22nd May - 9th June 1998
What we did
Flew into Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel (from Heathrow via
Lisbon). Stayed at the "Hotel Residencia" which was a bit further
out of town than we expected due to there being two streets with very similar
names. Oh well, still walkable. Ate yummy grilled squid at the "Gil"
(seemed to be the most popular place in an otherwise quiet town) with Jean who
we met on the plane.
Discovered that we were just round the corner from a large "hiper
mercado" (on R.D.San Goncalo) which was apparently about the only thing
open on Saturday. (Note that the tourist info offices on ALL the islands are
closed at weekends!) It sells Camping Gaz (places which do seem to be thin on
the ground). We had taken a Coleman stove which could run off petrol, and this
turned out to be a good idea. Combined walks 2 & 3 in Landscape book.
Walked from Vista do Rei (get there via taxi) to Remedios around the Caldeira
das Sete Cidades (we never got down to the actual village). 8-10 miles ? Very
pretty! We had to pass some scary dogs chained up to the milking machines along
the way. In Remedios the locals gave us some beer and cake while we waited for
the bus home. Much excitement as the Azores football team is playing Madeira
(they won 2:1 which resulted in a huge convoy of cars orbiting Ponta Delgada
with horns blaring).
Did walk 1 in the Landscape book. Some kind of festival was
going on in the village at the start with lots of marching bands and fireworks.
This walk was mainly on tracks through farms and villages. A pair of nice old
men sitting in the square at the end tried to communicate by sign language and
offered us wine.
Hired a car and drove to the Nordeste camp site (free!) via
Caldeira Velha which is a natural swimming pool with lovely hot water (it's also
smelly and a rather offputting muddy yellow colour). Then on to the spectacular
Lagoa Do Fogo. At the Nordeste camp site we met some local students, and heard
interesting tales of life in the Azores.
Unfortunately construction work was being done on the river
bed next to the campsite and we got woken up incredibly early by a really noisy
bullozer. Went for a look at the crashing sea near the campsite at the local "beach",
then drove down coast to Faial da Terra, stopping at several beautiful
landscaped viewpoints. We attempted to do a walk from a leaflet we had obtained
at the bookshop in Sao Miguel, but then got lost when it just seemed to
disappear in the middle of an overgrown field. Octopus for dinner (yummy... in
a gross sort of way).
Drove to Furnas, saw the steaming vents and did another walk
around the lake from the Landscape book. Very nice but a bit overgrown. Had to
modify the route quite a bit at the end... the track described had changed into
the main road and we were advised not to take it ("you'll be eating dust
sandwichs all the way") by a US Navy "Sea-Bee" working on the
road. So we walked on the old main road which had been spectacularly eaten away
by landslides in many places (but it was passable on foot easily enough).
Stayed at famous Terra Nostra hotel for 15,000Es. Swam in their thermal pool.
Ate some of the famous stew cooked underground at "Tony's".
Explored the Terra Nostra park. Julie was attacked by a
swan! Took the boat from Vila Franca do Campo to lagoon on island. Tim went
for a swim in cold sea. We BBQed fish at one of the BBQ places (we almost got
chased out because this one was supposed to close at six, but the ranger
generously let us stay).
Early start for our flight to Faial, but it was delayed for
2.5 hours because of bad weather (fog?) at Horta. Here we met Petra, who we
bumped into frequently on the rest of our trip. Caught a glimpse of Pico poking
out of the clouds on the way in! On arrival in Horta we visited the tourist
info, and stayed at the "Residencia Tino Lima" (cheap and cheerful).
Planned what to do next: Booked a whale watch, a hire car and a taxi. Then
drank beer & looked at the boats (and all the paintings on the harbour
Rain. So we canceled the taxi to the caldera and went to
find a laundry (there's one near the harbour). Visited the scrimshaw museum at
Cafe Sport. And the Horta museum (some AMAZING models made of fig pith).
Picked up the washing. Still raining.
Had a hire car today. It was still raining (but getting
better). Drove up to the Calderia, but it was completely foggy and impossible
to see anything so we drove on to Caphelinos. The weather was clearing up by
now so we had a good old wander around this strange moonscape and spent hours
watching huge waves crash on the black volcanic rocks. Then drove up to the
Calderia and had a rather muddy walk around it with the clouds coming and going.
Back in Horta we had a great time looking at the "door displays" in
the shops (too hard to explain... you just have to go there). Went to the "Restuarante
Churrasqueira Capote" which had very yummy BBQed food, but was rather
spoilt by slow, unfriendly service.
Monday 1st June
Went whale watching with Espaco Talassa based in Lajes
on Pico. They picked us up in the harbour at Horta so this was a very
convenient way of getting over to Pico (took about an hour). We saw pilot
whales and various dolphins. Well worth while! Then we walked up to the vigia
(the whale-spotters lookout tower) and had a look through their binoculars.
