Corvo, Azores

The Improbable Atlantic Shelter of Corvo Island

crow in sight
Corvo Island seen from the semi-rigid that temporarily ensured the connection between Santa Cruz das Flores and Vila do Corvo.
View of the Cauldron
Visitors to the island of Corvo admire the Caldeirão.
in a sloping pasture
Trio of young cows graze on a slope on the edge of Lagoa do Caldeirão.
Atlantic vs Vila do Corvo
Cove below Vila do Corvo.
crow mills
Picturesque windmills on the edge of Vila do Corvo.
Old-fashioned milking
Mr. Rogério milks one of his cows by hand.
Inclined pasture II
Cow in the middle of the inner slope of Caldeirão do Corvo.
Nightfall over the Western Group
Night falls over Vila do Corvo and the island of Flores.
Dog of mr. Rogério waits for the owner's return, at that time, busy with a lengthy manual milking. Starlings flit in the sky above.
Patchwork from Azores
Walls and hedges divide the eastern slope of Ilha do Corvo below the Caldeirão.
The Homes of the Crow
Sector of the houses of Vila do Corvo with the Church of Nª Srª dos Milagres on the left.
The Caldeirão Pasture
Cows devour the tender pasture at the bottom of the Caldeirão on the island of Corvo.
On Duty
Cow in the middle of the inner slope of Caldeirão do Corvo.
sunset beyond the crow
Sun sets west of Corvo island.
17 km2 of a volcano sunk in a verdant caldera. A solitary village based on a fajã. Four hundred and thirty souls snuggled by the smallness of their land and the glimpse of their neighbor Flores. Welcome to the most fearless of the Azorean islands.

If there were any doubts about the uniqueness of the island of Corvo, the trip from Santa Cruz das Flores tried to eradicate them.

Just over a year earlier, one of the hurricanes forming off the west coast of Africa took an unexpected turn. Instead of evolving towards the Americas, it pointed north. In the first days of October, “Lorenzo” swept the Western Group of the Azores, already weakened from the maximum intensity of three days before.

passed by the flower Island and to Corvo with gusts that exceeded 160 km/h. In Flores, the wind and waves caused substantial damage to the port of Lajes. They also ended up with the boat “Ariel” which, until the previous August, had ensured the connection to Vila do Corvo.

As we descended the steps to the pier, with the sun waking up in the east, some cranes were still finishing up the reconstruction of the port. From “Ariel” no sign. Instead, we found a semi-rigid, shallow but with powerful engines.

The sea was rough, carved by vigorous waves that punished the harbor.

For some time, we were still waiting for a real ferry to appear, a vessel that would impress us with its size, not the power of its engines. In vain.

We are the first to board. The helmsman orders from bow to stern. We were more exposed than we wanted.

At first glance, leaving the port seemed the quintessential complicated stretch. As soon as we leave the marine projection of Flores, the waves increase, change patterns. They subject us to semi-acrobatic navigation.

Corvo Island, Azores

Corvo Island seen from the semi-rigid that temporarily ensured the connection between Santa Cruz das Flores and Vila do Corvo.

Corvo Island in View

Also, 45 minutes of jumping between the lows and the dizzying peaks of the Atlantic, we enter the Vila do Corvo jetty, capital and unique town of the smallest of the Azorean islands.

We accept a lift shared with three other passengers. Already installed in the inn, with each new minute, we felt the anxiety of rising to what was, par excellence, the island's magical natural domain: its Caldeirão.

"But do you want to go now?" Mr. Noel asks us when we call him to ask for a taxi service. “As soon as I can, please. But why doesn't it work for you now?" we question it. “I'm there in ten minutes. It's just because I came from there a little while ago and everything was closed.” But do you usually close later in the afternoon?” “No, that up there you never know. Changes in minutes.” enlighten us. “Look, let's go now and see you soon. From here, we see the clouds sliding at great speed. There must be some sun breaks."

No sooner said than done. As we go up, Mr. Noel advises us not to venture along the shore. With well-founded reasons. Clouds and wind buffeted the top of the Cauldron. On its west side, the caldera cliffs measured 718 meters above the ocean. They were, in fact, one of the supreme coastal elevations of the North Atlantic.

