19 June 2015 | Horta, Faial, Azores 38’31.99N 28’37.50W – Velas, Sao Jorge, Azores 38’40.82N 28’12.16W via Cais do Pico, Pico Azores
In years to come our descendents will look back on the way in which we treated this world and be appalled, all the hydrocarbons we burn, the plastic we use and the ‘throwaway’ society that we have created. In the same way we can look back on previous generations and be appalled at some of their actions.
Leaving the sanitised and modern surrounds of Horta we found ourselves off the beaten track in Pico and at a site of untold slaughter. In years gone by the water would have run red with blood and the smell of death would have seeped from every pore of every resident as Whales by the 100’s were processed.
The factory looked as if it could be fired into life at any moment but showed the scars of the slaughter. Cables that had been used to drag the poor animals from the sea had worn groves through the rock and the floors had been painted red to hide the bloody stains. The more we learnt and looked the more appalled we became that this was happening within living memory.
Moving to Sao Jorge we then did something we are sure will appal future generations; we hired a car and burnt hydrocarbons all in the pursuit of pleasure. The list of cars was presented to us and as we wanted to take in the mountains, with their unmade tracks and sheer drops we went straight past all the 4x4’s, past the family saloons and settled on a car the size of a Tonka toy with the off-road ability of a sailboat, but at a price we could afford.
Going up into the clouds our little car was pushed to its limits. Going uphill was nerve racking, but at least we could stop the tiny tin box. Going downhill was something all together scarier. As the gradients increased we felt like we had to peel our faces off the windscreen while below us our tyres skidded and slipped on the marbles that covered the ground. Trying to find a bright side at least we had endless views to take our minds off our impending doom.
With the automobile off-roading experience firmly ‘done’ we could now resort to off-roading by foot. The northern shores of San Jorge plunges 100’s of meters down sheer cliffs into the sea and we knew we had to hike one of these fun sounding ‘cliff walks’. Stepping vertically down for what felt like an eternity we said goodbye to the view and hello to a world of pain.
Getting to the little village at the bottom our knees were soundly complaining. Under the shade of the cliffs we found ancient houses made of basalt all held together with white mortar. With these houses dotting the Cliffside we could finally understand the urban camouflage on Friesian cows and Zebra’s!
Only a tiny proportion of what previous generations did was shocking, most of it was sensational and among their skills was that of cheese making. Sao Jorge is as renowned for its cheese as France is for its Champagne. In the spirit of the ancients we found ourselves at a cottage industry cheese factory looking like we were pro’s (see photo) and ready to learn. We absorbed the ancient knowledge but the one thing we took away was that cheese is yummy and Sao Jorge cheese is particularly yummy.
With the good of the past (cheese), the bad of the past (whaling) and the ugly of the present (Iain wearing plastic) the Azores are getting better and better, island by island and we have another one just over the horizon to come.
Ruffian finally all alone and off the beaten track.
They take the phrase ‘boat house’ to the extreme here.
The local convent has the best views in the town.
Whaling was central to everything that happened here.
And boy was it a gruesome activity.
That’s a lot of whales ‘chalked up’.
This has been responsible for the destruction of many a fine beast.
Time for a romp, lakes and volcanoes. What a great combo.
Can you spot Ruffian? Yep we’re the tiny boat on a big ocean.
Ahh dappled shade.
This is an island of farmers and smallholdings.
It’s great to be on the move again.
Pico from the heights of Sao Jorge.
Where the clouds are ‘fuelled’ by lakes.
That’s a cliff and a half.
Before the ‘big down’ and also the ‘bigger up’.
Isla Graciosa is out there somewhere.
Parts of the island haven’t been touched for years.
The Friesian cows can happily use their camouflage around the buildings.
The ‘up’. Switchback after switchback.
Dressed for the occasion, but what is she dressed for?