Beautiful Sao Jorge July 31 - August 7, 2012


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Europe » Portugal » Azores » Velas
August 19th 2012
Published: August 19th 2012
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The sail from Faial to Sao Jorge was a pleasant 4 hour crossing. When we called the harbor master on the VHF we were told there was no room in the inn but that we could tie up to the reception area (a high concrete wall). As we approached the wall the harbor master José met us to help with the lines and a “hello and welcome to paradise”. The good news is he wasn’t exaggerating. Unfortunately 3 boats had arrived just before us and took the last 3 slips but he said there was no problem with us tying up on the wall until a space became available. We looked around the marina and recognized several boats we had been traveling with since we first arrived in the Azores. It seems as though when you arrive in a group of islands you get hooked into a group who are moving at the same speed and in the same direction as you are and develop some very nice friendships. The only other American boat in the marina was a 46 foot trawler, Starlet from Florida. We met Jennifer and Mark in Flores where we celebrated Fourth of July with them. Our
On the main squareOn the main squareOn the main square

The first thing you see when you come up to the town of Velas from the marina is this church which was built in 1895, located at the town square.
friends on Titom from Switzerland and Takari from France were also in the marina.

Jennifer and Mike told us they would be leaving the next morning so their slip would be available. Bob and his usual enthusiasm responded with “oh great” and then spent the next 5 min. trying to extract his foot from his mouth – it wasn’t that we didn’t want to spend time with them, but we were definitely happy to get off the concrete wall and into a dock.

The marina is very new and in excellent condition. The showers and laundry facilities are first rate and very reasonable. The marina with electricity and water is costing us about €13 a night ($15.88). Extremely reasonable compared to American and Caribbean marinas.

A short walk from the marina is the town of Velas. It is quite different than any that we have seen in the Azores . It appeared to be a more vibrant and prosperous town with a wider variety of shops than we have seen. Not only your basic small markets and cafes are here, but computer stores and even a music store with beautiful instruments for sale. As you get into
The SquareThe SquareThe Square

A view looking over the town square in Velas on Sao Jorge.
town there is a very large town square near the church. The stone designs in the sidewalks are quite intricate and beautifully maintained. There was also a pedestrian only street with cafes and shops lining both sides. There were more tourist walking the streets and although many of the tourists were French we noticed a significant number of Portuguese and Spanish but again very few Americans. The island of Sao Jorge is 65 km (40 mi) long and 8 km (5 mi) long with a population of 9,000 and was discovered in 1427.

Sao Jorge also has many well marked trails to hike so we made arrangements to rent a car to do some exploring and get to one of the hikes. Fortunately with many of our friends here for a couple of days ahead of us we got tips on which hike to do. PR1SJO was the one that everyone told us we must do so of course we took their advice and were very happy we did. This hike starts high on a hill where the wind farm is located. There are 7 very large wind turbines at this location. We had packed a picnic lunch so
Interesting LocationInteresting LocationInteresting Location

When you don’t have a yard or a balcony you have to hang your clothes right over the sidewalk making it quite interesting to walk down this street.
before we started the hike we stopped and ate. The trail winds back and forth down the hillside crossing streams and waterfalls, through groves of cedar trees and to overlooks where the views were breathtaking. We passed several abandoned houses and terraces that were cut into the hillside. The terraces were actively being formed or used for grazing cows and pigs. The overall elevation from the top of the trail to the bottom was 700 meters (2,296 ft.) and the length of the trails was 10 km (6.2 miles) down to Faja da Caldeira de Santo Cristo and Faja dos Cubres (a faja is a small area of flat fertile land at the bottom of a seaside cliff that was formed by lava flows, landslides or collapsing cliffs). We knew that for us this was a one way trail Friends told us that we should be able to get a taxi from the bottom back to our car. Luckily for us a German couple that we had seen on a boat in the marina in Horta were at the bottom and offered us a lift back to our car. It was nice to get to know Gabi and Rolf on
A Different Angle to View PicoA Different Angle to View PicoA Different Angle to View Pico

It was great to be able to still view Mt. Pico from Sao Jorge, a different angle from when we were on Faial, but still beautiful.
Nirvana. They are very pleasant and even stopped at several lookouts so we could take pictures on the ride back to the car. The people we have met cruising continued to amaze us. Their kindness and generosity continue to make this way of life truly delightful.

