Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Sao Jorge, Azores - Walk 2 - Piquinho da Urze to Faja dos Cubres

My quads are sore. The walk today was just 9.25km but it was a tougher hike than walk 1. We hiked from the top of a valley (700m) to the sea. Along the way we were reminded a bit of the Milford Track in New Zealand. We even had a spot of rain at the start. 

Clouds hung low over the island. Fog and clouds are common and all their moisture  helps make Sao Jorge quite green. It also obscures views. We couldn't see Pico this morning. Today's hike has views but initially you walk down into a valley through forest with just occasional panoramic views.  So it was a better choice than the other option for today(which we will do tomorrow) which is noted for vistas. 

After a 35 minute drive everyone, including two other couples doing the same trip as we, were dropped off at the starting point: along a road at a bus stop in the heart of the island some 700 meters above sea level. 

into the valley 

We quickly learned this would be a "hike". We stepped on to a trail, certainly not as wide as a well built stretch of North Country Trail or trails in the High Sierras or the Milford Track. Hemmed in by forest and the edge of the mountain this trail had numerous rocks and roots. Slippery footing. Inntravel reckons you will move at 2kph and I'm sure that's accurate. Sadly, given the footing and steepness of this narrow trail my speed was a lot less and my work harder. It's a lovely descent into the valley but it's hard to enjoy when struggling down slippery rocks that bother even sighted people a little.  The cows who use this path must be hardy beasts. 

Over the next 5km we dropped down to the sea. There were places that were gentle and the footing changed to a gravel-like substance. A stretch around 2km that ran near rivers was almost flat as it slowly went downhill. But this is a tiring trail and we were well behind. We didn't take little side trips to a waterfall which was probably quite pretty. 

lunch spot 

looking NCT spot shorelines me view 

It's  a dry  lush valley and if the mountains had had water pouring off them the comparison to scenery in New Zealand would have been greater. At about 14:30, under now party cloudy skies,  we reached the coast. The hardest bit was done. Our path was now a coastral track just wide enough for a quad (4wheeled vehicle)to drive on. Many do. It's how the villagers in the 5 home village of Fajas do Belo (or was it Santo Christopher) bring in supplies to the their homes with their stone wall corrals. The track is hard surface. Maybe old lava, they refer to cinder in the directions, and easily walked but for the small hills you must climb. Each is I think about 20 meters high and while not as steep as the hill to the lookout tower of the day before they're steep enough. But the views of the cliffs, small fields and the ocean pounding the shore were lovely. 

Village on the coast 

cliffs of Fajas dos Cubres 

A little before 15:00 we reached Faja de  Cubres. A small village that felt busy and alive. It's a starting and ending point for tourists. We settled in for sodas and to wait for our drivers. Since they came early we left early for the 40 or so minute drive back. Enough time to get good and stiff. It is a walk worth doing but especially the first 3.5km to our lunch spot are a quad and knee killer. 

About the photos

The first photo is one of our few "big mountain" views and came early in the walk. 

The second and fourth photos are our lunch spot. At this point we're still about 140 meters above the sea. 

A gravel-based steep path would drop us down to the coast and the location of the 5 house hamlet you see in photo 3. They have a church too. 

The last photo looks back along  the coast from Faja da Cubres. 

The first and last photo were taken by Ken; Mom took the rest. 

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