Por Caminho: Salão, Cedros, and The Road to Praia do Norte

From Praia Do Almoxarife I hiked 10.6km(6.5 miles) to Salão.

If you plan on backpacking Faial I recommend stopping here. I stayed at the campsite which had fireplace cabana and a direct path to a natural swimming pool.

This set of photos is part of a larger collection named Por Caminho that I created during my backpacking trip around Faial Island.

Photos taken mid November, 2019

I reached Ribeirinha mid-day with enough sunlight and energy to continue hiking towards Salão
The Islands in the distance from left to right are São Jorge and Pico
One thing I noted on my backpacking trip were how colourful and vibrant some of the houses were.
From Horta to Salão- 15.7 km or 9.7 miles
Parque de Campismo (campsite)
Fireplace Cabana at Salão’s camp site (parque de campismo.) Although I was here alone in November, I could imagine sitting around the fire with friends during the summer. It’s a perfect location day and night.
The boardwalk leading down to the natural swimming pool
São Jorge in the distance.

I woke up the next morning to wind dashing against my tent. Water droplets dotted the roof and one by one scurried off the side. After a few minutes more laying there watching the raindrops race each other, a warm glow cloaked the tent. I unzipped the door, flung my feet onto the wet grass, and laid there a while longer.

Nothing ever lasts. Grey clouds were gathering in the distance. I packed up camp and headed out. As soon as I turned onto the main road it started to rain. Luckily, there was a Casa do Povo which is a sort of gathering hall/cafe for locals. I waited out the rain there, having breakfast and making small talk with the older gentleman behind the bar. When the clouds cleared, I took my chances.

Xavier Cafe- Modern restaurant and cafe in Cedros where I stopped for a meia de leite
I took this photo right outside Ribeira Funda, 9.7 km (6miles) away from Salão. Fortunately for me, it didn’t end up raining even though the entire day was dark and cold. What was challenging however, was the slight incline of the roads. Each turn seemed to be steeper than the last This actually worked in my favour since it increased my body temperature.
3 miles out
From Horta to Praia do Norte: 29 km (18 miles)

There wasn’t much to look at as I passed Ribeira Funda and not three miles away was the next major town: Praia Do Norte.

That’s where I would set up camp.

I was determined to make it there.

In the distance I could see large mountains hiding behind a screen of mist. I knew I just had to keep walking and I’d eventually make it there.

Thoughts on Visiting the Azores

Imagine you’re sitting on a stone wall at the edge of a cliff letting your feet dangle below. Accompanying you are your closest friends and loved ones sharing the spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean. The waves roll onto the obsidian shoreline in the distance and you’re all there with a cup of freshly brewed coffee to warm your hands. It’s sunrise. And right behind the mountainous landscape the sun rises into the opulent sky.

When you come to the Azores for the first time it isn’t difficult to see why these nine islands have risen to the top in tourism destinations. People all over the world come here to experience the sensation of adventure- outdoor, rural tourism activities surrounded by vast green landscapes and the constant meditative sound of the ocean. From June to the last few weeks of September the small aldeias of the Azores are swarmed with curious travelers.

This past summer I spent the majority of my time working at a local restaurant serving tables. Besides the locals, the majority of customers were from European countries (mostly France, Germany, and Spain) on vacation visiting as many islands as they could within a week’s or two time.

I wonder how many tourists passed by, came and went, as I stood in the entry way of the restaurant. Hundreds, thousands?

I wonder more so what all those people made of this place. Was it everything they expected after doing their proper research, scrolling through instagram, watching YouTube videos, reading blog articles? What did they feel on the ride from the airport to their hotel? Did they feel what I felt the first time?

Towards the end of August, after Semana Dos Baleeiros ended there was a noticeable difference in the number of tourists. Everyone seemed to pack up and leave as soon as the festivals were over. The town grew quiet through the month of September and on my daily walks back home from work I didn’t see any intrigued tourists taking photographs of the ivory-covered, abandoned building or the palm trees infront of Lajes’s church.

Instead I noticed the orange hues in the trees and how the wind carried all the fallen, dried leaves into the road’s corners.

The tables outside the popular bakery “Sabores e Aromas” remained vacant of pastry- munching, cappuccino sipping Europeans.

The only people who roamed the streets were the locals on their daily rounds.

Two years ago was my first time visiting the Azores during the summer. I spent the months of July and August experiencing the Azores as a tourist. I went swimming most days, I went sight-seeing, I ate at the best restaurants, took the ferry to other islands and finally climbed and summited Mount Pico.

I felt like an explorer charting new territory, discovering the unknown.

For my last two weeks I backpacked around São Miguel Island and visited all the top attractions: Ponta Delgada, Sete Cidades, Vista do Rei, Furnas, Lagoa do Fogo, Vila Franca do Campo ect. That trip gave me a strong sense of what Azores tourism is all about and I understand clearly why every year the visitation numbers steadily increase.

When I arrived on Pico Island this past June I experienced the Azores more as a resident than a tourist. I served tourists and locals alike. I gave people recommendations and directions. There were times where I wanted to be in their position, navigating around the island for the first time astonished with the surrounding countryside.

I envied their wanderlust. As beautiful as this place is, I became adjusted to it.

