The relationship between Ilha das Flores airport and Santa Cruz, its capital, is close.
The city took advantage of a detached slab of the eastern coast. Get as tidy as you can, between the sea and the asphalt track that separates it from the island's inaugural slope.
A few miles to the north, Vila do Corvo is always on the lookout. It lives a mutual and supportive watch that attenuates the loneliness and smallness imposed by the endless Atlantic.
Flores Island and the Corvo in cash
The plane reveals them to both of them, one from each stream of windows. The houses of Santa Cruz, more and more defined as the landing approaches. Corvo's, nestled at the base of the mountain island, is just a glimpse.
We land against a punishing wind. We disembarked. In a flash, we left ready to verify the native's promise at the rent-a-car counter: "yeah, but even if this is the last one, it's going to be the island they'll like best." he assures us convinced of the beauty of his land. We hastened to settle in and explore it, determined to leave, for the end, the city that had welcomed us.
We skirt the airport and follow the slope above, pointing to Ribeira dos Barqueiros. A detour from the road takes us to the Monte das Cruzes viewpoint and, from this, to the high and opposite perspective of the airport runway and the capital, now on the other side, overlooking the ocean.
We changed from the main coastal road to the ER2-2 which crosses the island in the middle. We advance through the highest stronghold of Ilha das Flores, a domain of almost only green, multiplied between ridges and undulating meadows and old craters sunk by lakes.
The Caldeiras, the Lagoons of a Verdant and Exuberant Island
These craters and lagoons are so abundant that the second viewpoint where we stopped was not only named in their honor but also reveals them in pairs: the Caldeira Negra (or Funda) and the Caldeira Comprida, side by side, neighbors, but different also in the water tone.
The first is pitch black. The other is green, as if dyed by the surrounding vegetation. To the north of these, Caldeira Branca and Lagoa Seca make a rivalry that enriches the Morro Alto Natural Forest Reserve, at the foot of the homonymous elevation and, with its 914 meters of altitude, the supreme of the island.
We take advantage of the proximity. We go down an unpaved road and conquer it in bumps and spots, flanked by incredible natural yellow and green walls of moss and lichens or by surreal extensions of balls stuffed with vegetation.
Small herds of hazel cows and steers find the incursion strange and climb to the top of the round tufts from where they watch us suspiciously.
The summit of Morro Alto is not long. It unveils to us the various lakes as we had passed and a puckered sea of almost shallow scrub that extended to the ocean around it.
We descend from the heights aimed at the west coast. Shortly after returning to the tarmac, we cross Ribeira Grande. We see later, on the map, that it rises in the highlands, splits, flows in opposite directions and crosses the island from side to side.
In any Azores island, viewpoints abound. In Flores Island, it's the same. It is with great panoramic benefit that we continue to dwell on them.
Then, Craveiro Lopes, perched on the cliffs facing west. From there, we glimpse the houses of Fajazinha dotting the deep valley dotted with small walled farms that housed the village.
The Settlers arrived from the Continent to the Isle of Flowers. Shortly thereafter, the Flamengos.
Fajazinha is located on the opposite coast from the one on which, in 1480, the settlement of the island was inaugurated. A Flemish person was responsible for it. Willem van der Haegen negotiated with Dª Maria Vilhena the rights of original donor captain of Diogo de Teive, which, however, were transferred from Teives to Fernão Teles de Meneses.
This one – these are things of fate – died in 1477, victim of a stone, during a fight in a street in Alcácer do Sal.
The Flemish settlement lasted ten years. Overcome by isolation, Der Haegen moved to São Jorge. The settlement was only resumed in 1504, on the initiative of King Manuel I. Through the new captain-donator João da Fonseca, who promoted the arrival of settlers from Terceira (Azores) and Madeira.
Six years later, several others settled, coming from different regions in the north of Portugal. They settled in different areas of the island's coast, in accordance with what was determined by the allotment that had been assigned to them, and were thus charged with cultivating wheat, barley, corn, vegetables, heather and pastel.
From Colonization to Intense Emigration from Flores Island
In this way, Lajes das Flores and Santa Cruz das Flores received their Charter Letters. Even divided by semi-isolated bags from each other, the island's population finally got a stake, also due to the stimulus of trade with merchants coming from Faial, from Pico and Terceira (Azores).
We descend to the heart of Fajazinha, one of the villages that prospered until the middle of the 900th century. By that time, it almost reached 2011 inhabitants, but in 76 it had only XNUMX.
In the meantime, a good part of the population – especially the younger men – boarded whaling ships heading for the lands of North America: Boston, New Bedford, Provincetown, Natucket.
From the island of Flores, between 1864 and 1920, almost 10.000 people left. Despite the sermons of priests who tried to foist a thousand and one hardships of life on the final destination.
And of the authorities' concern to contain this population bloodletting with regular maritime patrols of gunboats.
There were both Florians and Azoreans from other places who moved to Flores Island in search of their opportunity.
