Sunday, 5 August 2007

Ilha Verde

There wasn’t much opportunity to get out and about the island on our first two or three days here, us being fully occupied with cleaning and sorting stuff out on the boat. The big cleanup after a couple of months’ cruising is quite an operation. Anyway, with everything shipshape once more, we could set off yesterday with a clear conscience.

We treated ourselves to some new hiking boots and gave them a pretty severe trial with a trek of perhaps 35km. We hadn’t really intended to walk quite so far, but our luck with hitching in the morning wasn’t good, so we ended up hoofing it all the way across the island to the trailhead for the hike we had in mind.

Ilha Verde, they call it – the green island. The lush greenery, rolling hills and volcanic peaks were a soothing sight after the semi-arid terrain of southern Spain and Portugal. They should have shot the ‘Shire’ footage for Lord of the Rings here, it has that sort of mythical look about it.

Dairy cattle there are in abundance, grazing meadows lined with bright hortensia hedgerows (we’ve already enjoyed some of the fine cheeses that result). Every little farm truck, and even the occasional horse and cart still seen, bear their load of steel milk cans. The cows here don’t come in to be milked, instead the farmers head out to the high terraced pasture with a portable milking machine and do the business there. We took a wrong turn along a beautiful forest track and came across a young lad waiting for the evening milking hour, listening to the radio in his truck and drumming on an empty milk can to pass the time.

The main objective of our hike was the trail around the crater rim that encloses Lago Azul. Unbelievable stunning scenery, timeless in itself, but we were rudely reminded of the age we live in by the obnoxious presence of a rave going down on the lakeshore and a Jeep rally progressing over the same trail. The Jeep rally at least had one beneficial consequence for us in the form of a ‘Promobar’ midway around the rim.

We escaped this nonsense by cutting off the official trail and heading down towards the coast and the fishing village of Mosteiros. The track we chose turned out to be a bit of a hidden gem, populated by extraordinary numbers of birds – mainly chaffinch, sparrows, blackbirds and starlings, but we also saw a sweet little goldcrest (Europe’s smallest bird) and an Azorean bullfinch.

After our encounter with the cowherd, our hitching luck improved and we caught a lift down to the black lava sand beach at Mosteiros where we refreshed ourselves with a cooling dip in the sea.

We were definitely flagging by this point and it was still 35km back to Ponta Delgada, so it was with some relief that we picked up a lift that brought us all the way back.

Not feeling nearly so ambitious today. We’re hoping to get along to one of the hot springs and just soak for a bit.

Do please leave comments - we love to hear from you!


Paul said...

Hey Jim and Sonja,
Your trip sounds (and looks) absolutely incredible and I really look forward to reading your blogs - I hope I will be "free" to roam about the globe soon just as you are doing. I do know some Portuguese - many of my ski clientele out west (all ladies - of course:)) are from Brazil and a couple of years ago, I lived with a group of folks mostly from Rio. I am not sure how I survived as one is expected to "part hearty" when not working which doesn't leave any time for such basic essentials as sleep.
However, on the plus side, I have finally got my boat going after many weeks of much needed maintenance. My neighbours kept harassing me regarding my progress (and what job are we doing now - summer will be over by the time you get out). Well I was determined not to set out in anything that I didn't consider seaworthy and after the last job of fixing all the wiring for the lights, I set out last weekend for the islands but the lack of wind left me at West Sister where I anchored (under sail of course!) for the night. Unlike you, I only had a 180 beautiful vista (of the island) - the other 180 included the nuclear power station on the south shore (:. The weather forecast for the night was for clear skies and winds from the NE at 5- 10 knots. This, of course, is why I woke up at 4 am to find a near gale (25-30 knots) which had destroyed every bunge I had tied down the jib with leaving me to don my harness, snap onto the jack lines and crawl forward to sort things out and tie things down - a 24 ft boat bounces around quite a bit in wind like this and as you know there is not a lot of protection at WS. Well, I have learnt my lesson and will now always prepare for a hurricane no matter what the forecast before turning in. The one good thing that came out of this was that my light "Fortress" racing anchor which weighs hardly anything performed magnificently and I didn't move at all during the night. Good luck with the rest of your trip - I look forward to more inspiring entries in your blog. Paul

sailfettler said...

Congratulations on being back afloat, Paul! Good to hear of some further Erie adventures.
We just met a Canadian couple here who have sailed across from the North Channel (to the Azores and heading for France) with two dogs and a cat aboard! They were the first pleasure craft through the Welland canal this spring, having departed Little current as soon as the ice broke up at the end of April.