Making our Mark on the Azores

After 15 days on the boat sailing across the Atlantic we’d finally arrived to our destination of Horta, on the Island of Faial in the Azores.

We were so eager to get off the boat and go exploring. We’d sailed to different islands before, hopping around in the Caribbean but we felt like this was something different entirely. It wasn’t just a different language, but a completely new culture in a completely new part of the world! Step 1 of our “sailing around the world” plan was finally coming together!  Horta is the main stopover for sailors coming from America and Caribbean and lies about 900 miles from its mainland country of Portugal. The island chain is made up of 9 islands and we’d sailed past the first, Flores, on our entry into Horta.

Horta 

On our first day on land after quarantine and check in procedure, we walked around the town with our mouths open, oohing and aahing at the oldness of it all… Something we’d not seen for quite a few years! Cobbled streets and tiled churches surrounded us and we happily got lost walking around the streets. We stopped in for our beer at Peters Cafe which apparently was a must do for sailors who’d recently arrived… we didn’t need any more encouragement to have a celebration beer so we were happy to visit this place!  During our ‘getting lost’, we stumbled across a car rental agency and so we planned everything for a trip around the island the next day in a car.

We woke up early, got the car and immediately set off speeding… they have manual (stick) cars on the island (and in most of Europe) so I was thoroughly enjoying the driving! 

As we set off I continued with the ooh-ing and ahh-ing… the roads were lined with Hyrangeas and flowers everywhere. What astounded us most was the greenery and the lushness of it all! It was dry season in St Martin when we left so the landscape was a little brown and well, dry. It was such a massive difference that I didn’t realize how much I’d missed it!

First Stop – Ponta dos Capelinhos

Our first stop of the day (besides the  many view points) was the Lighthouse of Ponta dos Capelinhos, located on a peninsula that seemed to bear most of the brunt of a volcanic eruption that happened on the island between 1957-1958. The building was submerged 6-7 feet below the surrounding land, which Adam compared to “the surface of Mars”. It was bizarrely barren and grey… a stark contrast to all the greenery we’d seen on the way to this place, but beautiful in its own way. 

Our new word for the day was “isthmus” – a stretch of land with sea on either side linking two islands – and this was where one was created linking a new island/crater that had formed in the eruptions, to the mainland. 

The inner child in me wanted to sand board down the huge, sandy hill but luckily for them it was cornered off to the public. So we took a brief but long (we were very unfit after 2 week’s of ~100 steps a day on the boat) hike to the top to check out the view and then set off to our next destination.

Second Stop – Caldeira do Faial

This is a massive crater in the centre of the island. We were quite fortunate on the day that we came as there was no cloud covering the crater and we could see the beautiful greenery inside and around the crater. Our friends Craig and Zena went up the previous day on a hired scooter and couldn’t see a thing due to the thick cloud hanging around. Adam is always on the lookout for a sunny day so we were never going to have that problems!

There was a trail along the edge of the crater and Adam pleaded that we must hike all 8kms of it… hungry as I was, I conceded and I’m glad that we did. It was stunning scenery and really got our appetite up for dinner when we finished!

Third Stop – Horta Marina 

The next day, we returned the car but with spatulas, paintbrushes and pots of leftover paint in hand we made our way to the promenade in Horta (It was only 5 minutes from the boat). We were going to paint our logo on the walls! All boats past and present, sailing into Horta were welcome to celebrate their arrival and victory by graffitiing the walls. There were thousands of paintings but the oldest we saw was from 1988 from a boat that’d taken 29 days to sail from Bermuda.

It’s worth a wander around the marina area as there are SO many pictures and logos and many stories to see on each of them. Plus we saw at least 5-6 people painting their own logos on the days that we came to paint so they’re regularly getting updated! It was strange to think that this was a tourist attraction that non sailors would come to the island and check out… and we were now part of it!

I’m so glad that Horta, the place we’d been aiming towards for 2 years and took 3 weeks of sailing to get to was not a let down… this ‘pit stop’ more than exceeded our exceptions.

We hope you enjoy the video and maybe got a few ideas of where to head to if you’re visiting, or even sailing to Horta yourself!

Cheers, 

Khiara