Santa Maria, Azores

Santa Maria: the Azores Mother Island


Chimneys of Controversy
Typical houses and chimneys of Santa Maria, it is said that they are inspired by the steamboat chimneys used before by the Azorean emigrants.
Gonçalo Velho, the Lighthouse
The Gonçalo Velho lighthouse warns vessels in the extreme southeast of Santa Maria
Malbusca Nut
Porca walks along a path at the entrance to the village of Malbusca.
a convenient trio
Trio of traditional Santa Maria houses, white, with brown roof.
Letreito and Cactus
Signpost informs the direction of the Miradouro da Vigia da Baleia.
Barreiro da Faneca
Barreiro da Faneca forms one of the most unexpected scenarios on the island of Santa Maria.
Luis brothers
Artur and Vitor Luís, brothers living in the vicinity of Santa Bárbara, taking a break from their rural activities.
corn and corn
Traditional house with a small granary and a satellite TV disc.
A village in the shape of a bay
The houses of São Lourenço, nestled in a green cove in Santa Maria.
Vertical sidewalk
The Calçada dos Gigantes, an impressive geological testimony near the end of the Ribeira de Maloés
small corrals
The houses of São Lourenço, nestled in a green cove in Santa Maria.
an infernal curve
Mota reaches the top of a curve in the form of a ramp next to the Gonçalo Velho lighthouse.
Christopher Columbus
Statue in honor of Cristovão Colombo and his passage through the island of Santa Maria.
Purification of the Holy Spirit
The Church of Our Lady of Purification, in Santo Espírito.
Santa Barbara in the Far
The houses of Santa Bárbara, one of the most traditional villages on the island of Santa Maria.
Quarry Well
Visitor to Poço da Pedreira, a corner formed by the stonework of Santa Maria.
towards the lighthouse
Long staircase that leads to Gonçalo Velho lighthouse.
It was the first in the archipelago to emerge from the bottom of the sea, the first to be discovered, the first and only to receive Cristovão Colombo and a Concorde. These are some of the attributes that make Santa Maria special. When we visit it, we find many more.

The plane flies to the south coast of Santa Maria, Azores, to align with the beginning of the runway, which occupies a good portion of the eastern end of the island. We share the oval window and follow the maneuver and the opening views.

The predominant earthy brown surprises us. In the eight neighbors of the archipelago, the monopolistic tone had proven itself to green with deviations of yellowish.

Soft Landing in the Azorean Algarve

Everything indicated that the last southern and eastern stronghold of the Azores sheltered the exception. Santa Maria is the Azorean Algarve, some natives assure us. “We have the best climate and the best beaches but also the Azores more conventional. Just wait until you go to Pico Alto, which you will see. We don't take long to do it.

Before that, already installed on the outskirts of Vila do Porto, we reversed the usual sense of things and went down to Anjos. We found the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Nª Senhora with closed doors.

For a short time. Seeing us hanging around the door, a lady at the window of a one-story house next door began to investigate whether the Holy Trinity would grant us a visit to what is believed to have been the first church built by Infante Dom Henrique in the Azores, in 1439, in its original wood and hay version, a few years later replaced by the current one.

The Troubled Visit of Christopher Columbus

Apparently the guardian approved of it, or at least it took only a few minutes before she appeared to us with the key in her hand and a single, simple prayer: "Then, please come back to close it and return it to me." A Cristovão Colombo in a magnified bronze statue contemplates the horizon of the Atlantic but seems to accompany our movements from the sidelines. As soon as we leave the simple but peculiar interior of the temple, we are the ones to relive it and the story of its ephemeral passage through the island.

Cristovão Colombo, Santa Maria, Mother Island of the Azores

Statue in honor of Cristovão Colombo and his passage through the island of Santa Maria.

It didn't take long after the beginning of settlement until the island was attacked by pirates and Berber corsairs. Columbus himself was a victim of these attacks, albeit by default. In early 1493, he was returning from his journey to discover America. The caravel Santa Maria had already sunk in the Caribbean.

In the middle of the Atlantic, Niña and Pinta got lost. Colombo led Niña to the island of Santa Maria. When he arrived, he began to receive food from three of the less than one hundred inhabitants of that time. The following day, he sent a boat with ten men destined for the Hermitage of the Angels in search of a priest who would say a mass of thanks for the good fortune of the trip.

The embassy started to go wrong. Afraid that they were pirates, the residents, led by Lieutenant Captain João de Castanheira, imprisoned five of these men. The rest fled to the ship. Three days later, Castanheira checked Colombo's credentials and welcomed him.

The Almost Tragic Return of Santa Maria to Europe. Via Lisbon

The navigator only left Santa Maria six days after having docked, with the ship repaired and supplied. He headed for Lisbon where he arrived under a terrible storm. The population that accompanied the ship hit by the huge waves rejoiced with their luck.

