unbekannter Gast

Faial and Pico#

Trip to the Azores, August/September 2016, Part 2#

by H. Maurer

Faial, with its nearest neighbours, Pico (only some 8 km from Faial) and São Jorge, forms an area commonly known as the Triangle Pico,Azores . The island is sometimes also called Blue Island because of the large quantity of hortensias (hydrangeas) that bloom during the summer months. Faial has an area of approximately 170 square kilometres. Despite its volcanic origin and even “recent” volcanic activity in the north-west in 1957 (mentioned already in Part 1 of this report) it has many gently rising slopes that are easy to cultivate, quite different from Pico that is often called the Black Island, for its black volcanic rubble, responsible for its UNESCO-designated historical vineyards that are difficult to cultivate. Yet Pico is the second largest island of the Azores and has a population of some 15.000 just a bit less than Faial.

Faial
View of Horta from the plane before landing. The centre of the city is to the left of the two hills.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
We stay in the central Hotel Canal in the city centre with a view of Pico and a statue of Manuel de Arriaga who was the first president of the republic of Portugal (1911-1915).
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
Directly in front of the hotel is the harbour with the peak of Pico (on the neighbouring island) just sticking out of the clouds.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Pico is 2351 m high, the highest mountain in all of Portugal! It looks very close in this photo taken with a strong tele-lense, but the ferry does take some 30 minutes to get from Faial island to Pico island. Although Pico is on a separate island it dominates in a way also Faial (at least the main city Horta) due to its height. Horta derives much of its fame as island connecting Europe and North America: the first underwater cable extending from Europe thousands of kilometres below on the Ocean floor ended in Horta in 1923, to be later extended to North America. The physical endpoint was the “cables house” a building whose historical value one would never guess.
Faial
Cables house.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
Near cables house.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0

Pedro de Alvarado set up the Azores in 1536 as an obligatory port-of-call for the fleets of equatorial Africa and of the East and West Indies. Already in 1499 Vasco da Gama had set up Horta as a link between the New World and Europe. For yachts crossing from Europe to America or vice versa, Horta was and still is the obvious stop over. The famous “Peter Sports Cafe” was the place to hire personal, to get hints or new provisions, to deposit or fetch messages, etc. Its interior has still retained a bit of the flavour of those days. Every skipper of a Yacht stopping over in Horta is not only visiting Peter’s café, but is also leaving some painting on the harbour walls or walkways, making this a gallery of past and recent history as a few pictures below will show.

Faial
In Peter’s café.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
Pictures left by yachts on their stop over when crossing the Atlantic.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
Pictures left by yachts on their stop over when crossing the Atlantic.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
Pictures left by yachts on their stop over when crossing the Atlantic.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
Pictures left by yachts on their stop over when crossing the Atlantic.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
Pictures left by yachts on their stop over when crossing the Atlantic.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
Near the Yacht-harbour is the Café Volga, used by Russians to spy on Americans in WWII.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
And around the corner there is the Café International used by Americas to spy on the Russians in WWII.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
Unusual house in Horta.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
The Franciscan church was heavily damaged by an Earthquake and was never fully restored.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
The Jesuites church is now the main church of Horta.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
The buildings next to the church, also part of the former Jesuites complex, were taken over when their order was abolished. They are now used for a museum and as administration building.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
In the church.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
In the church.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
A trip will take us to the north-western part of Faial, where the village of Capellinhos was basically wiped out in 1957 by a huge volcanic eruption. The volcano covered much of the village with ash and stones, and a large amount of lava flowed into the sea, enlarging the island and cutting off the lighthouse from the sea.

On the way we cross a mountain ridge, have a look into the big caldera of an old crater, apparently quite picturesque because of lakes in the caldera. Well, we did a few good glimpses of Horta as the bus drove upwards, but at the rim of the caldera there was only fog, so a picture from Wikipedia is substituted.