Camped in the Lajes campsite which is free, very nice (but watch out for the
ants which will get into the smallest hole in your tent), and the guys who run
it are very friendly.
The day we went up Pico! The taxi picked us up at 5am.
Everything was fine on the way up (which took about 4 hours), but at the top
crater it became clear that it was just too windy to get onto the final summit
peak. Five minutes after Tim proposed to Julie (she said "yes") a
massive amount of cloud, wind and rain rolled in and we had a tough time finding
the way down (compass absolutely essential!). Took about three hours to get
down, with continuous rain and wind and almost zero visibility in the cloud.
Halfway down we saw two nutters going up!!!! (More about them later...)
Approaching the car park we heard our taxi driver shouting, but the wind was
blowing so that he couldn't hear us shout back. When we got there he was gone.
We decided to walk out just to keep warm, and managed to walk/hitch to Madelena
two and a half hours later.
Recovered from our adventures yesterday. Some funny business
in the campsite shower block... be warned that the local pervert seems to like
to hang out there. A very lazy day... didn't do much except visit Lajes's
Still recovering. Went for a very short walk up above
Lajes, and BBQed fish at the campsite.
Hired bikes from Espaco Talassa (the usual heavy, clapped out
badly adjusted bikes you get at these places) and rode to Ribieras along the
coast (a very quiet little village). On the way we saw dolphins just off the
coast and met some very friendly Azoreans. The guys who run the campsite BBQed
us some delicious fish. One of them is apparently the star of a old book
entitled "Daniel and the Whale Hunters" which describes the last days
of whaling in Lajes.
Went for another whale watch, and saw Bottlenose dolphins
(our favourite!) and Pilot Whales. This time the sea was quite rough and we
didn't get such a good view (plus Julie got a bit ill). We took a bus via
Madelena to Santo Antonio campsite (again, free!) on the other side of the
island. (Be warned: the timetable we had obtained from Horta tourist info. was
1 hour out). On the way we saw some of the amazing postage-stamp sized
Walked east along coast, passing the old whaling factory
museum (closed today though), more of the little vineyards, lush scenery and
eventualy reaching a cosy swimming place. More of the noisy birds at night
(sorry, didn't mention those before: every campsite we stayed at seemed to be
plagued by a sundown invasion of a seagull like bird apparently called the "nagging
mother-in-law"; if you ever hear them you'll understand why!!!).
Got the ferry back to Horta from Madelena (very rough, with
some people sitting in the wrong place getting completely soaked). Saw the
Horta Fish auction (south end of the harbour). Had "lulas grelhado"
(grilled squid) again (yum!). Stayed at the "Residencial San Francisco"
(very comfy). Went shopping and found a cookbook with a recipie for the "Pasteis
de Nata" (Portuguese custard tarts) we had been eating in cafes all over
Picked up some maps of Pico and Sao Jorge from the Tabacaria
de Sortie (just nr. Res. San Francisco) which had about the best (well, only)
selection of maps we saw in the Azores. Why ? Because we'll definitely be back
one day! Also found ourselves some tins for making "Nata" in (we have
since used them very successfully, although once you see how many eggs go into
the things it puts you off a bit). Flew back to Heathrow via Lisbon, getting
some fantastic views of Pico. (And who should we be sitting in front of but the
couple who had been ascending Pico in horrendous weather; they managed to get to
the top, but got lost on the way down and ended up walking right across the
Guidebooks we found useful
- Sunflower: "Landscapes of The Azores"
- Eyewitness: "Portugal with Madeira and The Azores"
- Wanderlust #12 October/November 1995
- Info from the Portuguese tourist information office in London (we also
picked up lots of useful info in tourist info offices once we got out
What we took
A checklist we made when packing:
- tent (Eureka Backcountry)
- pegs x10
- sleeping bag
- water bottle
- camera & film
- pen knife
- sun hat
- fuel bottle
- pans & handle
- plate, cup, bowl, knife, fork, spoon
- swimming costume
- head torch+battery
- mid-layer / fleecy thing
- walking trousers
- pants & socks
- foam seat
- survival bag
- first aid kit
- Driving licence & passport
- Cash (we didn't bother with travellers cheques; Portuguese banks are well
known to charge rip-off rates)
- tea bags
- skeeter stick
- mozzie repellant
- sun tan lotion
- washing up liquid, pan scrub
- books to read
- crib board and cards
- address book
- washing stuff
What we should have taken
- Snorkel & mask - the sea was pretty cold, but very clear and full of
fish. Actually, maybe not... it was very cold.
- More maps - these were available from Stanfords (although quite
expensive), but would have been quite useful when we were in areas not covered
by the Sunflower guide (especially Pico).
- German guidebooks. A German girl we met seemed to have a much more
comprehensive walking book than the Landscape guide. Of course, we'd have had
to learn German.
For web pages in the Azores: