It was the second time we were dedicated to Pico Island. As in the first one, we made the ferry crossing from the Horta city, across the channel.
The first time, subject to just two days, we focused our efforts on priorities: conquering the summit of the volcano peak.
With the time and energy to spare, we would unravel the island's peculiar vineyards, the ones spread between the western foothills of the mountain and the channel.
We sacrificed a few hours of sleep and recovery from the effort of climbing the roof of Portugal. We still managed to descend into the lava depths of the Tower Cave and take another quick jump or two to places absent from the initial plans.
Two days was not enough. We left with a frustrating sense of how much we left undiscovered that we embarked back to Faial.
Four years later, we return. With the priorities of conquering the volcano and the vineyards on the western tip of the island already resolved, favored by a well-situated stay, we took the opportunity to explore the “over there” side of Portugal's supreme mountain.
Slope of Pico Mountain Above, in Search of the Captain's Lagoon
According to the new itinerary, as soon as we found our rental car resolved, we pointed to Lagoa do Capitão, a natural stronghold as emblematic as it is unavoidable in Pico.
The road makes us ascend a good part of the western slope of the volcano and then go around it to the north.
At a certain height, with the top of the mountain on the right, the EN 3 flattens out. It undergoes a long straight, spaced, semi-sunken in meadows that the rain and the humidity brought by the north-east soak and make them lush.
Summer had left the Azores almost a month ago. In the even more unpredictable autumn of the archipelago, meteorology fulfilled its precepts. We were wet in a light rain.
A thick gray mist that made the path a mystery gave us goosebumps.
We traverse it, like this, in slow motion.
Sometimes held back by a couple of cows, too lazy or arrogant to let us pass.
After almost five minutes, in a section where the side of the road lowered, their bovine excellencies finally deign to deviate.
A few hundred meters ahead, we detect the exit to the lagoon.
The narrow perpendicular way. It furrows a vast meadow filled with humps, a bed of streams, corgas, puddles and sponge moss.
From a thousand forms of water that quench thirst, to the resident forest of twisted cedars and cattle that mottle the endless green.
The road ends at the edge of the lake. Confront us with a flock of black ducks in obvious bathing delight.
From there, with an intense breeze eradicating any chance of a water mirror and the peak of Pico covered, we examined the clouds that surrounded it, in the hope that, soon, the caravan they were flowing in would catch us with an open one.
In the meantime, we entered a path of reddish earth.
We set off on the heels of a grassy ridge where we thought we'd get a good view of the lagoon with Pico above us.
When we got there, among the trunks and branches of the prolific cedar trees, we confirmed the desired view.
And another one, on the north of the island, the strait below and the long-lined neighbor São Jorge to shorten the horizon.
On that top threshold, punished by a much stronger wind, we unveil the itinerary of the clouds in a different range. We concluded, in three stages, that only by a miracle the summit of Pico would reveal itself.
Accordingly, we turn to São Jorge.
We follow the navigation of the ferry that connects the two islands. We appreciate the white houses of São Roque, standing out at the far end of the slope at our feet.
The former Baleeira village of São Roque
Forty minutes later, we enter the village.
The settlers who populated it after its foundation in the early XNUMXth century took advantage of the agricultural potential of São Roque as much as they could.
In such a way that, after a few decades, the county already exported wheat and pastel to the Metropolis.
Over time, whaling conquered the Azorean archipelago. In São Roque, in particular, it became central.
It marked the municipality in such a way that its people dedicated an entire Museum of the Whaling Industry to it, installed in the former Factory of Vitamins, Oils, Flour and Fertilizers.
All these products were generated from the raw material of cetaceans, processed in the large boilers and furnaces that we see on display, which make São Roque one of the most renowned whaling museums in the world.
São Roque has room for two prominent statues. One of them, offered by the Municipality of Lisbon, pays homage to D. Dinis.
The other, in brown bronze, is found in front of the museum, almost on the sea.
It shows a whaler in the bow of a small boat, holding a harpoon at the ready, in the direction of the Atlantic waters where men harpooned the main sustenance of the village.
From North to South of the Island, to the Discovery of Lajes do Pico
That's what those of the island's antipodean village, Lajes do Pico, did, with equal preponderance.
Lajes owns its own Whaling Museum and a Center for Arts and Sciences of the Sea, both located in the former local Whale Factory.
Coincidence or not, that's where we moved, on a monumental trip up and down.
Through a patchwork of walled minifundia, green and increasingly steep, where the Frisian cows devour grass in a kind of acrobatic traction.
Over Silveira, beyond one of these walls and a hedge of juvenile Cedros do Mato, we finally see Lajes.
As the name suggests, its houses appear organized on an unobscured surface of almost amphibious lava, part of a bay that ends at Ponta do Castelete.
Somewhere between that point and the last slope to the village, we regain the view of Pico Mountain. sharp and detached as we had never seen it, above the rounded outline that the island assumes there.
Like what happened at Lagoa do Capitão, we are once again tired of waiting for Pico to reveal its peak to us.
We noticed that, at intervals, the sun fell on the white facades and ocher roofs of the village, as dictated by Catholic precepts, crowned by the symmetrical towers of the Igreja da Santíssima Trindade, the town's parish church.
When we pass there, a mass takes place.
The concentration of worshipers in the temple contributes to the feeling that, after the summer high season, there are few outsiders visiting, just a few circling the grid of streets between the Clube Náutico and the natural swimming pool.
Over there, the cream of the Lajes businesses was installed, from whale watching companies to the most humble restaurant.
Sunlight fell on the forward terrace of one of them.
Resplendent despite the lunch hour long past.
The stimulus of this thermal comfort prevents us from getting lost in hesitations. We sat down determined to enjoy the proper meal.
“Hello, good morning, how are you? I already bring you a menu.” greets and reassures us, with a strong French accent, a young expatriate, due to the correctness of grammar in Portuguese, we would say that she has been rooted for some time.
We took the time it took to savor the soups, the grilled fish and the heat that, little by little, was toasting our skin.
Aware of how Pico was always too long for the days we dedicated to it, we wandered just a little through the streets and alleys of the town.
The one from Saco, the one from the Xavier family. In search of a car, Rua dos Baleeiros, once again with the port, the cove and the Pico volcano ahead.
From Lajes do Pico to Ponta Oriental da Ilha
We return to the road, then, pointing to the kind of geological arrow that encloses the island to the east.
We go around Ponta da Queimada, the southernmost point of Pico, with an emblematic whale watchtower.
We pass through Ribeiras. A few kilometers later, on the verge of Cascalheira, we cut towards the Atlantic. Always going downhill, of course, we enter the parish of Calheta de Nesquim.
Calheta de Nesquim, a village that imposed itself on gravity and lava
This village had already been praised to us as one of the most peculiar on the island.
When we admire the harmony with which its “Flemish” mills, the fearless houses on the slope and the vineyards and other plantations had adapted to the harsh lava scenario, we felt compelled to agree.
This consent reached a plenum at the entrance of the tiny port of Calheta, when we appreciated how the semi-baroque church of São Sebastião was superimposed on the dock.
How he assured a constant divine blessing to the fishermen of the village who set sail from there at the risk of their lives.
With the sunny day, it soon ends, we continue our journey. We pass Feteira. We progress along the south of Pico, just above the bays of Domingos Pereira and Fonte.
The Lighthouse that Signals and Illuminates the Far East of Pico
At the entrance to the latter, we take the Caminho do Farol.
A few minutes later, we detected the Ponta da Ilha Lighthouse.
It turned out to be the only building worthy of the name.
A wasteland in a sea of shrubby green that emerged from the volcanic soil, until the density of the lava and the waves and salt on the seafront sabotaged its expansion, in a surrounding landscape that, due to its high “Regional Interest”, conquered the status of Protected .
Despite its emblematic location, the Manheda lighthouse was one of the last to appear on the island, only in 1946.
It was given a U-shape, with the white and red tower at the bottom-center of the letter. And, as usual in the Azores, the remaining area is granted to lighthouse families who have a home there.
We examined it. We surrender to the strangeness and photogeny of the scenery, also amazed by the abundance of rabbits hopping among the bushes.
In a flash, dusk seizes the eastern tip of Pico. While a resident retrieved clothes laid out from the sea, the lantern at the top of the tower presented itself at the service of navigation.
WHERE TO STAY ON PICO ISLAND
Aldeia da Fonte Hotel
Tel: +351 292 679 500