The jingle of bald eagles (“20 dollar gold coins) displayed by returnees and the possibility of avoiding military service in African colonies that meant nothing to them always proved the most convincing arguments.
A Family Dedicated to the Rural Affairs of Fajãzinha
We're looking for a place to park when we see a basket full of corn cobs move below. Hold it with a single hand. We strike up a conversation with the boy who carries it.
Even knowing that, in his view, the scene was just one of many agricultural endeavors, we praise him for its rural elegance.
The young man reacts with much more sensitivity and acceptance than we expected. “Do you think? So get up there. They will see it differently. My family is there harvesting the rest.” We followed the suggestion.
We find a cornfield already defoliated. And with António de Freitas, Maria de Fátima and Rui Filipe, three generations of smiling, easy-going Florens with themselves. They share the same agricultural task and interrupt it with pleasure to put up with us.
We talked about the beauty of Fajazinha and the peculiarities of its agriculture. Until it starts to cost us to delay their lives more and we say goodbye.
The Flow for a long time Caprichoso in Ribeira Grande
The phenomenal Ribeira Grande that we had crossed before crosses Fajazinha. For the story goes that, fed by the rains that so often soak the island, this same stream often passes from Grande to torrential, from blessing to threat and does serious damage.
José António Camões, a priest who preached Christianity in the parish, narrated his 1794 whim with realism: “There was such a flood and flood that not only brought down the said bridge, but not even the slightest trace was left of it, without a trace, the dicta stream leaving its natural bed which left a wide sand at a greater distance of 300 fathoms at the end of the sea. with an inexhaustible loss of the poor farmers who owned lands adjoining it, all of which were dumped into the sea."
As Father Camões also described, at a certain point, Ribeira Grande plunges into one of the most impressive waterfalls on the island, measuring about 200 meters.
Alagoínha: a Brand Landscape of Flores Island and the Azores
Right next to the lake, the adjacent stream of Ribeira do Ferreiro spreads along the extension of the same cliff. It generates what has become the hallmark of Ilha das Flores: the waterfalls of Poço Ribeira do Ferreiro, better known as Alagoínha.
It's our next stop.
It took us a while to find the curved path made of large boulders nestled in the shade of a lush forest.
When we finish walking, we soon come across the almost vertical wall lined with the green of the vegetation that extends from the top to the surface of the lagoon.
Several bridal veils slide side by side down this green until they are integrated into the flow of their destiny. When the wind subsides, Alagoínha acts as a mirror.
It duplicates the scene above and the unique beauty of that place. It's hard for us to leave it.
From Fajazinha, we move up the western coast towards Fajã Grande. There is also a huge waterfall there. It continues to erode its way down the majestic Rocha da Fajã.
Until it crashes ninety meters below, in Poço do Bacalhau, which, despite its name, is full of eels.
It is not the name that makes it either, but Fajã Grande has much more inhabitants than Fajazinha, over two hundred in 2011. The bulk of its fame comes, however, from another attribute.
It is the last of the western towns of Europe.
Islet of Monchique: the Last Rattle of the Old World
To the west, only the Ilhéu de Monchique remains, a volcanic rock thirty meters high. Barren, inhospitable and gloomy, this is the last European soil.
For centuries, it was used by ships to set their routes and check navigation instruments. Today, it serves, above all, as a reference for that geographic extreme.
The night that followed it rained in earnest. Rain with which, strangely enough, no other Azores island had still held us.
It continued, until well into the morning, but as soon as the sun rose, it chased away the weeping clouds and gave way to the calm.
We took advantage and ventured down the road that zigzagged south.
Passing through Caveira, Lomba, Fazenda das Lajes and Lajes das Flores, the seat of the Municipal Government and site of a recently altered sea port that changed the commercial order of things on the island.
We are enchanted by the insinuating façade of the Church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário. Just ahead, the viewpoint of the old fort over the port.
The fortress with which the village tried to defend itself from attacks by English corsairs that followed the one that, in 1587, left it looted and partially destroyed.
The day before, we had gone from Fajãzinha to Fajã Grande. We were now on a short trip between Lajes and Lajedo. And an extension to the picturesque Monastery, the island's smallest parish with only 43 registered inhabitants, in 2011.
On the way, we pass by Rocha dos Bordões, a curious geological phenomenon in which a whole cliff façade has solidified with huge vertical grooves at the base.
Back to Santa Cruz das Flores
From there, we reversed the path towards Santa Cruz. In the capital, we enjoyed the various churches. We paid extra attention to the Matriz da Conceição, one of the most imposing in the archipelago.
We are still looking for the forts that the city has been building over the years, victim of the urgency to repel the frequent attacks.
As far as we've walked, no close-up view fascinates us as much as the one we had revealed on the first day, from the Mount of Crosses. There we hurried back.
We re-appreciated the harmonious setting of the confines of the now nicknamed Hawaii Portuguese and we waited for a plane to arrive to land.
Ours left soon, so we were forced to put an end to the discovery of Flores Island and return to the island. Terceira (Azores).