The Vision of the Dazzling Cauldron of Corvo

Noel drops us off at the Caldeirão viewpoint, near the beginning of the trail that connected it to the bottom. And next to a jeep of the Vila do Corvo firefighters, with no sign of occupants but, by all indications, parked at the ready to help accidental walkers.

In the opposite direction, the wet gale irrigated the slope of the island facing the ocean, broken up by undulating smallholdings.

Contrary to what we feared, at that hour, the clouds barely entered the Caldeirão.

We give in to temptation. We walked north from the top of the shore, curious as to whether it would reveal an even grander panorama.

The improvisation lasts what it lasts. We realized that we were at the level of the cloud caravan and that the fog robbed us of the scenery. When we go down to get rid of it, we struggle with the thick vegetable mantle that covers the ground there, made of tufts of bryophyte plants, mossy and soaked.

Fed up with its traps and traps, we return to the viewpoint resigned to inaugurating the walk around the bottom of the Caldeirão.

Cauldron of Corvo Island, Azores,

Visitors to the island of Corvo admire the Caldeirão.

Finally, the Long Walk of Circum-Caldeirão

We complete a series of intricacies of the trail.

Until the sight of a few cows grazing almost at the top of the inner slope suggests special photographs and prompts a new improvised walk, along, above and below the curve of the shore.

Ilha do Corvo, Azores, cows graze in Caldeirão

Assorted breed cows graze the inland slope of Caldeirão do Corvo above.

Even despised by the bovines given over to the endless tender pasture, we take our photos there.

Corvo Island, Azores, cow in the Caldeirão

Cow in the middle of the inner slope of Caldeirão do Corvo.

We return to the trail. The descending zigzags bring us closer to an L-shaped wall. E, similar to the Azorean Ngorongoro, to a large multicolored herd of cows scattered through the grassland on the edge of the rounded margin of Lagoa do Caldeirão.

At intervals, patches of blue clashed with the foggy roof of the boiler. They appeared as solar blessings that generated green-gold projections on the northern slope of the crater and that made the surface of the lagoon glow.

Ilha do Corvo, Azores, cows graze in Caldeirão

Cows devour the tender pasture at the bottom of the Caldeirão on the island of Corvo.

We continued the trail outside. Among the cows. Then along the muddy shore of the great lagoon.

Reaching the west of the caldera, we find ourselves facing the walled version of its slope, also divided into geometric fractions by volcanic stone walls covered with lichens.

And the Even Longest Walk Back to Vila do Corvo

Almost two hours of photographic walk later, we were back to those who led to the top of the viewpoint. Even if our legs felt bad from the slope, we forced ourselves to make a pedestrian return to Vila do Corvo.

We are approaching a trio of streams that the Estrada do Caldeirão requires through an underground passage: the Riba da Ponte, the Cerrado das Vacas and the Lapa.

There, we notice a profusion of fig trees and other fruit trees, disputed by the biggest and noisiest colony of starlings that we have witnessed in many years of travel.

Starlings will not be your main attraction. The Raven is idolized by bird watchers of this world. After a good look at things, even the name of the island, it is estimated that it was adapted from what was already contained in XNUMXth century Genoese maps, Island Corvi Marini, justifies it.

There are abundant resident birds, both terrestrial and marine. The scale of many others, part of the migratory routes between Europe and North America, make the island an excellent ornithological destination.

The animal wealth of the Corvo also resides in its livestock specimens. A few hundred meters below, we were amazed at the massive size of some pigs installed in a remedied corral. Nearby, we came across a goat surprised by our sudden appearance.

The further we descend, the deeper we get into the rural facet of the island.

Corvo Island, Azores, rural patches

Walls and hedges divide the eastern slope of Ilha do Corvo below the Caldeirão.

The Rural Fellowship with Mr. Rogério Rodrigues

At the confluence of the road with Riba da Lapa, we return to its bovine domain. Despite three or four small farms in between, we noticed that a croaker was carrying metal jugs towards four cows of assorted breeds, isolated between walls and hedges.

Beneficiaries of childhoods in the countryside, we knew how much rural tasks had evolved since the far-off 80s. It was hard to believe that, even on the remote island of Corvo, cows were still milked by hand.

