We’re getting ready to leave this lovely island, one of hydrangea (I know, I know, you must be tired of hearing about those but, surprisingly, we’ve never tired of seeing them),
Our friends Katie Wilkinson and Peter Stoops had warned us about how beautiful this island is, and, along with Flores, it’s been a wonderful treat to spend two weeks here.
Several of the last few days we’ve explored more walks and roads with Tricia and David, some in the mist that always seems to find us
and not just us…
However, even in splotchy sunshine we enjoyed snapping photos and looking around
There were numerous car stops, thanks to Max’s willingness to stop whenever he heard an ‘Oh’, such as a field of seagulls, where David was going to take a pic
until I said ‘wow’ and they took flight… a big stupid whoops on my part…
We drove down hairpin turns to reach another small village, Faja dos Vimes, where more interesting trees
and WALLS greeted us
Believe it or not, we did step foot in Faja dos Vimas’ small chapel
where we should have sent prayers to those who command the weather to request a completely blue sky for the ridge road views.
Don’t get me wrong: we love poking around the small villages and watching Max navigate the narrow roads and hear Tricia gasp whenever he pulled off beside a drop off (like me, she’s terrified of heights). But, we really wanted to climb the tallest peak (I should say hike as it’s not a steep mountain, but climb sounds more impressive).
Well, someone must have uttered some incantation in that chapel because a few days later, on July 14th, we got a somewhat, high visibility period (key word, ‘somewhat’). We hopped in the car and drove to where the trail starts. This four-hour hike would take us past the small detour to the highest point on Sao Jorge, Pico da Esperanca. We weren’t planning on the entire hike, just to the part where we could get to the top.
Of course, we had to have sustenance, which consisted of half-melted power bars squooshed from my always managing to sit on my backpack when getting back into the car…
Now well fortified, we began what we hoped to be our ascent.
The wildlife we saw was basically roadkill (more on that later) on the way up the gently winding trail road
The terrain was fascinating. What looked like wet, dark soil was actually dry, crumbly rocks. If you picked it up it was like crumbled oreo cookies without the cream inside
and, in some instances, like a hollowed out walnut casing
We were definitely in Vulcan’s land.
Max had the trail map, and was checking to see just how many bends we had to turn before we reached the trail to the top of Esperanca
For it went on
After an hour and a half, we knew whomever had uttered that prayer hadn’t put enough heartfelt plea into it (yes, the cloud cover was back). Plus, it was getting close to cocktail hour.
We decided to head back to the boat and return the next day to hike to the top; so, we completed an about-face and started back down the gently winding trail
We came upon our Pedro cottontail to whom we left a memorial thanks to Max
[In case you can’t decipher my scribbled writing…
“Here lies Pedro with a flattened tail, He wasn’t quick enough for the Sao Jorge Trail.” Didn’t I tell you Max was good at this :]
Driving home, we ran into a bit of a traffic jam, one which only adds to the ambiance of Sao Jorge
And, we ended the night with having friends aboard, Tricia, David, Stefan, Carina, Audrey, and Roger
using the best ice in the marina, thanks to Max :)
However, we were in luck. Someone DID say the magic words for the next day dawned that clean sky blue with no clouds at the top! Today was the day the four of us WOULD ascend to the top of Pico de Esperanca.
This time we decided to skip repeating our walk from Base Camp I and just drive right to Base Camp IV where you start the short climb to the top (no one would call us hiking purists).
To prep, Max couldn’t resist putting on his high-altitude gear (now do you understand why we’re together?).
Fortunately, Max decided to forsake his high-altitude gear, and we set off and followed the lumpy grass trail to the top and around the caldeira
Within 15 minutes we were standing atop the tallest peak of Sao Jorge at 1053m. The view was, as promised, stupendous
so, we posed for the requisite ‘we’re at the top’ photo (excuse my hillbilly look, I didn’t realize just HOW bad it was until I downloaded the photos)
As we were taking our ‘we’re at the top’ photo, we spotted a group of hikers coming up the other side of the caldeira. Not being shy, we started talking and discovered the lead climber, Amaro, had emigrated to Ontario from Sao Jorge 26 years ago.
With the death of his wife in 2006, he decided to show his children his country; so, every two years he returns for four to five weeks to spend time with his family. He’s one of 17 and the only one of his siblings who emigrated to Canada. In addition to his 16 siblings, he also has/had nine aunts and uncles on his father’s side (didn’t get to his mother’s branch). If you attempted to do the math like I didn’t, you can imagine just how many familial visits Amaro could be making during his Azorean vacation.
Two of his kids had travelled with him, with the youngest and several friends climbing to the top where we were, so before too long we had to have a group photo. Can you tell which one is Amaro?
Amaro LOVES this island
He was telling us how he’d bring the cows up to this peak during the summer months. He also shared with us how he played with the frogs in the small bog resting inside the caldeira. Amaro then tried to get the frogs to answer to his call
and, my god, they did
With a final pic of our hiking buddies
we set off for home as the mist descended
with one final note, a ‘Bom Tarde’ to our day-before-memorial to Pedro of Sao Jorge as we descended: