The second island of the Azores we visited, is situated in the middle group. It is one of the bigger ones at 400km2 and 60'000 residents, and very touristic. After the small and quiet island of Santa Maria it was kind of a shock to us – there even is a highway, connecting the two cities and the airport.
In addition, the small marina is surrounded by the town of Praia da Vitoria and lies directly beside the beach. Thus, there is always some noise (not bad, but we weren't used to it any more) during the day from the beach and at night from the discos / concerts.
The first days we explored the island by hiking it with Danielle's parents. The landscape is modeled mostly by farms; small fields with cows and corn, separated by high stonewalls. The walls along the roads as well as the facades of some houses look interesting – the locals paint the concrete between the stones a bright white for protection. Providentially, the small villages kept some of their unspoiled charm. And every place possesses small natural pools, built between the lava rocks into the sea – the best thing after a hike in the hot sun. To our surprise, a lot and many different fishes called the swimming pools their home; being used to the people, you could almost touch them.
Since the island is quite large, we rented a car to see more of the volcanic landscape. As frequently, the weather wasn't very good, and from 300m above sea level we met thick fog. This was not very conducive to the outlook from the highest mountain down to the calderas (volcanic crater), but with its own mystic charm when one is driving through the dense forest and along the stonewalls, topped by colorful flowers. The thick mist also provided a nice atmosphere for the hikes along the lava fields, through thick and lush forests, over the volcanic mounds – it felt like being in a Hobbit film.
A specialty of Terceira are the so-called magma tunnels; formed underground by the flow of lava. It's possible to visit some of these tunnels with their typical and spectacular rock formations on foot. The most famous one is called “Algar do Carvao” - a volcanic cone with a huge pit in the ground. You can enter the vent through a concrete tunnel and walk down almost 80m to a lake of crystal clear water.
Another famous place of the island is the town of Angra do Heroismo with its lovely buildings – the oldest town of the Azores and an UNESO world heritage site. In the 16th century already, it was an important place – a lot of the ancient merchant ships stopped there on their passage back from the new continent. Unfortunately, the place was hit by a severe earthquake in 1980 and many of the older buildings were massively damaged, but rebuilt in only four years.
Once more, Ben had to go back to Switzerland to work and for his pyrotechnics practical training for the exam one needs for the biggest fireworks. As usual, he went to the airport rather late, shortly before the check-in closed. But because of a problem in the computer system of another company, he met a long queue, almost starting at the entrance. It seemed impossible to catch the outbound flight and the connecting one in Lisbon. Somehow, however, nobody seemed worried and the personnel at the counter kept chattering to each other and to passengers they knew (yes, it's still an island and most everybody knows each other). In the conversations with others it was revealed, that this situation was quite normal. In the end, the missing passengers were called up and could walk directly to the airplane.
During his absence, a lot of work was done on the boat. Danielle again fought the rust, created a technical logbook (service plan and inventory for every item on the boat), sewed mosquito nets as well covers for the winches during rainy days and painted the mandatory logo on the wall. And Juerg, Danielle's father, solved more electronic problems including the missing rpm display. In-between they went swimming and snorkeling around the boat and on the nearby beaches and visited some of the daily concerts in town.
Many different craftsmen came on board for making offers on materials and help, because we had planned some bigger works during the winter time (a new rig, removing the engine and new anti-fouling).
Meanwhile, the biggest festival of the Island started – right beside the marina with music and concerts late into the mornings. It's also the time with a lot more people than usual on the island – many of the emigrants come back to visit their families. Because there was no thinking of sleep, Danielle visited the parties more than once with our new Swiss friends from the sailing vessel Tengai. They have been living in the marina for the past three years and have adopted four street dogs. The atmosphere at the parties is very different from the smaller islands - one notices, that there are more problems with alcohol and aggressiveness – some told us, a problem of the fast changes and development from the old times.
The second week of August, Ben came back, once again with more than 50kg of materials for the boat – the hand luggage alone weighed 25kg, filled with heavy metal items. The security check and the board personnel weren't really pleased about that... However, he also managed to bring a kilo of St. Galler Bratwuerste and Cervelats for the Tengais. We spent his first evening back on their boat with a nice barbecue. It was very interesting and they gave us a lot of important advice for the work and life on board as well as tips on places to visit.
We also met a lovely Dutch couple from the sailing vessel Globi II – their plan was to sail to the mainland of Europe for the winter. But they had to return four times due to electronical problems with the autopilot and navigational instruments. So, they decided to cruise the Azores for the summer and sailed to Sao Jorge a day ahead of us.
The last day on Terceira brought the sunniest weather in two weeks – the Tengais lent us their car and we went for a quick visit to the highest mountain Santa Barbara (1'053m) with its old volcanic craters.
The people of Terceira hold so called bull runs every week. It is found only on the Azores, and has been popular since the 16th century. The bull is let loose with a very long rope around its neck, usually on the roads in a village, or along the seafront. The bull is guided by several experienced, hefty men, keeping a tight grip on the rope. The idea is, that the courageous youths will try to get as close to the bull as they dare. After the run, the bull is taken back to his wooden crate and from there out to the pastures. Then, the outdoor festival begins.
The one event we visited occurred on the main road of a small village. The locals put boards on top of their walls for protection – not rarely an enraged bull will jump over the walls or break through the small brick walls. On advice from our friends from the SV Tengai, we chose a safe spot high on top of a bus station. They told us, that one of their friends was severely wounded by a bull a couple of years ago.
Our choice of place proved perfect – already the first bull caught a man unawares and when he tried to climb over the boards to a safe place, the bull broke the heavy boards in half with his head and all the people on the other side had to flee. But the most likeable animal was the third one – he didn't attack the boys playing with him, but instead went for the men who held him back on the rope and chased them away until he was totally free and could go after everyone...
Sailing to Sao Jorge
The big and noisy festival was still going on and for the next evening a big firework right beside the marina was planned. As we had enough, we prepared to leave for a quieter place; the island of Sao Jorge, a trip of 75nm. To be able to reach the very small marina during daylight, we started the engine at 5 a.m. and left all the fuss behind us.
Unfortunately, the wind wasn't very strong and we had to use the engine for support to reach our destination in time. Since there were only little waves, we were able to catch up on sleep, only interrupted by visiting dolphins. Long before we arrived at the marina of Velas, our friends form the SV Globi II wrote us, that the place was completely full – they had managed to reserve a place for us, but it would not be easy to access... When Danielle entered the marvelous but narrow marina, she was quite startled at how little space there was, and first refused to go on. But the very friendly marina chef was already waiting with other sailors, so we passed them ropes and they led the boat to the spot in the back - to our surprise without touching any other ship. But how would we ever get out of there again?