Determined to clarify the riddle, we set out on the intermural path that led to that summit. We introduce ourselves. We apologize for the invasion. Mr. Rogério welcomes us, puts us at ease and, while handling the teats of a Frisian cow, enlightens us. “Well, in a normal situation I wouldn't be doing it. But I just happened to have to milk these four. Even faster and easier with the machine, the work it takes to wash it afterwards doesn't pay.”

Corvo Island, Azores, manual milking

Mr. Rogério milks one of his cows by hand

We chatted for a good half hour. With saintly patience, mr. Rogério continues to answer us. It gives us a crash course in cow breeding and milk production on the island of Corvo: the advantages of raising Frisian or Holstein cows compared, for example, with Jersey and Guernsey cows, the fat content in milk and its value , among so many other teachings that we have retained forever.

The Last Stretch and the Magical Nightfall of Vila do Corvo

For us, we would have stayed a few more hours in that delicious conviviality, but soon it would get dark and we were still far from Vila do Corvo.

We say goodbye. We returned to Estrada do Caldeirão under the supervision of Mr. Rogério's dog, who accompanied us from the throne box of his own pick up, interested, above all, in a quick return from the owner.

Corvo island dog, Azores

Dog waits for the return of the Ravenclaw Sr. Rogerio from a lengthy manual milking.

We reach the panoramic point overlooking the fajã, with the sun about to set in the endless Atlantic west. From there, we contemplate the sunset and the twilight that always confirms it.

We see the fire-colored lights of Vila do Corvo illuminate its houses, squeezed in on the southern tip of the island, between the slope of the volcano and the almost amphibious runway of the airport. We still glimpse the distant glimmer of some Flores lamps, under a purple sky with rain.

Vila do Corvo, Azores

Night falls over Vila do Corvo and the island of Flores.

We went straight to an already urgent dinner. After which we let ourselves sleep, lulled by the soporific rumble of the Atlantic.

Village of Corvo. Capital and only village of Corvo Island

The morning autumn sun prompts us to order breakfast in three times and go back out.

Guided by the tower of the Church of Nª Srª dos Milagres, we head straight to Rua da Matriz. From where we go to the balcony over the port, the rocky cove with a privileged view of the houses that stretched up the steep slope above.

Vila do Corvo, Azores

Cove below Vila do Corvo.

We walked through its alleys and alleys, intrigued by the lines of the yellow garbage mini-vehicle, we wouldn't be surprised if Soviets.

We detoured to a street called Rego. Half-walled with the escarpment that encloses the village, a tile panel illustrates a more memorable episode than so many others in the history of Corvo.

In the blue and white engraving, blessed by a figure of Our Lady, ancestral corvins throw large pebbles down the cliff, onto newly disembarked infidel invaders.

The image alerts us to the fact that, throughout the colonization of their island, the Corvinos have overcome adversity far more serious than mere isolation.

Vila do Corvo House, Azores

Sector of the houses of Vila do Corvo with the Church of Nª Srª dos Milagres on the left.

The Discovery and Troubled Colonization of Corvo Island

Corvo and Flores were discovered by Diogo de Teive, on his return from his expedition to Newfoundland in 1452. From then on, the imposing Monte do Caldeirão started to serve as the North for navigators.

The pioneering colonization attempt only took place more than a century later, by about thirty inhabitants of the Terceira (Azores). Both this and the next ended with forced abandonment.

The success was only achieved in 1548, when Gonçalo de Sousa, donatary captain of the current Western Group, received permission from the Crown to start it with slaves – it is believed that they came from Santo Antão, Cape Verde, later, placed at the service of farmers and cattle raisers with proven results.

Mills in Vila do Corvo, Azores

Picturesque windmills on the edge of Vila do Corvo.

During the second half of the XNUMXth and XNUMXth century, as illustrated by the tile panel, Corvo was the victim of attacks and looting perpetrated by pirates from the Barbary.

When even these attacks did not deter the ravens from continuing on their island, it was realized that they had finally colonized it, with all their heart and soul.

This feeling of belonging, together with the natural and volcanic exuberance, make Corvo even more special in the Azores.

From Corvo, we returned to Flores. A few days later, when we landed on the Graciosa, we have completed our private discovery of the archipelago.

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