The sun can’t shine every day, right? I only had 3 nights on Faial and a full itinerary of things I wanted to see. Foremost amongst them, the volcanic outcrop at Capelinhos and the Caldeira at the centre of the island. To see both in a day it had seemed a good idea to book a taxi tour of the island, which is quite small. But there’s no accounting for weather, especially in mid-Atlantic. Ever hopeful, we rounded the bay and began the drive up Monte de Guia to the viewing point on the top. Senhora de Guia looked down, with arms folded in prayer.
A damp mist lingered about us as we drove up towards the Caldeira, growing ever thicker. An impression of verdant shrubs as we gathered rain capes around us and headed for the dripping tunnel entrance. Sometimes it clears for a few seconds, just long enough for you to look down into the extinct volcano, our driver assured us. I peered hard, willing the clouds to part just a little, but our driver was already shrugging his shoulders and retreating to his dry cab. I had to settle for photos of the information boards. Sensing our dampened spirits, he kept up pleasant and informative chat as he drove to the north of the island, hoping for better.
Coffee and cake sweetened us, ready for the drama of Capelinhos. An earthquake in 1980 had ‘thrown’ new land out into the sea, creating an extension of the island. The surrounding land is parched and arid and a forlorn lighthouse gazes seaward, turning its back on the enemy within.
Luminous green algae glowed at us from the rock pools, and the driver talked of the venom in the Portuguese Man of War that wash ashore. A lone fisherman struggled with the waves, and we were told that in former days whaling was the only possible livelihood on these isolated islands. Returning along the coast we encountered many houses left in ruins by the earthquake, abandoned and never reclaimed by their owners. Many had gone to start a new life in Massachussets and Canada, never to return. It was all rather sad.
Back in Horta, the sky was starting to clear, just a little bit, and we wished we had taken the afternoon tour, or perhaps stayed at the underground research centre in Capelinhos. Our driver kindly dropped us off at the botanic gardens on the outskirts of Horta, making sure that we knew our way back down afterwards. Just as we parted company a light drizzle began. On with the rain capes again.
The gardens were created to preserve the native flora of the islands. A labrynth of paths wind around a small quarry and lake, the colour pallet almost all green and muted brown. I searched for that pop of colour that I love, but it was not till we were back on the street that I found what I was looking for. Of course, the hydrangea is not native to the Azores.
It was a gentle stroll back down into Horta, and we took our time because that reluctant sun had decided to shine. We were surprised to arrive at a bridge over a stream, but had we paid attention to the map we would have realised that the River Conceicáo flows into the bay, beside the ferry terminal. The sea rolled gently onto the black sand beach, barely stirring the pebbles.
The afternoon ferry was arriving. The same one we had arrived on the previous day. We had come full circle and there was nothing for it but to find a waterfront café, and wait patiently for Pico to reveal itself, through the misty corolla of clouds. Our next destination!
I’m traveling these next few days, so may be slow with my response rate, but I’ll do my best. Catch up with you soon!