Well we have been busy exploring the islands, visiting Faial , Sao Jeorge and now Terceira
We spent a quite few days on anchor in Horta on the island of Faial. Horta is a very busy and popular harbour for yachts passing through, as the harbour wall testifies with all its paintings. The town is very nice, not big, with lovely cafes and bars. We met up with lots of friends here.
One day we hired scooters with Fred and Tina, and made a lap of the island; dirt tracks and country lanes. We rode up to the top of the island, over 1000m ( easier than the push bikes! ). It was great fun to zoom about on these, breathing in the fresh smells of flowers with the wind in our faces looking for cafes and swimming spots. On the east point of the island there is a lighthouse which stands strangely cut off from the sea. It was at the eastern most point of the island till in the 1950s there was a volcanic eruption which spewed out a new arm of land, cutting the light house off from the water. It stands strangely in the barren dusty landscape, matching the grey of the new land around it.
In the bay of Porto Pim, on the south side of the town of Horta there is a lovely beach. There is also a whaling museum where we watched footage of a hunt and catch of a sperm whale from the early 1980s in the traditional long narrow wooden boats, just before the whaling industry tailed off and came to an end. The museum is in an old processing plant, where the whales were dragged up and cut, ground and rendered.
We of course visited “Peter Cafe Sport” the famous sailors bar a few times. One night there was good live music there and a big sardine BBQ to celebrate an anniversary of the bar.
On the 1st of July we headed off 20 odd NM to the little port of Velas on south of the island of Sao Jeorge, where the most friendly harbour master works. We spent a very happy week there on anchor by the mini marina. Sao Jeorge is a great island. Its 30NM long by about 4NM wide. We walked, cycled and scooted about. We did a loop of the west end one day on the bromptons. We hired scooters again with friends Pierre and Corrine and toured the length and height of the island, up through the cloud to a view of Pico popping up above the cloud across the channel. Pico is often present in view from the neighbouring islands, a great triangular mountain, pale blue and often ringed by a stripe of cloud.
There are 3 cheese factories on Sao Jeorge. We visited one, dressed in white plastic coats, head nets etc etc we toured at the great stores of delicious cheese, maturing gently on their shelves.
It was Festival time when we were in Velas, a 4 day event. There were two big stages set up with music each night ( till 5 am) , traditional music and new, lots of food stalls and Super Bock ( one of the Portuguese beer brands) bars. We frequented a really nice Pizza stall a few times (most evenings). The guys had made their own portable pizza oven, and also prepared delicious Capperhinas.
On the last day of the Festival there was a Bull Run. This was held on the main pier. Big containers sealed off the area. The harbour in Velas wall is built with three concrete tiers which along with the containers provided an industrial amphitheater from which to watch the ‘sceptical’. I was extremely nervous of what this event may be. Being absolutely totally against the whole thing that is, Spanish Bull fighting, I was scared that this may be similarly as violent and gruelling. There were 4 bulls, they were let out one at a time after a rocket fired. The bull was on a long rope. 6 men dressed in grey trousers, white shirts and a black flat brimmed hats held the other end of the rope and to a small extent kept the bull under control. The bull proceeded to carrier around the stadium and head-but members of the public ( stupid enough to be on the same level as it) off the edge of the pier into the water, with great uproars from the audience. A lot of these people were prepared in their swimming shorts and ready to jump. To attract the attention and stir the emotions of the Bull, an umbrella is twirled at horn height, the bull charges and the umbrella wielder(s) jump to one side. It does stress the animal, and it must surely confuse it, ” what are these people doing?” But the bull is physically unharmed and released back into its field at the end of the day. It does seem that it has the upper hand at times? It is certainly not as awful as the Spanish ‘fights’.
After 20 minutes a double banger marks the end of the run and the bull goes back in its box. We subsequently saw fields of bulls in Terceira, green open and lush, a nice place for them between their appearances in the towns.
From Sao Jeorge we sailed and motored to the city of Angra do Heroismo on Terceira, 50 NM from Velas. Angra is a beautiful small city ( its like a town). Black and white cobbled streets, beautiful buildings and very elegant botanic gardens.There is a marina and an anchorage off the beach where we were for a few days. Angra is full of lovely cafes and bars. There are lots f boats we know in the marina: boats we have got to know here in theAzores and friends we met last year who are also heading back to Europe after Atlantic winters. We have even been quite engrossed in the World Cup this year as many of the friends we have met are of nationalities who were competing in the exciting later stages. We have just watched the final with our German friends!
We shared a hire car one day with friends and toured the island, this time it was : volcanoes and caving ( including the ‘off piste’ / out of bounds section of a lava tunnel , crawling flat on our tummies with phones for torches), an ice cream factory ! and another cheese factory-come-bar. The following day – a supermarket shop.
We encountered more Bull Running in the streets of Angra one saturday evening. Hot-dog and beer vans set them selves up along the side streets ‘taped’ off from where the bull was to run. Venders with baskets filled with sweets and bags of popcorn fed the crowd.
In each tourist shop window there are videos showing Bull Running ‘mishaps’, people being charged, butted and floored by bulls, or jumping over bridges etc in their desperate escape.
With this video in mind, I joined those who kept themselves behind garden walls or up on platforms higher than the street level. The windows and parking meters on the street were boarded up, in preparation for the rampage. Dan however joined the small throng of 20 to 30 somethings who ran hell for leather up and down the street like a surge of bubbling excitement every time the animal came their way. Dan broke both his shoes in his flight, and resorted to climbing up drainpipes. He said it was like being a kid in the playground.
So after a month here in the Azores, we are preparing our selves and Hestur for the next leg. We are leaving this afternoon and will beheading for southern Ireland. We came into the marina yesterday to get things all sorted, and get water etc so we had a good nights sleep and are ready for the 1000 odd sea miles ahead