Faial
Horta.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
Horta with strong zoom, Jesuites church in the centre.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
Dense fog prevents view of caldera.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
Caldeira of Faial.
Photo: JardimBotanico. From: Wikicommons
Faial
Looking down on the partially relocated restored village of Capellinhos.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
Looking down the gorge to former Capellinhos.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
The lighthouse of Capellinhos today: amidst a desert of lava ash, separated from the sea. But it does serve a useful function: It is an excellent museum of volcanism and of what happened here 60 years ago.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
Behind the lighthouse. The area of island shown was formed by volcano (the reddish part in right upper corner) in 1957.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
Many houses have not been restored: Their owners left in desperation.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
Many houses have not been restored: Their owners left in desperation.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
Mount Pico from the hotel, in the evening before we visit the island and the mountain.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Faial
Mount Pico in the evening.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0

The island of Pico is known for its high volcano mountain, also with name Pico, that has created Pico as a huge island of black lava. Only at higher altitudes the island looks a bit more inviting with some lakes and meadows. However, Pico is mainly known for its wine.

It is truly amazing how wine is grown on teh island: Small (just a few square meters in size) compartments are surrounded by lava walls, to protect the plants from cold winds and to store the heat of the day in the lava-stones. This keeps the interior warm all night. Clearly, this requires an extraordinary amount of manual labour, yet the wine grown here is of a quality that makes this worth-while.

Pico
Approaching Pico island by ferry with the main village Madalena behind the rock.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Pico
The ferry is backing into the dock. The church St. Madalena in Madalena village.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Pico
Looking back at the two rocky islands guarding Madalena.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Pico
Wine growing on Pico.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Pico
Wine growing on Pico.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Pico
Wine growing on Pico, with the mountain in the background.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Pico
São Matheus church amidst vineyards in which we try local wine.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Pico
In the church.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0

The rich golden decoration and other features (like yearly pilgrimages to the church from all over Pico) show the deep religious believe that was the kind of last straw to cling to when another earthquake or volcanic eruption destroyed much that had been built up before.

Driving higher up on the highland leads to alpine like meadows and lakes, gnarled trees and still a bit higher up a look down to the ocean, and then towards some of upper parts of Pico covered with lava ash and gravel.

Pico
Higher up on Pico.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Pico
Higher up on Pico.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Pico
Higher up on Pico.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Pico
Higher up on Pico.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Pico
Upper slopes of Mount Pico.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Pico
Upper slopes of Mount Pico.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0
Pico
Back at Madalena ferry harbour before leaving for Horta on Faial, visible in the background.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0

As beautiful the weather was this day, the clouds over Faial and the weather forecasts are sobering: The outskirts of a major hurricane are going to strike Faial later in the evening.

Back in Faial it is fascinating how locals are preparing for the hurricane. Boats are tied up in many ways, all outside furniture is removed, precautions are taken against full blackouts etc. A short trip to the beach shows that the prediction of 5-8 m high waves, and winds that would prevent planes from taking off do not seem exaggerated. Our flight at noon next day seems to be endagered, and we may get stuck on the island for another day.

Faial
Waves are getting higher.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0

Indeed just a bit after above image was taken we are advised to stay inside the hotel and away from large glass areas. We do feel save in the hotel, and dinner is taken as usual. But the storm is picking up by the minute, heavy rain pouring down. With some apprehension, mainly because we don’t want to be trapped for another day in the hotel, we go to bed.

In the morning, after a noisy night, it becomes clear that the worst part of the storm is over. It has done some damage, some leakages in the hotel. Whether the situation has improved enough to fly out at noon or later that day remains open. Well, we are lucky. With just 5 hours delay our plane does board and we take off for our next and final destination. Ponta Delgada on São Miguel. Indeed, we pass the peak of Mt. Pico with the weather improving remarkably fast.

Pico
Mount Pico honours us with a final greeting on the flight to São Miguel. The island in the background is São Jorge.
Photo: Hermann Maurer, 2016, under CC BY-SA 3.0

The next stop of the trip is the island of São Miguel, with the capital (and airport) in Ponta Delgado.