Now that it’s late October and winter is approaching the dust has settled, so to speak. Theres less people, less movement, less happening and this grants a certain flow to time that feels slower, steadier. The days get darker earlier and the sun doesn’t shine as bright. The ocean water is colder and less appealing without the aqua-blue surface dazzling under the summer light.

Yet with with that, I’m discovering my appreciation for this island again. The empty streets call attention to space and time. I look around at the old, stone buildings lined along the sloping roads, I hear the cagarros in flight, I smell fresh bread wafting through the air, I feel present and hungry, I taste the salt of the Atlantic Ocean on my lips. Is this what it means to be Azorean?

Living in the Azores is much different than visiting and I guess you could say that about any place, however here, in the middle of the Atlantic, theres a certain novelty I can’t quite put into words. At any moment during the day whether I’m working, driving, having a conversation I can stop what I’m doing and tune into the ocean. There it is if you pay attention, that meditative sound which pervades everything here.

Although autumn and winter aren’t necessarily the prime time to visit the Azores, I think they’re actually the best representation. Sure the festivals are over, tourism is at it’s lowest and it’s too cold to swim everyday, but this allows one to wander at their own accord and to observe the local life-style and culture without it being inflated by tourism companies.

Miradouro do Cabeço do Geraldo

The Portuguese word “miradouro” literally translates to “golden sight.” 

There are hundreds of these golden sights located across the Azores. Some of them are right alongside the road and others at the end of long, worn-down farming paths. Usually the harder they are to find the better the view, but maybe that’s just been my experience. 

 I found the miradouro “Cabeço do Geraldo” by accident. It was four years ago when I first arrived in the Azores. I just wanted to climb as high up as I could without having to summit Mount Pico. I went up the main road in Lajes towards Terras and turned onto a secondary street that the more I traversed the less houses and people there were. Eventually I came to a steep slope of loose rocks and I thought If I climbed it I would be able to find another incline to take me even higher. 

So up I went.

 At the top, red gravel paths lead left and right. I went left until I found another slope. At the top of that slope I found a marker that read “Miradouro do Geraldo.” I followed the sign through the farm gates, past the two tall antennas and found myself in the clouds overlooking the Island. The best part about it wasn’t the view, as tremendous as it was, the noise was what attracted me most. Everything grew quiet. I was sweating and breathing hard, my legs hurt, I could hear my heart beating, the sound against my chest. The wind blew, the crickets sang, the cows moo’d from ways down the mountainside but I was there in solitary. All the external noise was gone. My mind cleared without outside distraction. It was quite a beautiful moment if I may say.

Four years have passed since my first visit and when a co worker showed me photos of sunset at the miradouro I knew I had to make another trip. I knew more or less how to get there; so again I went up the main road towards Terras, turned onto the secondary street and walked until I came by a few farmers harvesting a cornfield. I asked them if they knew the best way to get there. We shared a few words and one of the guys offered to give me a ride. 

By the time we made it to Cabeço do Geraldo the sun was beginning to set. The green hills were tinted with sunset hues, Mount Pico appeared as brilliant as ever with the blazing sun to the left of its peak. And the sound-There I was in solitary again.

The wind was soft this time,

the cows yawned,

the crickets creaked.

It was just as beautiful, just as peaceful as I remembered it; except this time the light shifted from a warm spectrum of colours to a tranquil, cool blend of blues and purples. There I was witnessing it, experiencing it as if it were for the first time.

Photos taken on September 9, 2019
Pico, Azores
Cabeço do Geraldo

-Ryan Q

An Afternoon Getaway to Madalena: Ilha do Pico’s Main Port Town and Home of the Cella Bar

Madalena, located north-west of Lajes do Pico, is home to the main port which connects the neighbouring islands. The town acts as a centre for tourism, commercial shopping, communications, trading and basically everything else the smaller villas lack. For example, I wanted to buy a tripod for my camera but I couldn’t find one in Lajes so I asked around. Where did everyone tell me to go? Madalena.

If you’re arriving on Pico Island the chances are you’ll want to stay in Madalena for at least a night considering it’s the closest town to the airport and has the best options for lodging, food, and touristic activities like hiking, sailing, cave exploring, scuba diving, snorkelling, wine tasting, or if you just want to chill by the ocean. Whatever you want just name it, Madalena has it.

It was my day off from work when I looked through a travel guide magazine and came across the “Where to eat” section. The top pick was an architectural award- winning bar/restaurant called the “Cella Bar.” The front image was enough for me to decide to go.

Image taken from Cella Bar’s Facebook page

An hour bus ride later, I arrived in Madalena. I didn’t have a plan except to find the Cella Bar, nor much time to spend before the last bus left back to Lajes so I walked around snapping photos along the way to my destination.

The following images are from my afternoon getaway to Madalena. I hope you enjoy them.

Running away from Karma
I ordered a gin and tonic for my afternoon relaxation
caixa de pão/biscoito tradicional + degustação de azeite + gin and tonic = muito bom!

Photo Collection: Lajes At Dusk

By the time the sun starts to dip behind Pico mountain, the town of Lajes quietens and the soft glow of lamps cast their orange light over the cobblestone streets.

I always enjoyed going for a walk at dusk here. There’s something special about watching the day’s light dampen while the street lamps generate an inviting ambiance late into the night.

In this photo collection I take you on a walk with me around Lajes do Pico to show you the charming views that extend past daylight hours.

I hope you enjoy!