It was a cloudy Saturday morning, one of these mornings in the Azores which remind you that you shouldn’t trust the weather, and neither rely on it. Clouds where gliding fast on the sky but the sun could make its way through them every now and then. Pico, the volcano that lies across the island of Faial was hiding within a thick cloud, so that one could only see its coast which was struck by strong, harsh waves. The plan was to head to the west part of the Faial, where the majority of the trails can be found, a plan as vague as it sounds: there was no fixed destination. We just wanted to go west.
Public transportation is a rare sight in the Azores and our pockets would not afford to satisfy our will for adventure with the aid of a car. As a result, we relied on the much-tried means of transport known as hitch hiking to take us to our vague destination. It was already lunch time when we left town and finding a lift during that time would be rather optimistic. Optimistic yet we were, and after some ten minutes of walking a kind lady stopped to pick us up. She smiled after my attempt to explain our hazy plan and told us she could drop us to a small village nearby. Some minutes later, we realized she wouldn’t just do that; she was taking us to the top of the island, the so called “Caldeira” (en: crater ), which is the cross-point of all the great trails of the island.
Surprised one more time by the kindness and hospitality of the local people, we faced a breathtaking landscape: the top of Pico was lying above the heavy cloud that had settled on the island. Behind us, the caldeira of Faial was standing in all its glory, shining under the strong sun which was warming our faces. I hadn’t realized how absorbed and amazed I was by this spectacular nature around me, until I arrived home after several hours, and loaded some pictures on my computer. Strange reflections, overcast skies and a handful more mistakes. Yet, these pictures remind me of a great feeling and a wonderful day, thus all the flaws are left on the pictures, untouched and intact, with the hope that they still create similar feelings to the reader.
We started walking on the trail that goes around the Caldeira, stepping on the wet and fluffy turf, a common type of vegetation found in craters on these islands. Seagulls were flying above our heads, but there were not many people and the trail was quiet and peaceful. After half an hour we turned left to enter a joint path where three local trails join: the trail of the “ten volcanos”, the trail “coast to coast”, and the “Levada” trail. The beginning of the path is on a secondary dirt road that passes through forests of Cryptomeria japonica, a tall evergreen tree species that was introduced and cultivated in all the islands of the Azores, in order to produce timber. The beauty of the path was revealed later on, when we moved to the part of the Levada trail, which follows the traditional artificial water channels, known as levadas, and crosses mixed forests of native vegetation. A thin layer of mist was giving its way to sun rays and drops of humidity where falling from the tree leafs on the ground. We were walking within a dream.
Our warm dream continued for another hour and we started walking on secondary roads again, yet with a very pleasant view over the ocean and the smell of wild mint that grows on the side of the roads. We soon reached the village of Capelo and made our way to Praia do Norte, where we enjoyed the last rays of the sun with some nice company and the sound of the breaking waves. A moment that was captured with the help of some old sun-glasses, in the absence of a fancy filter that would allow a better-quality picture. You’d better go ahead with what you’ve got..Right?