Colombo spent nine days in Lisbon and surroundings. In this period that remains shrouded in controversy and in which he conferred with D. João II, he and the crew will have been received like heroes and rewarded with large gifts.

One of the most persistent historical theories argues that, after discussing the diplomatic strategy to follow, the Portuguese king made it clear that Spain should concentrate on the new Indies discovered by Columbus and not interfere with Africa and the path to India via Cape of Good Hope.

Barreiro da Faneca: a strange clayey Santa Maria

We reversed path. We soon hit the dirt road to Barreiro da Faneca. At the entrance to this vast, arid, clayey and undulating open plains with torrents of rainwater, surrounded by verdant arboreal vegetation, we share the feeling of having landed on Mars.

Barreiro Faneca, Santa Maria, Mother Island of the Azores

Barreiro da Faneca forms one of the most unexpected scenarios on the island of Santa Maria.

From there, we went to Pico Alto (587 m), the highest point of that Terran patch.

Once the last steps have been passed, we are already over this forested zenith and we can see the island all around, the same drier section to the south that we had seen from the plane. And the more southern, the more weedy and wet the landscape.

The Air Tragedy of Pico Alto

On February 8, 1989, pilots aboard the Boeing 707-301 of the Independent Air coming from Bergamo and destined for Punta Cana, they saw little or nothing around before the occurrence of what became the air crash in Portuguese territory with the most victims.

A double failure in the communication between the command tower and the pilots and, above all, the poor preparation and performance of the pilots made the plane's approaching altitude fail and the plane crashed into Pico Alto.

This is despite the fact that the runway at Santa Maria Airport – built by the North Americans in World War II to reinforce their war effort – received, at that time, frequent Concordes on stopovers on their transatlantic trips, as did the equally supersonic Antonov 2 .

Over the decades, the autonomy of new aircraft increased. Santa Maria Airport has lost much of its old traffic.

Santa Maria, Mother Island of the Azores

The houses of Santa Bárbara, one of the most traditional villages on the island of Santa Maria.

Towards Santa Bárbara, with no sign of thunder

From the measured heights of Pico Alto, we descend, without a hitch, towards Santa Bárbara. In this town, the architectural beauty surprises us. The houses are white with blue corners and frames.

Large cylindrical chimneys project from them, which the natives called “steam chimneys” while repudiating the authors of all the conclusions brought by pioneer settlers from the Algarve.

Its true inspiration may have been the steamboats on which Azorean emigrants departed for the Americas and returned from them. Today, jet engine travel is propelled, but it is still rare for Mariens without, at least, relatives in Canada or in the USA.

Chimneys, Santa Maria, Mother Island of the Azores

Typical houses and chimneys of Santa Maria, it is said that they are inspired by the steamboat chimneys used before by the Azorean emigrants.

We found two of them working on their property at the entrance to Santa Barbara. Artur and Vítor are brothers, surnamed Luís. A Chinese tractor calls them to tasks.

We do everything to lead them astray for a few moments of conversation. Shy at first, they try to send us away. We insist with the utmost courtesy and humor possible.

Artur and Vitor Luís, Brothers from the Field with Some Time for Conversation

Finally, they silence the tractor, postpone the tasks and dedicate themselves only to these compatriots from the continent. Unlike what happened with other farmers with whom we had contacted in São Miguel (Azores), his accent was noticeable to us. As we all let go, socializing is as fun as it is stimulating.

Vítor Luís is the talker. Arthur remains in reserve. Complete, with additions, the speech of the brother. As they tell us, their mother has about twenty brothers and they don't even know half of it. “Some live in America, others in Canada. Yeah, right. That's why we work with caps from these teams over there!” (on American football teams from San Francisco and Seattle).

Santa Maria, Mother Island of the Azores

Artur and Vitor Luís, brothers living in the vicinity of Santa Bárbara, taking a break from their rural activities.

“Vítor still confesses to us, without any embarrassment: “my wife has a twin sister but it's rare for me to live with her family.” When we dare to understand why, it takes refuge in the joke. “It's better anyway. See if I'm mistaken later." Twenty minutes later, we leave them to their business.

We point to the center of Santa Bárbara that we find arranged around the homonymous church. We entered a café-grocery store, rested and regained strength. We then proceeded towards the east coast of Santa Maria.

From the heights of São Lourenço to Santo Espírito

When we reach the Espigão viewpoint, at the top of the slope that hides São Lourenço, sunlight intermittently falls on the corrals, on the vineyards they protect, on the houses sunk in the half crater and at the mercy of the Atlantic onwards. Clouds filter this light.

