Terceira – Volcanic Beauty

Click here for the first part: Terceira – A Green Paradise 

To sleep with the sound of waves is the best thing there is to this world sometimes. We had slept comfortably on a grassy piece of ground until the rising sun woke up the birds, and consequently us. Soon our woodgas stove was smoking and an energy rich breakfast was in the making.

That day was going to take us to the massif of Santa Barbara and to the lake of Lagoa da Serreta, a small round thing of a lake in a crater. That would mean climbing and disappearing into the gloomy clouds. The walk started from the small town of Serreta, at first going through fields on a sandy road and soon disappearing into yet another old cedar forest.  The clouds were hanging low and soon the views disappeared into mist. the trail was clearly a more touristic one than the walks we had done earlier. The signing was done meticulously and we managed to meet some other tourists too.

The climb was steep enough to get us breathing, but at least the trail gained height quickly. Soon we were at the crossing to the lake. That trail was steep and eaten away by running stream, the fog was even denser up there and we were almost leaving the edge of the crater.

But then I noticed a glimmer of waves right beneath us.

We went down to the shore and the whole lake was right at our feet. The fog covered it so densely, that we could only see a few meters further, sometimes something darker appeared on the other side, jungle, I assume. The edges of the crater sheltered us from the wind, and the dampness swallowed all sound, leaving only the delicate sound of the rippling waves. We stood there for a while, enjoying the calm, mystical atmosphere before heading back down.

To top off the day, we went to see the sea again. Just to check if it still was there. On the way to our camping spot we spotted a sign in the center of the island, stating Furnas do Enxofre. It is a place where some sulfur is still burning and steaming away.

The next day brought some more volcanoes into our lives. There was a trail in our guidebook, that looped around the peaks that erupted into existence when the Santa Barbara massif erupted in 1730’s, they are called the Misterios Negros.

As the name might indicate, the Misterios Negros are odd looking black hills, with rough, rocky surfaces sticking out of the massif. They are covered in impenetrable bush, even our guidebook described the trail we took, as a real bush whackers path. It became soon apparent, that there had been quite some work done on the trail’s maintenance; new signs had been erected and the worst of the bush was gone.

The earth over there was just black volcanic rocks and boulders scattered around forcing us to climb and scramble.

Every now and then we met a lake that had poked a hole into the jungle. The landscape really gives an image of the erupting earth and the violence of volcanic activity. It was a short but very interesting and beautiful walk.

We still had energy and time left for another hike. The book promised some extraordinary volcanic landscapes and pasturelands, with the side note to look out for grazing fighting bulls. We started off from the volcanic cave of Algar do Carvão and headed up to the hills on a red sand road with heavy wind pushing us back and forth.

After walking over the hillsides and through some small craters we hit an obstacle. The trail disappeared behind a barbed wire fence and into a meadow  With a curious herd of cows. It did not look like there was any aids to help hikers cross the fence, nor guiding route markings to get us safely cross. After consideration we turned back the same way we came, anyways, we had had a beautiful walk already in the morning.

There still was one more highland walk in store for the following day. Again the trail started off as a road but quickly transformed into a narrow path which dived into the bushes. Soon the bush turned into cedar forest as we climbed higher.  We had been wondering about the very fresh route signs already for a while and in that forest we found the reason for the freshness. There was a bunch of men, walking around with hammers, posts and paint cans walking ahead of us.

Those men were eager to hear our opinion about their trail maintenance, and we were happy to give it to them. They are doing an excellent job!

All of a sudden we found ourselves from the edge of a cliff.

I almost walked over the border. The ground was disappearing down below for quite a bit. We were walking on the edge of a massive crater, on the bottom of it we could still see the shape of the cooled down lava, underneath the dense vegetation. Up there the wind found us again too, bringing in the clouds and the moist.

The trail followed the edge of the volcano for a while and we enjoyed the view as the wind beat us relentlessly, throwing water at our faces. On the return the trail took us down, away from the ridge, through some pastures where a farmer was bringing hey to his cows, no fighting bulls, luckily enough.

The walk was done and since the weather was rather windy and moist, we had booked a hotel for the night in Biscoitos, a small town in the northern edge of the island. Before getting there we visited the picnic site on the other side of the island once more, to have lunch.

The nice thing of the island is that it is so small, you drive around it in an hour. Making island crossings in search of windless places and sunshine is not much of a hassle. We returned via the western tip of the island, in the hope of catching the sunset too, but unfortunately there were clouds covering it. We did find yet another massively glorious picnic spot, right on top of the cliffs. These people sure know how to build a outdoor living room for the public!

All the longer hikes were hiked at that point, so the remaining two days we spent in more touristy activities. First in the line were the natural pools in Biscoitos. Rather famous they are, but the winter season was keeping them empty. They were a beautiful sight, nevertheless, with the sea throuwing waves and white bursts of foam over the pools and sun creating rainbows on top of it all. Afterwards it was time to do a little drive around in Praia da Vitoria and through the coast to Angra do Heroismo, for a change to find and post some postcards.

 

 

Since it was Friday, and the volcanic caves of the island were open for visiting we headed back to the higher grounds to visit Algar do Carvão, where we had already been walking at. During winter season it is open only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for a couple of hours in the afternoon and for a small fee, you get to visit it.

So we did. Feeling like true tourists with our cameras and rain clothes.

But it was a beautiful cave to explore. It was born when the erupting lava changed its mind and retreated back to the center of earth, it left after it a large cavity. Only one of its kind in Europe. It goes rather deep, and at the bottom of it there is a small pool of rainwater. The colors there are special with yellow of sulfur and crystalline white in the stalactites of silica.

For the last night we headed to the spot where we had slept the last night. The sky was clear and the stars above us were beautiful, seemingly so very close. We could even see the lights of the neighbouring island of Graciosa.

On the last day we did some sightseeing. Finally the air was clear enough over the whole island and the surrounding sea to actually see the full glory of Terceira. Even the peak of Pico was rising in the horizon, behind Sao Jorge. The green Terceira was glimmering in the sun and was a breathtaking sight to be seen from on top of Santa Barbara.

We had still time to hunt some Impérios too. They are these small chapels, painted in bright colors and patterns. Something very typical for Terceira, also know as the island of the Holy Spirit. Apparently all that spirit can’t fit only in churches.

We said our goodbyes to the island from on top of Serra do Cume, a volcanic ridge on the eastern side of the island. The sun was finding its way down already, lighting the green fields beneath us with an amazing shade of color. That was not an easy goodbye. I think we were both half imagining ourselves living on the island one day, in one of those white houses with brightly painted window frames and doorways.

We’ll be back there, one day!

 

 

 

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