Exploring Sao Jorge

Date: 8-13/03/2020
Position: Sao Jorge

Planning a trip is not easy especially when you have never done it before and you are on an island in the middle of the Atlantic that you haven’t even seen before. We (the students) had been split into 4 groups each of which had to plan a week-long excursion on the island of Sao Jorge with nothing more than a map, a small budget and the little amount of food that we could carry.

After a long bus trip through the steep landscape of Sao Jorge from Velas, through Calheta, to the very East tip of the Island – Topo. Topo is a very quaint village housing mostly farmers. Although we had a map with the Camping place marked on it, we spent a longer amount of time searching for it and after asking several locals we ended up on a small field right by the ocean with a small, natural swimming pool – what luxury. And after setting up the camp and eating our noodles with pesto, we went to sleep.

The next morning was started with a short swim in the natural swimming pool and oatmeal for breakfast. We had planned a short hike as a warmup which was around 10km long with only 600 meters up. But this hike was not just short as a warm up but also because we had planned to go canoeing in Sao Tome which a local in Velas had told us could be done there. Long story short Sao Tome was a tiny village in the middle of nowhere with a population of around 100 with no lake, river or stream in sight which ended in us assuming that either the local had lied or more probable – that we had not understood her Portuguese and that she had actually said something like; don’t got to Sao Tome because its at the ed of the world and there is nothing to do there. After asking many locals where we could sleep for the night a farmer gave us permission to sleep on his field. Just after setting up camp it started to pour. So, we decided to all squash into a 3-person tent (to tenth) and eat our couscous there and as you can imagine, it was cramped.

The next day we had planned to take the bus at 7:45 to Pequinho da Urza and to hike from there to Faja dos Cubres but as we were preparing to leave for the bus stop the bus drove past us. And may I just say – it was 7:15. And I almost forgot – It was still raining we were all soaking wet. We all had already had experience in sitting in tight spaces from the day before but this time we were sitting in a bus stop with all of our luggage while cooking oatmeal in the middle with our gas stoves. After long discussions of what to do we called a bus charter to bring us to the start of the hike at Pequinho da Urza. Even though this ended up being the shortest hike, as we only made it to Faja de Caldeira de Santo Cristo, it felt like the longest. Hiking in the pouring rain is not a recommendable thing to do and you should attempt to avoid it if possible. But we finally did make it and after many miscommunications and even more rain, finally found a place to sleep for the night where we could dry our things, have a fire and most importantly a roof over our heads for the night. Thanks to a very nice local, Ricardo, we found a place to stay for the night. After a dinner including noodles and pesto we played werewolf and Cambio for a few hours.

After more oatmeal for breakfast we told our host our destination and asked if he knew where we could sleep there. After calling someone for about 20 seconds he told us he had hooked us up with the mayor of Norte Pequeno and that we should go to a specific restaurant and ask for the mayor who would then show us our accommodation for the night. After a beautiful hike along the north-east coast of Sao Jorge we arrived in Norte Pequeno where the mayor led us to a school that had been closed in 2014. He told us that this was our home for the night. This was the most space we had had to sleep in a long time. We had an entire school to ourselves and it wasn’t small either as you would expect for such a small town. At around 8 in the evening we heard an accordion and the mayor and his friend came in, his friend playing the accordion. And even better his friends’ wife had brought fresh cheese from their goat, homemade bread, homemade hot sauce, homemade scrambled eggs from their chickens, homemade wine (for the adults) and more. This was a feast. We ate and sang and danced till late in the night and then went to his house to have a coffee – at midnight. This was the big highlight for my group and it showed us how friendly people can be. After a long day we went to sleep.

The last day we took the bus, which was not ½ an hour early this time and which we did not miss, to Velas to then ‘hike’ the last 300m to the Thor. Home sweet home.