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Velas, Azores: Hiking, Friends & Food

Velas, Azores: Hiking, Friends & Food

We were once again in the land of cheaper food, so decided to have another meat-filled BBQ with Blue Note, Atlas, Extress, and Escapade (who just arrived in time for the BBQ anchored outside). We fetched Escapade from the anchorage in our dinghy which was still inflated from used in Flores, and ended up leaving it with them for most of a week until they found space in the marina.

This was the first of 2 BBQs, but before the second we needed to wear off some of that food. On the morning of the scheduled low pressure, we headed up the nearest hill to a little viewpoint overlooking the harbor and town.

We used roads to get to the top, which were very steep and had many switchbacks, but as we walked along the top of the hill we found there was a nature trail and fruit tree path that we could use to walk back down to the town. And along the way, we saw many a Maderia lizard (why they are all Maderia Lizards here we don’t know).

Up next Atlas had organized 2 rental cars for us to take around the island and do some further exploring and longer hikes. The weather didn’t start off perfectly, with fog at the top of the island, so we headed to a small coffee plantation and cafe for a coffee and mini tour, before exploring the coast of the north side of the island (with the swell rolling in), and finally heading for our hike in the afternoon followed by a quick drink, and a steak dinner out in the town.

Getting into the Portuguese cake spirit once again, we set off one morning in search of a cake, however, found ourselves eating a Crème brûlée for breakfast (at noon!) with a coffee/juice.

For the next two evenings on the trot, we met with Tomas and Lindy of Extress on their boat for games night, on night 1 we played Dutch Dominion and Port Royal both of which were fun card games, and along with it, we made hot chocolate with a shot of rum and tasty homemade caramelised popcorn, then on night 2 we brought over Azul, a Portuguese coloured tile game and Werewords which is a guessing game, this night we also took marshmallows over for more hot chocolate and tried an orange liqueur which Lindy had picked up from the shop earlier.

We also hiked up the hill to the west of Velas which provided another view over the town, as well as a view further west along the island over a sheer cliff edge. The hill itself was a very green caldera (a large cauldron-like hollow that forms shortly after the emptying of a magma chamber in a volcano eruption), so once at the “top” you would descend further into this cauldron.

We finished off our time in Velas with a final BBQ with at least 7 or 8 boats from the marina and anchorage. This time with 3 BBQs in attendance, and in the boat park area instead of the breakwater to protect us from the wind a little, lots of great food was eaten!

Just before this final BBQ we had also decided to sail to Horta the following day, so this also acted as a farewell BBQ, as we would be speeding along for 1 more week through the Azores before heading in the general direction of the UK with another ~10-day crossing.

But before ending this post, another highlight of this food-filled week would be the purchase of 2 packets of frozen pastel de natas for cooking onboard, and also the purchase of a blender for smoothie making!

Flores, Azores: Everything is green!

Flores, Azores: Everything is green!

Our first destination after our west-to-east Atlantic crossing was Flores, Azores.

Flores, the easternmost island of the Azores archipelago, is a captivating destination known for its stunning natural beauty. With lush valleys, dramatic cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and secluded beaches

In 2019 the Port of Lajes das Flores was partially destroyed by Hurricane Lorenzo, and efforts to rebuild are still underway. A result of this means that the harbor was not fully protected by a breakwater, and inside the harbor, there are only minimal pontoons for use. You can find some images of the destruction and plan for the future in this article.

Escapade and Saga, 2 Dutch boats we know, were already moored in the harbor and had the situation all figured out. We were not able to moor in the main body of the harbor, but were able to use the inside quay wall and also optionally the outside quay wall. Anchoring was also an option, but we really wanted to be moored!

We started off rafted up in 4 columns, and over the next few days, 3 of these rafts would be 3 boats deep, with the outermost raft being 2 deep. So 11 boats on the inside harbor quay wall. Upon leaving there were 2 boats also rafted on the quay wall next to the anchorage, and 3 more boats in the anchorage itself.

