Published: July 29th 2012July 29th 2012
Map of Pico
Our trip took us around the perimeter of the island stopping at quite a few of the villages along the way.
From Faial the island of Pico is only 4.5 miles away. The ferry ride to Pico only cost 6.80 euro ($8.34) round trip so we decided that was the easiest way to get there. Pico is 22.7 miles long and 8 miles wide and boosts Pico Mountain the highest elevation in Portugal with a height of 2351 meters (7,713 ft.).
On Sunday the 22nd
we took the 9AM ferry for the ride over to the village of Madalena on Pico. This was the 4th day of the religious festival of Maria Magdalene. The original plan was to explore the village until the procession started at 6:30 PM. We quickly found out that the village was not that large and most of the points of interest were outside of town, so we rented a car. Driving around to the southeast side of the island we came across vineyards that where cultivated on slabs of volcanic rock. The farmers first removed the loose rock using these to create walls that would surround the plants and give them a place to grow on. These walls also protected the plants from the cold winter winds. They then found a deep hole in the
Rocks big enough to be named
These islets are called "deitado" (lying down) and "em-pe" (standing up). Unfortunately they are not lit up at night so you need to be careful when navigating near here.
volcanic slab and planted the grape vines. Windmills were used traditionally on Pico to pump water for farming and a few of them have been restored for the public to see. They traditionally had fabric sails on the blades and the structure could be turned so the blades could be positioned into the wind.
The island of Pico has quite a variety of vegetation due to the micro-climates created by its geography. The most obvious landmark is Pico Mountain, but you also find numerous forests, a large agricultural area complete with vineyards, corn and of course cattle. The island produces both wine and cheese which we have sampled. The red wine is a bit sweet for our taste but the cheese is exceptionally good. We did sample a blackberry liqueur that we both enjoyed. Unfortunately it was a Sunday so both the winery and the cheese factory were closed as they would have been interesting to see. This area historically is known for its whaling and there is evidence of this history on several of the islands. Now with the end of whaling the economy is still dependent on the whales – but now instead of hunting them with
View of Faial
A view looking from Pico back to Horta on Faial where Tsamaya is.
harpoons they are being hunted by large groups of European tourists with cameras. In olden days, men would watch from the land in whale look–out shelters to spot the whale and notify the whale hunters by firing off a rocket that there were whales in the area and to man their boats. Today these same look out shelters are used by the tour operators to let the boats know where the whales are located, however notification is now by VHF radios. As a result the likelihood of seeing whales while on a tour is very good. It is ironic that the area that was known for killing whales is now known for teaching people about whale and dolphin conservation and giving them a chance to see them in the wild. As a result the whale population continues to grow in this area.
Pico appears to have much more of their land in agriculture than the other 2 islands that we have visited. The climate is well suited for vineyards and corn seems to be a popular crop. This island also seems to be going through a transition from predominantly agriculture to a mixture of tourism and agriculture. As we
Gateways in the Walls
The walls around the grape plants are quite massive as you can see here – the volcanic rock is used to build the walls, but they are all dry stacked.
traveled around the island we saw large numbers of summer homes and heard that people from the other islands and the Portuguese mainland vacation here. Unfortunately we did not have enough time to drive into the interior of the island – we will have to save that for another time.
We made it back to the town of Madelana in time to view the procession. This is a religious event which originates at the church and proceeds through the village ending at the sports stadium. The procession is a very solemn event with life-size statues of Mary Magdalene, Jesus Christ and Mary each being carried by 4 to 6 men. Each statue was then followed by a community marching band, followed by long lines of community members. Each statue had its marching band and line of solemn followers. A large number of the women had removed their shoes and were walking barefoot on the rough cobblestone streets. Once the procession was finished the party started. 2 large stages in the center of town became the focus of attention. The community bands that were involved in the processional formed up on stage and began playing a wide variety of popular
Buildings Blend In
Off to the right of this photo notice the small “rock” building that is used for storage of tools as well as protection for the workers at the vineyard.
tunes. Activities increased with people dancing, listening to music and eating and drinking at the various food tents lining the streets. Things were only getting started at about 10 PM and we had tickets for the 11 PM ferry. It was obvious it was going to be a long night of celebrating. On one of the side streets among the food tents we came across a group of guitar and mandolin players. They were playing traditional music and in front of them was a large group of people participating in dances very similar to what we saw in Flores the week before. It reminds us so much of square dancing in the States. In this case this was not a well-practiced group but instead people that came to the festival to have a good time.
It was a long day for us but a very pleasant one. Fortunately we got to spend part of the evening with Christa and Pascal from Titom, a fun couple we first met in Flores. It was a beautiful night so the ride back on the ferry was quite pleasant, a nice ending to the day. There is quite a bit more to Pico
The vineyards used windmills such as this one for pumping water. They can rotate the building to position the blades in the right direction. They normally would have cloth sails attached.
that we didn’t get to explore so we would enjoy coming back again.
There are more photos below