Many of the villages located in the fajas on the island cannot be reached by car. The first faja that we arrived at was one that can only be reached by walking, motorcycle or by a 4 wheeler. When you see the homes and businesses that are located there you are surprised by how well they are maintained knowing that all materials much be transported over the narrow trails that we walked. Years ago there were 100 people living there, now there are only about 10 permanent residents with the rest commuting to their jobs or coming for only part of the year. They limit the times that the motorcycles can be on the trails during “rush hour”. This hike is definitely one of the highlights of our visit to the Azores. After the hike we still had a little daylight left so continued to explore a few more villages along the coastline
Overlooking VelasOverlooking VelasOverlooking Velas

A view of part of the town of Velas with Pico in the background from a walk we were on in Velas.
on the southern part of the island before heading back to the marina to “crash”. It was a very long day but an excellent one that will be remembered fondly.

With taking the hike we were not able to travel to all parts of the island so decided to rent the car for a second day. Unfortunately the second day we had the car the weather was not very nice, it rained part of the day and was quite foggy. We didn’t let that stop us as we still traveled from one end to the other of the island. We hiked at the west end down to a defunct lighthouse down a lane through pastures and woods for a view of cliffs and the ocean. We had found out at the information center in Velas that there was to be a bullfight in a town at the opposite end of the island in Sao Antao in the afternoon so planned on getting there as well. When we arrived in town we saw flowers neatly arranged in a design down the middle of the road so turned down to investigate. When we opened the car door we could hear
Town HallTown HallTown Hall

The town hall is a good example of Azorean Baroque period architecture (18th century) with an impressive entrance.
music so followed the sound to a nearby church where a band was just finishing. The crowd started breaking up so thought we had missed the festivities. We wandered down some country roads and saw a crowd of people standing near a stone fence so went to investigate. We found the location of the bullfight. This is not what you typically call a bullfight – it was a pasture surrounded by a stone fence on 3 sides and farm trailers (hay wagons) lined up creating the fourth side. Among the hay wagons were four large crates which contained the bulls. The way this works is a bull is let out of its box and is loosely held on a long rope. At the other end of the rope a group of men basically keeping the bull in check to a certain degree. People “men” (we’ve both come to the conclusion that women are far too smart to engage in this activity however they do make up a significant number of spectators thus explaining why the men do it) start running around the field trying to get the bull to charge which it kindly did. This got the men in the
Is It A Safe Place for Your Boat?Is It A Safe Place for Your Boat?Is It A Safe Place for Your Boat?

Not sure if we would feel safe transporting our boat this way – it definitely looked like it was too far from the water!
field to run like crazy ahead of the bull and jump over the fence before being struck by the bull’s horns. Occasionally they did not make it in time and they did get hit, but no one appeared to be hurt. Once the bull tires out they put it back in its box and after a short break let the next bull out for more “fun”. The object appears to be similar to what you see in the traditional bull ring, that is to out maneuver using fancy footwork, umbrellas, blankets or even pieces of cardboard to distract the bull while you sidestep its charge. However, the bull being no fool quickly figures out what’s going on and then the bodies start flying. What amazes us is these guys get hit by the bull, run over by the bull, and get up and walk away waving to the crowd which elicits cheers and clapping from the crowd. These are very popular events during the summer months. We spoke to a couple of men from this town and they informed us that these were much safer than the bullfights that are held in the town streets. In those cases, people line
Pedestrians OnlyPedestrians OnlyPedestrians Only

This pedestrian only street is lined with shops and cafes and ends at the bottom of the hill at the church on the square.
the streets on walls and in trees while the bull runs through the street chasing all that are in his way. We found out that more injuries occur during those events as the streets are narrow and people do not have room to get out of the way or stumble over others that fall. We were just as happy that we saw the safer version of this event. We took a few videos so will try to get at least one up on line for you to see.

Another thing about Sao Jorge is that there seems to be a lot more usable land. The fields on this island seem to be much larger and much flatter than what we have seen before. As a result agriculture, cattle and dairy seem to be a significant part of the economy of this island. Another thing we’ve noticed is that the houses on this island are much more modern and even those that are made of the traditional stone look like they have been recently rebuilt and are in it excellent condition.