The harbor master is lovely, and after a few days of being on the quay wall, we were informed that a new rule would be in place for future boats visiting, where they would only be able to stay on the quay wall for 48 hours before needing to move on. The quay wall is high, so expect to used your dinghy to get to the ladders!

Step one for us being back on land, food (that we didn’t have to cook), and bed (that isn’t rocking around or leaning over)!

We tidied the boat, did laundry (5EUR wash and 5EUR dry), and had a lovely free warm shower.

Boats we knew continued to arrive the day after us, bringing the full list to include us, Blue Note, Extress, Saga, Escapade and Atlas.

Walking up the hill to the small supermarket we got a little taste of what the other Azorean islands were likely to look like. Rather beautiful.

Unfortunately, as we spent our first days exploring the area around the harbor, the weather forecast looked like it was going to turn and push a large low-pressure system over right over the Azores, and sending swell straight toward and probably into the Flores harbor.

Most of us decided that we wanted to leave the harbor before this weather in a few day’s time, so started planning a departure, but also a quick tour and hike around some of the most beautiful nearby locations.

We found a tour and taxi number on the wall which lead us to Sílvio Medina who is easily contactable via WhatsApp, Email, Telephone etc. After some negotiations for hike length and pickup time our Friday plan had formed. Starting with an early morning boat shuffle as some people in the rafts wanted to leave, followed by a 9:30 am pickup, driving tour of the 4 large lakes, hike to a waterfall, and back down to a town for pickup. And then, head off to the other islands overnight.

Firstly from Miradouro Lagoas Rasa e Funda we could see Lagoa Funda das Lajes and Lagoa Rasa, two lakes that are at dramatically different heights.

Next, we had another 2 large lakes, right next to each other. These were Lagoa Funda and Lagoa Comprida which are very different depths and also very different colors!

We were dropped in a car park where we could both start our main hike down into Fajã Grande, but first, hike up to a waterfall called Poço Ribeira do Ferreiro (Alagoinha). There was a beautifully maintained path to the fall, and a large still lake just beneath it.

The hike then took us through some of the greenest lands we have seen since being in the mountains of Santo Antão in Cape Verde. So many green fields, cows, European wildlife, water, and high green cliffs.

We continued down toward Fajã Grande, where we could see one boat at anchor and another that was just leaving to avoid some swell.

Just before reaching the town we stopped at one final waterfall.

Overwhelmed with our first “long” walk of the month, we headed into town to our pickup point for a burger and drink right next to the ocean.

We stopped in at the shop again on the way to the harbor, picking up some frozen pizzas for our night sail, and arrived back at the harbor at around 3pm and started getting ready to leave. We topped up our water tanks with a few jerry cans full of water, had a final on-land shower, and cast our lines to start heading on to the other islands.

After 30 minutes the lines and fenders were stowed, pizzas were in the oven, and the dolphins were back, escorting us on our night motor sail (not much wind at all).

And at the time of writing this, we are roughly 3 hours from our next port of call 🙂

Quick, To Dominica!

Quick, To Dominica!

In the last post, we ended up in Fort du France celebrating some smaller carnival festivities once again. Andrew has left us for a hotel and his flight, and we have another big night of Carnival coming up.

We have created quite a little schedule for ourselves over the coming days as we are on a list to get hauled out of the water on the 23rd of February and the last big day/night of Carnival we want to attend in some way is on the 19th in Fort du France.

Between the 19th and 23rd we need to:

  • 19th Attend Carnival
  • Sail to Dominica
  • Explore Dominica
  • Sail to Terre-de-Haut to meet Teulu Tribe (another British ketch)
  • Sail to Guadeloupe Marina ready to get hauled out

First job, Carnival!

The parade walked a circuit around the whole of Fort du France, and we mainly watched from a large patch of grass near the dinghy dock, where ours, Extress’s and lots of our other boat friends’ dinghies were tied to.

We had decided to sail to Dominica on the same day as the carnival, well in reality this was just after midnight. So we headed back to the boat after lots of celebration at around 9pm eating some dinner and heading to bed.

