. Cid and Junia told us of a hot pool just a little way up the road so naturally that was our next stop. I did a quick change in the car into my bathing suit before we started walking along a short narrow path that lead to the hot pool. I hopped in, the water was lovely and it felt like I was in a warm bath. At the back of the pool there is a cave and at the back of the cave there is a pile of mud that they use in spas. Mom said the mud is good for you skin so I disappeared into the cave for a few minutes before coming out totally covered from head to foot in mud. Mom took some picks and said ‘The Mud isn’t THAT! Good for you’, anyway it was washed off in a few seconds underwater. It was time to get out and I walked back to the car dripping and smelling like sulfur ‘No mosquitoes tonight’.

Under the earths crust liquids are bubbling away, sometimes the pressure becomes too much and the water bubbles out forming springs or hot pools. We visited these spectacular natural wonders and found it incredible. People actually cook food in these pools the water is so hot so, we taking a tip from the locals took two raw eggs along with us and plopped them into a shallow puddle, ten minuets later we had hard boiling eggs alfresco.

Another spectacular natural wonder is a hot waterfall, formed by hot water bubbling out of rocks into pools, streams and waterfalls, lined with clay like orange rocks. I once again jumped into my bathing suit and then into the water. Dad and I found a path leading up to more pools right to the source of the water. The water coming out of the rocks was so hot I could only stand under it for a few seconds before having to jump out to cool off a little. The hot waterfall was our last stop and I was ready to hop into the shower and try and get the sulfur smell off me, unfortunately my bathing suit still carries the sulfur smell, oh well, it is a permanent remainder of a temporary feeling.

Day two was sunny, not a cloud in the sky and the cool breeze from the day before was never present. We had to get the rent a car back by 4 o’clock so we had an early start. We were driving along a mountain road when we spotted a very steep dirt road leading up the mountain so we decided to follow it. We almost had to get out of the car and push when the wheel started skidding, but they gripped and we fastened our seat belts again. We followed a little path along a lake before we came to another turn off and a steep road, which took us right to the top of the mountain and to a great sight seeing spot. While Mom, Dad and Granny were looking over at the lake below I spotted a baby rabbit rush right past me. Back down the road again and along the lake some more we came to a picnic area with a most peculiar table and chairs. Both the table and chairs were made out of grass. One our way back we saw a man cutting away the moss on the side of the road. When we got closer we saw that he was cutting back to the original rock and that the narrow road was actually a foot wider that we thought.

Back on the main road again we spotted another road turning to the right, beside it was an Aqueduct carrying water from one pasture to another. Both mom and dad thought the arches in the Aqueduct would frame a lovely photo. The only problem was to get on the other side you have to hop an electric fence. But who would be so stupid to hop an electrical fence. You guessed it me, yes I was voted the electrical fence hopper. I was balancing on some logs waiting for the right time to hope over when I pictured Horris and Jasper on 101 Dialmations and how they got toasted. Suddenly I was not as keen as to hop the fence but I did it anyway. Once the photo was taken I crawled under the fence for I thought I could not be lucky twice and it was not worth testing.

Along that road some more just as you started twisting up the mountain road yet another dirt road turned off to the left, marked at the beginning with what looked like the German flag, not knowing what this meant we carried along on the dirt road. We started climbing and soon we were driving along the ridge of the volcano crater. The road started getting quite bad as we passed hiker among hiker. We went down this really steep loose rock road and we rolled down our windows and unlocked our doors just incase we had to jump. At the bottom dad said ‘I hope we don’t meet a dead end because there in no way we can get back up that road, so we kept going dreading a dead end. All the nail biting was worth the view from the top as clouds float by below you, as you see a sight only meant for birds. The only vehicle we saw was a tractor and the passengers onboard stared at us until we disappeared below the next ridge.

One of the best views was seeing the two-sister lakes "Azul" and "Verde" one blue and the other dirty brown. Why the water in the lakes don’t mix is a mystery to me, probably another natural wonder. Just for interests sake the stripes like the German flag on the tree at the beginning of the trail means walking trail only. No wonder the hikers and the farmers in the tractors were looking at us funny, we weren’t supposed to be there and when anyone asks me why I went I just say ‘Tourista’

As part of the marina there is a huge swimming pool with four diving boards. You have to pay to get in but if you go early afternoon it is well worth it. There is also a huge round yellow doughnut just off shore with a trampoline and it is lots of fun bouncing into the water. One day while I was walking with Jack along the beachfront road I spotted a flock of sea gulls swimming near the rocks, as soon as they saw me they all flew off, bar one, which tried to but couldn’t. I thought it must have landed with its wing cupped so forming an air bubble making it very difficult to take off again. On my way back I saw it again this time sitting on a rock, I climbed over the kneehigh wall and slipped and slid down the steep concrete. When I got near it, it hopped in the water and started swimming away I thought to myself that it must have been ok, but just then it stopped going forward even though it was swimming flat out. I realized that it was tangled in fishing line that was wrapped around a rock a little way off shore. I hopped rocks as far out as I dared before grabbing the line and biting through it, luckily it wasn’t very thick. I climbed back up the wall the bird in my left hand and my right hand resting gently around its neck while Jacks leash was in my mouth. When we arrived back at the yacht club mom, dad and I started the difficult task of untangling the sea gull. After about fifteen minutes the bird was free with only minor cuts and scrapes, we lay in down on the fore deck and a few seconds later it was back in the air and happy to be alive. I told you this so that you could see the danger you put animals in when you throw your lunch and candy bar wrappers in the ocean. This bird was lucky to be alive a few more hours, as the tide would have risen and the sea gull would have drowned. On Sunday the 1st of September we left Punta Delgada, Sao Miguel headed for mainland Portugal.