Pesda Press

Ocean Crossing Azores Part Deux

Portuguese and Azorean courtesy flags

Portuguese and Azorean courtesy flags
After a fast and straightforward crossing from Terceira, enlivened by the antics of a pod of common dolphins, we arrived at the port of Lajes on the Island of Pico. The harbour is small, with only 5 berths for visitors, and is surrounded by reefs. The pilot makes the approach sound horrific but a new breakwater has made it much more straightforward. As long as you follow the directions to the letter and don’t deviate it is fine.

lajes harbour

The harbour at Lajes de Pico
Mount Pico dominates the island and attracts its own cloud, as if there weren’t enough already. The island is probably very beautiful but for the two days we were there it was covered in dense cloud, rain and hill fog, reminding me of Mynydd Llandegai.
Lajes was the centre of the whaling industry which only ceased here in 1984. We visited the whaling museum and had a look around.
I have always liked Bill Tillman’s idea of combining a sailing voyage with a lightweight ascent of a mountain. So as Kath was keen to have a go I thought we should give Mount Pico a try despite the awful weather. We packed a compass, GPS, map, waterproofs and extra clothing including a belay jacket each. The ascent is made up a rough but straight forward path with the odd post to show the way in less than perfect weather. We started from the road at 1200m in strong winds, driving rain and 15 metres visibility. About half way up we met an excitable foreigner who through wild gestures managed to communicate that he had turned back at 1800m when unable to stand up in the high winds. He seemed somewhat perplexed when the two habitués of Scotland and Wales grinned, shrugged and indicated that surely twas ever thus. Well, we passed his high point and got as far as the rim of the crater at 2100m. At this point we were wearing every stitch of clothing we had and still getting chilled. The final straw came when the vis dropped to less than 5 metres. Despite being so close to the top we turned tail and ran. As Tilman himself would have put it, our attempt failed due to ‘a lack of moral fibre’.
Mount Pico

Mount Pico seen from Horta, Faial
The next day we set off in Firebird towards Faial in a sea state that can only be described as horrid. We both felt quite queasy. However on approaching Horta the wind got up to a 6, the cloud cleared, the sun beat down at last and we screamed into Horta harbour under a reefed genoa. We tied up in the North Marina helped in the difficult wind conditions by a frenchman and a brit called Marcus (whose boat was an old ‘dipping lugsail’ fishing boat painted purple.
After the quiet harbours we had frequented in the Azores Horta came as quite a shock. It is very busy and stuffed full of ’superyachts’. During our first full day in Horta the rain lashed down. Fortunately we had plenty of maintenance and provisioning to be getting on with so it didn’t really matter.

Arival horta

Arriving in Horta, Faial

The next day broke fine and we decided to make the most of it and get some exercise. We hired mountain bikes (what a pleasure after the monstrosities we hired for a day in Terceira) and cycled 16km and 900m of ascent to the rim of the ‘Caldeira’. This was followed by a brisk 8km walk around the rim of the caldeira which includes an ascent of Cabeço Grande, 1043m and the highest point on Faial, which we felt went a little way to redressing our failed attempt on Mount Pico. Needless to say, the best bit was the ride back down. Downhill all the way at breakneck speed. I bottled first and used my brakes from time to time!

Loking down into the caldeira, Faial
The trip’s comedy classic came when Kath took me to a local restaurant she had read about. Just before the waitress came to take our order she delivered the food to the table next to us. Kath says my look of horror was a picture. “Excuse me”, I said to the waitress, ” I don’t wish to appear difficult but surely the fish and meat you just gave them is RAW!” Much embarrassment and amusement ensued as it it was explained to me that we did the cooking ourselves on a hot lava rock.
Today (Friday the 21st of May) was another gloriously sunny day. We hired a scooter and rode around the island. Very ‘italian’ and great fun.
Tomorrow we set off towards home. so we will be unable to post anymore news for at least two weeks. When we get back I’ll let you know how we got on.

1 Response to “Ocean Crossing Azores Part Deux”

  1. 1 Tony Ferrero May 22nd, 2010 at 9:14 am

    What gets me about those types of restaurants is that you cook your own food, yet they still employ a ” chef”

Leave a Reply

You must login to post a comment.