Friday, June 30, 2017

Sao, Jorge, Azores - Walk 3: Pico das Caldeirinhas to Faja do Ouvidor via Norte Grande

The morning of our third full day on Sao Jorge dawned with clouds, sun and a maddening ache in my quadriceps. The descent yesterday did my legs in. Fortunately the hike today would, we believed, be on good tracks and be gentle as far as descents were concerned. We hope the  mixed sky wouldn't hinder views but you get what you get. 

At 09:50 at a spot in the center of the island about 840m above sea level we began our hike. Clouds were above and below but thin and moving fast. Views would come and go. As one passed by I watched a mountain fade from  view in 10 seconds as clouds blew in. A few minutes later it was visible again. We walked along a cinder-bed mountain road between numerous volcanic cones. Little signs noted the names and heights of these mountains as we went by. If we weren't looking at the mountains we might be gazing at high pastures. Now and then the clouds below would clear and views of the coasts below would spring forth. The changing sky made things more interesting as far as we were concerned.  

It's an easy hike along the road. You can focus on the scenery instead of your feet. Besides the grand views that came and went you could find all sorts of wildflowers blooming. The morning was thoroughly pleasant.  







 We made excellent time. Just after 11:30 we had reached Pico da Esperança. Superb time. Inntravel suggests not going all the way up as the trail becomes muddy so we only went about 400m and the view a dry caldera was fine. The sun was shining and the lower clouds had cleared enough to give us more great views of the land and sea below. A lovely morning. 




We had hit the highest point of our walk. Now it would be all downhill: 1,025 meters down over the remaining 12.5km. We expected it to an easy walk continuing the cinder track. We had the hills pretty much to ourselves, though two French women would leapfrog with us all the way to Norte Grande.

By the time we hit the more-or-less halfway point for lunch it was just past 12:30 and we felt pretty smug that our walk was going so well. Down we strolled passing more fields and mountains and getting clearer views of the north coast below. A little before 15:00 we strolled into the village of Norte Grande and paused for refreshments and to visit the 4 year old eco-museum. They're definitely trying to get people, certainly kids, interested in the natural world of the Azores. 





We could have stopped here but instead continued on. 2km more to reach  Faja do Ouvidor. If we had only known then what we do now. Maybe there is a nice natural swimming pool and a cafe someplace else (not likely) that is open. What we found was an awful 160m descent on a path a bit over 1km long that was steep,  strewn with rocks and not even pretty, which made this bit painful to the quads and just not worth it; a come down after such a fine day. At about 17:10 we piled into the taxi to head back to Velas. We spent a lot of the time driving through clouds. By late afternoon a low overcast had settled on that part of the south coast. We did much better where we were I think. But if I do the hike again I'll skip Ouvidor

About the Photos

Signs like this one in photo 1 appear now and then to tell you what the volcanic cones are. 

Clouds came and went throughout the morning and early afternoon. Here mom is coming out of a cloud in the photo too.

We have clouds above us and below us it made for a spectacular views as you can see in the next few photos. Photos three shows the island of pico in the distance.

Photo 4 is a monument to the people who died when a Sata airplane on its way to Faial struck here. 

Photo 5 looks out on the south coast. We are approaching Pico da Esperança and it is a great day. 

Photo 6 through 8 show Pico da Esperança on the way up looking back; the place we stopped to love k at a caldera; and a view of the north coast of Faial. 

Photso 9 and 10 are just fine views of life up in these higher pastures and our lunch spot. 

The last two photos show us getting closer to first  Norte Grande and then the village of Faja do Ouvidor

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