Santa Maria, Mother Island of the Azores

The houses of São Lourenço, nestled in a green cove in Santa Maria.

They make the town and its long beach even more mystical than the extreme location already provided.

We return along the same zigzag road above and look for Poço da Pedreira, a large pink wall made of a stone from Marian masonry that has, at its base, a lake carpeted with lush grass.

Poço da Pedreira, Santa Maria, Mother Island of the Azores

Visitor to Poço da Pedreira, a corner formed by the stonework of Santa Maria.

Shortly after we hit it, it started to rain hard, so we bet on the meteorological clemency of Santo Espírito, the civil parish because it passed the island's road axis. In the early days of colonization, its dispersed communities of settlers gathered heather from the high cliffs of the Malbusca region along the sea.

They did it in baskets that descended to the height of the cliff where they could see the fungi. And they would hoist up again when they finished filling the baskets. The heather thus gathered was exported to Flanders where local artisans used it for coloring fabrics and others.

This parish received its name because it was there that mass was said, for the first time after the colonization of the island, before moving to Santana.

Towards the eastern ends of the Azores

Nowadays, the religious core of the current Santo Espírito resides in the church of Nossa Senhora da Purificação, built in the XNUMXth century, baroque in basalt stone semi-painted in white to form a mosaic and with its frontispiece added in the century XVIII, cut into rounded shapes against the sky. It's time for work and not even at the bar-band Recreio Espiritense is the village lively.

Santa Maria, Mother Island of the Azores

The Church of Our Lady of Purification, in Santo Espírito.

In any case, there are still a few kilometers to the last Azorean corner to the east, the closest to the Portuguese mainland which is 1436 km away.

From Santo Espírito to the east, the road descends without parsimony and offers magnificent views over the coastal scenery below, such as the Vigia da Baleia viewpoint from where the old sentries patrolled the Atlantic in search of cetaceans.

We don't see any sign of whales, but the panorama of the Gonçalo Velho Lighthouse halfway up the slopes and the steps beyond that lead to a bunch of cactuses keep us entertained for a long time.

Santa Maria, Mother Island of the Azores

Long staircase that leads to Gonçalo Velho lighthouse.

In Search of the Giant's Causeway Evasion

We left the island's main road for good, with the aim of returning to Vila do Porto along the south coast of Santa Maria. We bet on finding the Ribeira dos Maloás. In the village of Malbusca, we look for someone to look for the way.

Instead of people, we come across a waddling sow who descends a steep path and stops to sniff at our car, curious about the hot obstacle that had stopped her evasion.

Santa Maria, Mother Island of the Azores

Porca walks along a path at the entrance to the village of Malbusca.

After half an hour, we find the geological monument there. It lay at the end of a path flanked by cactuses, on the edge of an abyss that overlooked a rough but crystalline Atlantic, with seductive tones.

With the sea imminent, at a certain point, the Ribeira de Maloás falls into a waterfall measuring about 20 meters. There, hides the impressive Calçada dos Gigantes de Santa Maria, a prehistoric geological sculpture that groups together basalt columns.

Calçada dos Gigantes, Santa Maria, Mother Island of the Azores

The Calçada dos Gigantes, an impressive geological testimony near the end of the Ribeira de Maloés

Knowing what we know today, we would only regret ignoring such a place. In the last hours of light, we complete the journey to Vila do Porto. With a brief strategic stopover in Praia Formosa that precedes it.

 

THIS REPORT WAS DONE WITH THE SUPPORT OF:

AZORESAIRLINES.PT

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Sistelo, Peneda-Gerês, Portugal

From the "Little Portuguese Tibet" to the Corn Presidia

We leave the cliffs of Srª da Peneda, heading for Arcos de ValdeVez and the villages that an erroneous imaginary dubbed Little Portuguese Tibet. From these terraced villages, we pass by others famous for guarding, as golden and sacred treasures, the ears they harvest. Whimsical, the route reveals the resplendent nature and green fertility of these lands in Peneda-Gerês.
Castro Laboreiro, Portugal  

From Castro de Laboreiro to Raia da Serra Peneda - Gerês

We arrived at (i) the eminence of Galicia, at an altitude of 1000m and even more. Castro Laboreiro and the surrounding villages stand out against the granite monumentality of the mountains and the Planalto da Peneda and Laboreiro. As do its resilient people who, sometimes handed over to Brandas and sometimes to Inverneiras, still call these stunning places home.
Terceira Island, Azores

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Flores Island, Azores

The Atlantic ends of the Azores and Portugal

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Pico Island, Azores

Pico Island: the Azores Volcano with the Atlantic at its Feet

By a mere volcanic whim, the youngest Azorean patch projects itself into the rock and lava apogee of Portuguese territory. The island of Pico is home to its highest and sharpest mountain. But not only. It is a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of the Azoreans who tamed this stunning island and surrounding ocean.
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Safari
Okavango Delta, Botswana