When we first arrived on Sao Jorge our friends Jennifer and Mark had been adopted by a young
Great Green SpacesGreat Green SpacesGreat Green Spaces

We are always impressed with the green spaces that are located in the towns. This park in Velas appears to be well used by many in town.
local couple. The young woman, Carolina lived in the United States for about 12 years (very common in the Azores) and wanted to practice her English. Her boyfriend Riu is a student at the local technical college studying to be a chef. He had traveled to the United States and could understand English quite well but was reluctant to speak. Fortunately for us Carolina and Riu came to visit us as well and we got to know them as well. They are 2 very kind and generous people and we were delighted to get to know them. It was wonderful having someone to explain to us many of the things we had seen and share with us what it was like to live in the Azores. Both of them said that jobs are very scarce on the island and that people either work at farming or work for the government. They also helped us some with the limited Portuguese that we have picked up. Rui had told us that his birthday was coming up soon which prompted Bob to break out in song singing Happy Birthday in Portuguese – he is finding that he is remembering some of his Portuguese
Well Used ParkWell Used ParkWell Used Park

Every day we walked by the town park we saw men sitting on the benches and relaxing – a great place to do it.
language skills from when he was in Brazil years ago. They taught us about limpets, a local seafood delicacy and introduced us to a number of other foods. Rui is quite the farmer and gave us a large bag of potatoes from his garden as well as made us an excellent dessert. There is definitely a difference between the potatoes fresh out of the garden and the ones you get in the store. Thanks again Carolina and Riu for the time you spent with us!

Obviously there is a lot of EU money supporting the large number of building projects on the island. I am afraid that as the economic situation in Europe continues to decline it could result in some very hard times for the people of the Azores. Tourism seems to be growing and with so much beautiful countryside and incredible history I am hopeful that this will offset the loss of EU support. It is obvious that the government sees tourism as an opportunity to improve the job situation. The construction of new marinas, the improvement of roads and the development of hiking trails and tourist’s attractions is common on every island we have seen.
Larger & More ColorLarger & More ColorLarger & More Color

This spirit house was larger and more colorful than others that we have seen before.

I’ve rambled on for long enough if I don’t stop soon I’ll never get this posted. Janice is already working on the next blog and as you can see there is no shortage of photographs. We continue to have an excellent time in the Azores and recommend that if you’re looking for someplace to vacation where you can relax, hike, visit beautiful old cities with magnificent historic buildings and see some of the most beautiful scenery we’ve ever experienced the Azores might be just the place. Did we mention how reasonable prices are and how wonderful the people are?

We have been on the island of Terceira since sailing here on August 7th. Hopefully it won't take so long to get that blog posting up so we can be more up to date. We are having so much fun it has been hard keeping up with the blog. Hopefully it will be worth the wait as will continue to put up lots of photos so you can hopefully get a flavor of what we are experiencing.

As always we wish all of you the very best.


Additional photos below
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The Velas MarinaThe Velas Marina
The Velas Marina

The marina in Velas is very secure with the harbormaster, Jose, greeting you as you came in and helping with the lines – a nice welcome! Tsamaya is the first boat on the left
Abrupt CliffsAbrupt Cliffs
Abrupt Cliffs

The coastline reminds you that the island is volcanic which creates these beautiful cliffs.
Be Careful DrivingBe Careful Driving
Be Careful Driving

You need to be careful when driving on the island as you never know when you will “run” into cattle.
More Pasture Land HereMore Pasture Land Here
More Pasture Land Here

The blue hydrangeas are visible here as well, but there is definitely more open pasture land than on the other three islands we have been on.
Good Roads in the AzoresGood Roads in the Azores
Good Roads in the Azores

The road system is good, but many are narrow and curve around the mountains down to the ocean side villages.
Milk Cans in UseMilk Cans in Use
Milk Cans in Use

Those milk cans that people back home buy in antique stores for decorations are actually used daily here. These farmers sell their milk to the cheese factories on the island.
Never Short of WaterNever Short of Water
Never Short of Water

This water fountain was built in 1872 – each one has its own distinct design.
Wind PowerWind Power
Wind Power

There is a wind farm on Sao Jorge that has 7 wind turbines producing much of the electricity for the island. You don’t realize until you get close to them how big they really are – hopefully the building will help you understand how big they are.


20th August 2012

Thanks for keeping your blog up...
your means of conveyance allows you access to more unusual, out of the way places that are fascinating...and I love your photography. How long do you plan to be sailing?

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