Miracles of the Azores
(Listen to the music while reading blog post.)
The Azores. This name still sounds exotic enough to my ears (and the Portuguese name even more, the Açores), although I have had enough time to get used to this. A couple of times, day by day, I pronounce it just for myself, when I simply love the moment and grateful for being here. This island is an island where you can feel good. Even if the weather is stormy like it’s right now, and even more when the sun is shining and you can sink yourself into the cool foam of the Atlantic (which happened only 24 hours ago).
The extremity of the weather changes here is really impressive. There is nothing you can predict for sure, if yesterday you needed a bikini, today you need a ski jacket, instead of sun cream you hold an umbrella. And exactly this intemperate uncertainty is what I like here the most.
Faial is an island where you can leave your bicycle behind on the beach, no one is interested. Where you don’t have to worry if you can’t lock your old car’s doors, because it won’t be opened. Where the wind always blows, sometimes it plays with your hair, other times it pulls off your jacket. Because of the wind, you can have the feeling that everything is constantly changing.
And this place simply need the change, because the hills, the mountains, the hard rocks, the old houses, the green fields and all the small port village has the atmosphere of consistency, therefore it needs to have an opposite for the balance. And this is the wind.
This is a place where you don’t rush anywhere, because it is simply pointless. Where life is slow, and I mean it in the best possible way. Where the grass is greener then green, and there are more cows then people. Where you work when there is something to do and not when your boss tells you there is a deadline. Where you have a rest when you need it and not when your shift is over. Where you sleep when you are tired and wake up when you have slept enough, and not when your alarm cuts off your sweetest dreams. This is a place where you eat when you are hungry and take a walk, go running or hiking when your body needs the move. Where you pick the orange straight from the tree and the sweet fragrance of lemon flowers is like nowhere before. Where smiling at another passerby on the street is not considered as rudeness or harassment and where people still have real conversations. Where you can dance on the hilltop like a crazy child, because nobody watches you, and you can sing loudly on the street while walking, even if you have a really bad voice, ‘cause no one hears you (or if yes, happy for your happiness). Where you can release all kind of stress, clean yourself and you all you have to do is to enjoy the moment and life.
And on this magical island I already have some favorite spots.
My ultimate best is Fajã da Praia do Norte.
This is only a beach. The Atlantic waves in the bay, there are some big pebbles on the shore and it is surrounded by big vertical cliffs. So, for the first sight nothing special. But still… There is some undefinable energy coming from this place, you can’t help being involved. I have visited this beach two times so far, every time I saw it from a different perspective. First it was winter-like cold, the second time summerly warm. There was only a week between the two visits. Only the wind hasn’t changed, it moved and carried about the waves the same way. I could’ve sit there on a rock for hours (days?) enjoying the view and the feeling it evoked in me without getting bored. I felt completely relaxed, happy and contented (in this meaning Fajã is a lot better than all the drugs I haven’t tried). I’d suggest this for recreational purposes, seriously.
My second chill-out spot on Faial is the Capelinhos volcano. Furthermore, this is a quite exciting place, after Fajã’s calming therapy it is rather vibrating. In this very place there was nothing before 1957, or to be more precise, it was only the ocean. And then the Capelinhos volcano took the trouble and erupted only one kilometer from the shore, and created a new little islet. Only to see it destroyed – the islet soon disappeared deep in the ocean. But our volcano was determined enough to start again a couple of days later and this time the new islet survived. The whole process lasted for more than a year and it is said to be unique in island volcanology. Although the seismic and volcanic events were extremely violent, no one died. My Portuguese host, Salomé recollected her memories and told me she was only 4 when it happened. They lived in Pico island at that time with her family, but she still remembers the lot of ashes coming from Faial after the eruptions. And remembers how it felt like walking on the still hot surface of the new islet.
The third member of my holy trinity on Faial is Caldeira, the main caldera of the island. Faial like the other nearby islands is volcanic, and everywhere you go you see evidence of this: the black sand on the beaches, the steep cliffs and certainly the big crater in the middle of the island. If you can see it. Considering it is hidden under clouds most of the time and in this case you can only admire the big white sour cream nothing. We were fortunate enough to see almost all the 2km diameter caldera, even if surrounded by clouds like a giant ring. You feel so very tiny comparing to its breathtaking dimensions that I would suggest this experience for those who are fighting with their own huge ego: you suddenly consider your importance in the universe at the right place. This time I came here with my Portuguese hosts so didn’t have the opportunity to go trekking, but I am quite sure about returning here one day and make the circle. Armed with long johns, of course, because it is freezing cold up here even if there is summertime and 20 degrees by the coastline.
No, this island is not a sacred place, life is changing here as well like everywhere else: it has its ups and downs. And my description is far too subjective. A lot of people is forced to leave the island because of poor possibilities of employment, etc. But still, whoever I have a chat with here, all agreed upon one thing: they simply love their island and their lives on this island.