Not all rivers reach the sea

Third longest river in southern Africa, the Okavango rises in the Angolan Bié plateau and runs 1600km to the southeast. It gets lost in the Kalahari Desert where it irrigates a dazzling wetland teeming with wildlife.
Yak Kharka to Thorong Phedi, Annapurna Circuit, Nepal, Yaks
Annapurna (circuit)
Annapurna Circuit 11th: yak karkha a Thorong Phedi, Nepal,

Arrival to the Foot of the Canyon

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Engravings, Karnak Temple, Luxor, Egypt
Architecture & Design
Luxor, Egypt

From Luxor to Thebes: Journey to Ancient Egypt

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The small lighthouse at Kallur, highlighted in the capricious northern relief of the island of Kalsoy.
Adventure
Kalsoy, Faroe Islands

A Lighthouse at the End of the Faroese World

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Indigenous Crowned
Ceremonies and Festivities
Pueblos del Sur, Venezuela

Behind the Venezuela Andes. Fiesta Time.

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Cities
Guanajuato, Mexico

The City that Shines in All Colors

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Meal
Margilan, Uzbekistan

An Uzbekistan's Breadwinner

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Karanga ethnic musicians join the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe
Culture
Great ZimbabweZimbabwe

Great Zimbabwe, Little Bira Dance

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4th of July Fireworks-Seward, Alaska, United States
Sport
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The Longest 4th of July

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End of the day at the Teesta river dam lake in Gajoldoba, India
Traveling
Dooars India

At the Gates of the Himalayas

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Maksim, Sami people, Inari, Finland-2
Ethnic
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The Guardians of Boreal Europe

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View of Fa Island, Tonga, Last Polynesian Monarchy
Got2Globe Photo Portfolio
Got2Globe Portfolio

Exotic Signs of Life

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History
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The Capital Fortress of a Parricide King

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Moorea aerial view
Islands
Moorea, French Polynesia

The Polynesian Sister Any Island Would Like to Have

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Passengers on the frozen surface of the Gulf of Bothnia, at the base of the "Sampo" icebreaker, Finland
Winter White
Kemi, Finland

It's No "Love Boat". Breaks the Ice since 1961

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Cove, Big Sur, California, United States
Literature
Big Sur, USA

The Coast of All Refuges

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Capelinhos volcano, Misterios, Faial, Azores
Nature
Capelinhos Volcano, Faial, Azores

On the trail of the Capelinhos Mistery

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Sheki, Autumn in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Autumn Homes
Autumn
Sheki, Azerbaijan

autumn in the caucasus

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Graciosa, Azores, Monte da Ajuda
Natural Parks
Graciosa, Azores

Her Grace the Graciosa

Finally, we will disembark in Graciosa, our ninth island in the Azores. Even if less dramatic and verdant than its neighbors, Graciosa preserves an Atlantic charm that is its own. Those who have the privilege of living it, take from this island of the central group an esteem that remains forever.
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UNESCO World Heritage
Oslo, Norway

A Overcapitalized Capital

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Characters
Look-alikes, Actors and Extras

Make-believe stars

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conversation at sunset
Beaches
Boracay, Philippines

The Philippine Beach of All Dreams

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Mtshketa, Holy City of Georgia, Caucasus, Svetitskhoveli Cathedral
Religion
Mtskheta, Georgia

The Holy City of Georgia

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Flam Railway composition below a waterfall, Norway.
On Rails
Nesbyen to Flam, Norway

Flam Railway: Sublime Norway from the First to the Last Station

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Christian believers leaving a church, Upolu, Western Samoa
Society
Upolu, Samoa  

The Broken Heart of Polynesia

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Saksun, Faroe Islands, Streymoy, warning
Daily life
Saksun, StreymoyFaroe Islands

The Faroese Village That Doesn't Want to be Disneyland

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Jeep crosses Damaraland, Namibia
Wildlife
damaraland, Namíbia

Namibia On the Rocks

Hundreds of kilometers north of Swakopmund, many more of Sossuvlei's iconic dunes, Damaraland is home to deserts interspersed with red rocky hills, the young nation's highest mountain and ancient rock art. the settlers South Africans they named this region after the Damara, one of the Namibian ethnic groups. Only these and other inhabitants prove that it remains on Earth.
Passengers, scenic flights-Southern Alps, New Zealand
Scenic Flights
Aoraki / Mount Cook, New Zealand

The Aeronautical Conquest of the Southern Alps

In 1955, pilot Harry Wigley created a system for taking off and landing on asphalt or snow. Since then, his company has unveiled, from the air, some of the greatest scenery in Oceania.
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