guided walk around Horta
19 June 2018 | Fabulous Faial. – Azorean Island
fresh mountain air – rather than humid sea level conditions
IMAGE – various images – from our hike around Horta
The afternoon activity on Tuesday 19th arranged as part of the OCC Rally was a guided walk around Horta.
James, Malcolm and I met about 20 other salty sailors at Café Sport just after lunch, expecting a short stroll around the town with a historical guide informing this motley, casually dressed crew on the various churches and monuments etc – and maybe even a coffee shop stop of afternoon pastries etc.
WELL - our afternoon guided walk turned out to be a FULL-ON three and a half hour trek/hike around the interior of the island!! (the red route on one of the photos will show our route)
We all piled into a bus and were driven for quite some time to the western side of the island. The drive gave us stunning views out across the countryside into the Atlantic. Our 2 guides described our ‘walk’ as medium difficulty across trails in the high country. Mind you they both looked dressed for the activity - much fitter, younger and healthier than all of us!
We did learn a lot about the island in general from them, and specifically about the geological history, plants and wildlife etc. We were somewhat skeptical of the term "medium difficulty" however, we ventured forth!
The low scrubby vegetation interspersed with flowers and moss threaded with sometimes boggy, but predominantly grassy track, provided pleasant strolling for the first few kilometres. Strawberries were growing wild on the walking trail – sadly not quite ready for picking and eating!
There were some gradually climbs – but nothing too strenuous until we came across a section that was indescribable -a savage jumble of small lava rocks we needed to descend! Many trips and falls later we all made it to the rock walled fields below. After two of so hours, the trail became never-ending – with now lots of moans from weary non-hikers about ‘not signing up for this’, and ‘are we nearly there yet’, and ‘is this really a medium difficulty rating’ etc, etc.
Faial – like all the Azorean island is volcanic in origin. The island has been subjected to multiple earthquakes. In 1957 was the largest volcanic eruption of recent years, when the volcano at Capelinhos appeared out of the sea, going on to engulf the lighthouse and resulting in over 50 percent of the population leaving the island, never to return.
Much of this new volcano has now been eroded away so it has little impact on the vista as a whole, while the old lighthouse stands half buried in ash.
We could clearly see the ashen landscape that falls abruptly to the ocean.
Faial is a beautiful island with spectacular views in all directions. The countryside is lush and just framed by the blue hydrangeas, and wild flowers for which the Azores are famous. It is one of the smaller islands, with maximum dimensions of around 22km by 15km giving it a land area of 173km2.
The inhabitants have cleared the ground into tiny plots and piled the volcanic rock into walls a metre or so high to surround them. These rock walls are testament to generations of tenacious Portuguese settlers who have cleared the land to create small fields of rich fertile farmland. The cows looked very happy indeed!
Many of the 16,000 or so inhabitants still live by farming, though fishing and trades at all levels are also important. The population is sadly not growing. All the young people have good education facilities on the island, but those seeking university or skilled courses must travel to Lisbon or elsewhere in Europe – most never return to live here – the opportunities are just now available.
By the time we had made it back to the coach most of us had wobby legs. I did have a bit of a trip and fall on some of the mossy pavings. The guides were very helpful, and thankfully Sue from Camomile had a cloth that James could soak in cold stream water to get a cold compress on my shin as soon as possible to allow me to continue.
Upon reflection, it was a wonderful experience, however had I know what was involved I would not have gone, and will probably never get James on any type of hike again!