Lying asleep in bed we heard some sound outside and went to investigate. Extress had rowed all of the way from the dinghy dock to Hannah to try and steal our boat flag (ensign). They rowed not only to make less noise but also had a broken outboard engine. Unfortunately for them, they made a bit too much noise in the process of stealing it and we heard and were able to keep it! We actually did a lot of flag “swapping” in Sal, Cape Verde but we forgot to write about it… Maybe next time Extress 😉

Midnight rolled around, our alarm went off, we had a little nibble and pulled up anchor.

To our surprise, we pulled up quite a large rock stuck under the rollbar of our Mantus anchor. We actually saw another boat have this problem a few days ago, but with a much larger rock, they basically pulled up half the sea bed!

We managed to get rid of the rock, pull up anchor, and be on our way.

Extress radioed us a few hours later to see how the sail was going and played us a little tune. The night started off calm, and with the main and Genoa out, we were making good progress in the flat seas with Adam on watch and Kathryn sleeping.

When the time came to switch roles, the sun was just rising, the wind picked up and we started coming out of the shelter of the island, so Kathryn had a bit more of an exciting sail, and Adam a bit more of an exciting sleep. Time to reef.

We arrived early afternoon into the same mooring area as Danae who were just one mooring buoy over.

We arrived over a festival weekend so most things had closed for the festivities but we managed to get a local guide to take us on an intense day of hiking with a refreshing dip in a gorge after.

The boiling lake trail is a volcanic hike to a thick grey lake at the top with an intensely boiling centre, supposedly well over 100 degrees in the centre and still over 80 at the edges. The trail leads to a flooded fumarole, a type of volcanic vent that emits steam and gas. The Boiling Lake is the world’s second-largest hot lake and is filled with bubbling greyish-blue water that’s heated by the magma beneath the surface.

The hike was about 15km in total and my phone thinks it was the equivalent of climbing up and down 239 flights of stairs!!

The first part of the hike was through dense rainforest, all the plants were vibrant greens and even some pink-leaved ferns.

After a little while the environment changed to more open mountainous views overlooking both sides of the island before dropping back down to a milky-coloured stream that ran over smooth rocks.

After yet another steep climb up we came out looking at sheer rocky cliffs stained with a rusty brown colour from all the minerals in the volcanic rock

As we descended another stream formed from a spring in the mountainside, as we got closer the smell of rotten eggs was intense from the sulphur bubbling out of the rock. The volcanic activity here causes the water to boil in many places along the little stream and you can even boil eggs in it!

Some areas were safe to touch so we got to experience the warm water.

As the stream continued it collected in natural pools in which you could bathe if you want, we didn’t really want to smell that bad for the rest of the day though so just admired them from the shore!

We finally reached the boiling lake summit and we were greeted with thick steam rising out of the lake. Every so often enough breeze would come through a blow the steam away for long enough to have a good look into the crater. The power coming from the centre was amazing, no wonder so much of the energy generated in this area comes from thermal power!

After the hike back again It’s safe to say my legs were dying for quite a few days, totally worth it though.

Hidden deep in the verdant wilderness of Dominica at the end of the Boiling Lake trail lies the enchanting Titou Gorge, a picturesque gorge formed from molten lava that cooled and split apart, it was then smoothed by a pristine river and waterfall. It’s a serene oasis that feels like a secret paradise, sheltered by towering cliffs, lush vegetation, and a stunning waterfall that cascades down into the dark pool below. With a life jacket, we swam through the clear, cool waters and marvelled at the natural beauty that surrounds them, enjoying the cold waters after a strenuous hike.

We got back to the village in time to see a little bit of the festival and its incredible costumes before heading back to the boat for a well-earned rest.

These festival celebrations were a little different to what we had seen before, each event we have gone to has slowly added more and more speakers and bigger trucks. Some of the trucks here were so loud, we really could have done with ear defenders and to think that the first event we went to in Saint Anne was mainly just instruments like drums etc.

We had to leave for Guadeloupe the next day but in the evening SV Danae snapped a great pic of us on our mooring just before all the light disappeared.

Onto Guadeloupe next and the fun of hauling the boat out in a foreign country 😲 stay tuned for next time!