It was by far the easiest and fastest way to the coast and the western end of the island.
It was, however, the only one that almost crossed it in half. Passing through the Caldeira, the sunken and lacustrine crater that was supposed to prove us as Faial, in the image of neighboring Pico, had as much of an island as a volcano.
We set off for this ascent, from the surroundings of Praia do Almoxarife. We turned our backs on Pico once and for all, first pointing to Conceição, from there, the EN1-2A above, zigzagging through windmills and fertile smallholdings, fertilized by cows given over to their endless pastures.
Little by little, we ascend from almost sea level, to 1.043 meters from Cabeço Gordo, the roof of the island.
We were less than half the altitude of Pico. Even so, when we get out of the car and win the last stretch to the Miradouro, a maddening gale almost sweeps Faial down.
If it was just the wind, we wouldn't be bad.
The Cloudy Zenith of Cabeço Gordo and the Caldeira Sumida in Mist
A caravan of clouds passed by. As dense as they were ungoverned, they carried with them the visibility we were counting on, a clarity of atmosphere, partial though it was, that let us be dazzled by the imminent crater. We knew how verdant and special the boiler was. It measures 1.5km in diameter. And almost 400 meters to its deepest point, in the bed of the lake that has inhabited it for a long time.
Furthermore, a trail ran all the way around its edge. Giving it a contemplative spin was, on a calm day, also a dazzling photographic exercise. Under those conditions, we would only be very lucky to avoid ending up sprawling in the depths of the volcano.
We waited twenty minutes. After half an hour. At first on the edge, shaking like sticks. Moments later, already inside the car, the wind, in addition to being furious, was blowing wet and hitting us cold. Almost three quarters of an hour of white dictatorship later, we surrender to frustration.
We take a definitive look from the top of the shore. Without catching a glimpse of an open blue, we reversed. To the car. And onto National Road 2-2A.
With those caldera misadventures, we had already forgotten the road eccentricity we were on. In a few kilometers, the road tried to revive our memories. Instead of a mere linear and stable asphalt road, in the image of its own name, the EN 2-2A multiplied and crossed in a succession of unusual stretches.
The Magical Route to the West Coast. On the path of Capelinhos
The route to the west coast forced us to circle at least half the base of the Caldeira, against the clock, in undulating sobs generated by the countless lines of water that branched from the belly of Cabeço Gordo, in search of the Atlantic.
In some sections, the road remained conventional. Without warning, a long cobbled patch interrupted it, which the frequent floods bulged to its liking.
At intervals, the winding route also led us to pine forests and cedar forests, dreary to match.
In pure contrast, from each new peak of meander, with the ocean closer and closer, the road came back to astonish us with the green-blue-marine exuberance all around.
In the vicinity of the village of Joana Alves, we knew that we had already entered the kind of slice of Faial cheese from the parish of Cedros.
When we arrived at Ribeira Funda, it was just a short time before we entered Praia do Norte. Capelo and the peninsula of the same name followed from the antipodes of Almoxarife.
Hidden in Capelo, the intricate Mystery of Capelinhos, a profusion of volcanic and tectonic expressions that stretched to Ponta dos Capelinhos and dotted the sea off to the sea.
The Dramatic Past of Capelinhos Volcano
Since the confines of the Portuguese colonization of Faial, the people of the island converged there due to the fertility of the soils. Century after century, people benefited from immaculate agricultural production and pastures that gave meaning to any and every existence.
In such a way that, even before Valadouro, off the road, along the circular slope of Monte Capelo, up to Norte Pequeno, white houses and small houses are repeated, most of them with open views of the ocean and granting residents rural lives , fishing and even tourist as simple and stable as you can imagine.
On September 16, 1957, the Earth began to stir this tranquility. On that day, a seismic hyperactivity took over the place that would forever shake the lives of these parts. Until the 27th, there were more than 200 earthquakes of intermediate Mercali intensity.
That same day, it was found that, a mere three hundred meters from Ponta dos Capelinhos, the Atlantic, normally cold, boiled and bubbled.
By the end of the month, the intensity of the earthquakes increased sharply.
From Seismic Threat to Volcanic Catastrophe
The mere bubbling gave rise to a projection of volcanic ash, which in its most dramatic moments reached a kilometer and a half in altitude, five hundred meters higher than the ceiling of Faial do Cabeço Gordo.
