The 17th June was a big day – ashore at last! What a great feeling to have the freedom to walk around for the first time in six weeks and give the sea legs a much needed workout. And how nice to finally be able to visit the legendary Peter Café Sport that evening for a beer with my isolation buddies Ben and Caz after spending so long staring at it from the water. We tried to keep it low key that first evening to avoid frustrating the others who were still waiting to get ashore! The following day the rest of our lockdown gang got the all clear from their COVID tests and we all celebrated our new found freedom by going for a long walk up to Monte da Guia and down to the beach at Porto Pim. In the evening a fun get together at Café Sport for drinks and dinner. The locally sourced beef steak by far the best I have ever tasted, over 1kg on the bone (shared with Ben). It felt surreal to be all together ashore and finally off our boats. The wait had been worth it.
It was now time to be a tourist and explore the island. Ben, Caz, Greg and I hired a car and spent a day exploring various sights around Faial including the half buried lighthouse of Ponta dos Capelinhos. It was the only structure in the nearby area to survive a year long eruption from 1957-58 and is now surrounded by new land created from the lava and ash that spewed out of the Capelinhos volcano, burying the first few floors. We also visited the 1,043m summit of Cabeco Gordo, the highest volcano on the island hoping to walk around the rim and look down into the 2km wide crater but unfortunately it was shrouded in cloud. Then a walk along the cliffs on the south of the island and a wrong detour into a field of aggitated cows. On the way back to Horta we stopped at a viewpoint and a random gust of wind blew my camera off a ledge and onto a rock as it took a self timer selfie of us. A big dent in the case and sadly it has bitten the dust. An expensive and super frustrating mistake. The following day we were invited by ‘Peter’ to a tour of the Cafe Sport Museum to view the schrimshaw artwork – a technique of engraving and carving artwork on whale bone and teeth. They were often carried out by fisherman passing time on the whaling ships and it was later a technique developed by local artists. The detail is extremely impressive and intricate and some are now worth considerable sums of money. It was also an opportunity for all of us to personally thank him and his team, especially Duarte and Phillipe, for all the help and support they gave us sailors during the lockdown.
Now to get fit.. what better way to get back into shape than climb up to the 2,351m summit of Mount Pico! On the 21st June I took the ferry across to the island of Pico with Ben and Caz and then after a short taxi ride we reached the start of the trail at 1,231m. I was expecting a tough time of it after reading blogs of people that had done it and struggled, more so as they hadn’t been stuck on a boat like us! We decided to go with a guide and were met by Nuno who provided us with walking poles. It ended up taking us 3 hours to reach the summit with several rest stops. We had chosen a good forecast and were rewarded with incredible views from the top across to Horta and the neighbouring island of Sao Jorge. Nuno told us that in normal times there is a queue to climb the volcano and numbers are capped at 160 people a day. In this COVID time we just about had the whole place to ourselves. As we ate lunch we received a whataspp from Greg saying he had just set sail for the UK. We could just make out the white sails of Nebula more than 2,000m below us and took pictures of him setting off, a very unusual photo opportunity. The descent down the volvano took 2.5 hours and was harder on the legs than going up but the poles really helped. Overall it went surprisingly well for us unfit sailors.
In the taxi back to town we were chatting with the driver and asked him for any recommendations of things to do for the afternoon as our return ferry to Faial wasn’t until late in the evening. It was a Sunday so most places were closed but he mentioned he grew his own grapes and produced his own wine. Would we like to stop by for some wine tasting? Yes please! It was a great local experience to be shown around his property and sample his different wines and port. We ended up buying a few bottles for our respective boat stores. Back in town we found a bar offering another wine tasting which we decided was an excellent use of our time before the ferry arrived to take us back to Faial. A brilliant day all round.
None of us was in a rush to set off for home so decided a change of scenery would be a good idea. Next up the island of Terceira.