But it wasn't just the ash that exploded into the sky. With the ocean water in a pressure cooker mode, gigantic clouds of steam were also generated. The most Dantesque climbed to four kilometers. As if that wasn't enough, on the 27th of September, there was an underwater eruption off Ponta dos Capelinhos.
Fast forward to October 13th. THE volcanic activity leveled up. Powerful explosions projected veritable lava and ash bombs into the skies.
When they fell on Faial, this lava and ash destroyed crops and pastures, especially in the current parishes of Capelo and Praia do Norte. But not only. They became so distressing and dangerous that they forced the mass evacuation of inhabitants with homes in the vicinity of the volcano.
The Providential Refuge in the Northeastern United States
Thereafter, for a long period, thousands of afflicted Fayalenses were enticed by an extraordinary emigration quota granted by the Rhode Island and Massachussetts regions, also at the will of the Senator, soon as president of the USAJohn Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Convinced by the community spirit of migration, most of the disgraced Faialenses moved their lives to the northeast coast of the United States. It is, in fact, the reason why most Portuguese emigrants in America are concentrated in these areas.
And because in them the Azorean cult of the Divine is perpetuated, with strong expression in Faial.
While this Atlantic emigration was taking place, in Capelinhos, at ground and underground level, unstoppable rivers of lava were already flowing into the sea.
Volcanic activity continued, even so, dynamic and complex. Faial gained new lands.
A Nationalist Initiative Scorned by the Geology of Faial
On October 10th, a newly formed island was sighted. Thirteen days later, two reporters from RTP, Carlos Tudela and Vasco Hogan Teves and Urbano Carrasco, journalist from Diário Popular, transported in a rowboat by owner Carlos Raulino Peixoto, disembarked on the newly discovered Ilha Nova.
They planted a Portuguese flag over the ashes. This daring of yours remained for eternity. Unlike the island.
Inflated to almost 100 meters in height and 800 in diameter, Ilha Nova held the flag of the corners for just six days. On October 29, it sank.
The seismic activity lasted for months on end. During this time, he shaped the landscape of Capelo and the ocean at his leisure. This work of Earth proved itself in such exuberant way that the National Geographic decided to register it and sent two of its reporters.
In seismic terms, the Capelinhos Volcano had a new peak on the night of May 12th to 13th, 1958, when there were almost five hundred earthquakes.
The next day, the eruptions went into a Strombolian mode. More regular, its projections of incandescent lava reached 500 meters.
They generated a frightening brooding and an overwhelming vibration that threatened the houses of Faial and even the other islands of the Atlantic triangle.
Despite its exuberance, the long volcanic phenomenon of the Mystery of Capelinhos did not claim victims.
A Serious Photographic Investigation of the Mystery of Capelinhos
More meters less meters of sand and ash, or of the diameter of the crater and the islands that then formed, Capelinhos and Capelo remained as we were about to find them.
Norte Pequeno already back, as we pass by the foot of Cabeço do Canto, we turn towards the Caminho do Volcão.
This kind of opening straight, transposes us from a green bush to a plain of gray earth. We parked.
We walked to the Volcano Interpretation Center, which was about to close, and we ran to the top of the Ponta dos Capelinhos lighthouse.
There, in panoramic mode, hit by a gale similar to the one with which the Caldeira had trapped us, we enjoyed the surreal scenery, something lunar around us.
The same cloud caravan from the Faial zenith was flying over us.
It tied us up with a play of sun and magical shadow that made the marine silver of the cove sway forward and, from time to time, gilded the volcanic earth of the sand, the slopes of ash, and what was left of the crater.
Denser clouds arrived and shed a drizzle of rain. And they bequeathed a rainbow that served as a bridge between the sea of green inside the peninsula and the “backs” of the crater.
Already too soaked, we retreat to the interior of the lighthouse and return to its base.
With the sun almost setting off, we set out on the path that led to the volcano's beach. We walk on the basaltic sand. We resist a sudden urge to dive and swim.
Barely sheltered under an island of bushes that resisted geological oppression there, we saw more clouds and a new drizzle taking hold of the old tower.
The next downpour fell with the big star disappearing to the other side of the Terra.
We knew that the long 1957/58 eruption of Capelinhos had ruined the lighthouse. In agreement, we consoled ourselves to enjoy the final light of the sunset.
With a serious storm and pitch setting in over the gray peninsula, we took refuge in the car and started our return to the other side of Faial. And the Horta.