Amazing Azores

A travel on the Azores is a stun­ning adven­ture. It´s the per­fect mix­ture of old towns, pro­tected nat­ural reser­va­tions, hiking and hitchhiking infra­struc­ture, camp­ing sites and of course hos­pi­tal­ity. Wow, the peo­ple there are wel­com­ing wan­der­ers like me with an open heart and a home­made glass of wine. A travel on the 5 islands of the Azores Archipelago: Sao Miguel, Terceira, Sao Jorge, Pico and Faial.

The Amazing Azores is also available as hardcover book here.

Travel logs

At my last station in Horta. Here in the small cafe in front of Porto Pim, peo­ple just pass by for a quick cup of cof­fee, before going to work. 30 years ago it was used as the har­bor for whale fish­ing. Now it has gone quiet, except for the emi­grants who come back in sum­mer telling sto­ries about their life back in the US. Only a few tourists and some sailors find their way here, espe­cially in one of these rainy days like we have one now. On the right end of the har­bor there is the old fortress, which was some­how pro­tect­ing the bay from pirates, on the left end there is the left­overs from the fac­tory, where they made oil from the whales. Back then it was impos­si­ble to go swim­ming because the bay was bloody and many sharks were look­ing for left­overs around here.

A cou­ple stands by the har­bor wall and look onto the hori­zon, it seems more rain will arrive in the com­ing days. It is the sec­ond day of Euro­pean sum­mer, but it feels like win­ter espe­cially for the many sailors who arrive here from the Caribbean, before the hur­ri­cane sea­son starts over there. But the charms of this small bay remains and the church on “Monte guia” behind the whal­ing fac­tory is cov­ered in clouds. It is another per­fect day for some writ­ing and pos­si­bly the best day for reflect­ing the last month, that I have spent trav­el­ing these islands.

How it all began

In the begin­ning it was just a quick call from my friend Matthias, who send me the pro­mo­tion offer by SATA air­lines to go to the Azores for an incred­i­ble air­fare. I was hun­gry for some time­out, so it did not take any longer than an hour to book the flights. Until my depar­ture many things hap­pened that gave me more food for thought and heavy soul meals to digest. My grand­mother died just a week before I went, and it was hard for me to real­ize, that one of the most beloved women in my live had gone. Sad­dled in sad­ness but mounted with hope I took off to Munich, from where my flight would depart. When I jumped on the train I was alone, but since then never again. The first night in Munich I spent at the house of Jan, the brother of Matthias, it was like back in the days, when we were still at school, but now with style: Schwein­shaxn, Cham­pagne and good talks. The next after­noon the plane to Ponta Del­gada, Azores was expect­ing me. In my back­pack was not much, but a newly acquired tent, sleep­ing bag, a mat and some more clothes in cot­ton bags (which turned out to be great pil­lows later) among a bunch of books about love & mind, which I have not fin­ished until today. When check­ing in, it was the short­est row ever. Only one other back­packer was right next to me. On-board we real­ized that it was a very few peo­ple going on this kind of jour­ney. Some­how it felt like a soli­tary retreat right from the begin­ning. The only thing I had pre­pared was a place to stay at in the first night: the youth hos­tel in Ponta Del­gada. Both of us took a cab and the taxi dri­ver not know­ing much to say in Eng­lish, except to point out that his Mer­cedes has served him for almost one mil­lion kilo­me­ters and runs only on five cylinders.

Anton from Dres­den, as I learned on the check-in in the youth hos­tel, was about to do some Woof­ing on Flo­res. But the first night on Sao Miguel was made with hot dogs and beer, which to our sur­prise and joy was quite tasty, cold and inex­pen­sive. In the next morn­ing at break­fast I met a girl eat­ing alone in the empty din­ing room and sat with her, we exchanged our ideas on what to do and hers sounded invit­ing, as well to Anton who arrived later to break­fast. So we went on a hike up to the moun­tain lake “Lagoa del fogo” on the very first day. It was nice to have some­one with a plan already and just hook up. We also met another swiss girl so our first trek team was of four and did not dis­ap­point any of our efforts. Because the lake was just amazing.

One month and five islands later, the rain is get­ting stronger and every­one who still coped with the lit­tle drops of heaven now fled from the ter­race to the inside of the cafe, except two grand­fa­thers who seem to have seen worse than this. Soon the heavy rain becomes a lighter one, only the smooth sound of the waves has got­ten stronger as again the wind has gained in speed and strength. I walk out of the cafe to see some more of the scenery around here and in the waves I find a face. A woman is swim­ming there like a mer­maid, div­ing into the water and com­ing up again. She surely enjoys the rain­drops from above while being in the fresh water. Then as I con­tinue to walk the sun makes her way through the clouds and soon it gets hot and humid again. I can feel the water on my skin form­ing a layer of extra glu­ing mate­r­ial. The sun invites my feet to go to the har­bor again and work on my photo series about the sail­boats and sailors. On the way I pass by at the house, where I am stay­ing at to refill my bag with some food and get rid of some extra clothes, which are obvi­ously unnec­es­sary as I now have a nat­ural extra skin.

The Marina Bars

Back in the Har­bor I am start­ing to take pic­tures again — like all the other days, nicely ask­ing the peo­ple I meet whether I can take a shot of them too. Some say yes and only a few no. Most of them want to know what I am doing and I always take my time to explain. Then one woman sends me to a nearby skip­per who is about to show his yacht. So I take off my shoes and jump on board, not with­out wet­ting my socks because I was unaware of the water on deck. Below deck I am amazed of what this newly acquired yacht looks like and it surely fas­ci­nates me. Every inch of space is effi­ciently used and beau­ti­fully designed at the same time. I stay a while and talk to Emidio. He invites me for a cup of cof­fee and soon in the marina bar he intro­duces me to all kind of sailors. Beer, cof­fee, sand­wiches – it´s impos­si­ble to leave. Some of them are sail­ing with kids and for sev­eral years now. We con­tinue until the soc­cer game, which Ger­many even wins vs. Greece with 4:2. Although I am the only one cheer­ing for Ger­many, nobody really looks mad at me. After such a com­pelling game I am bit tired but not tired enough to check out Peters Cafe Sport. The Pub was full of peo­ple and the stage was just about to get pre­pared for some Live Music. When order­ing my first drink at the bar, an elderly man asked me: “Do you like to take my pic­ture in a proper out­fit?” It is Jean Pierre, who I have met ear­lier but I did not rec­og­nize him at first sight in his evening out­fit. So we spent the night drink­ing beer, talk­ing about love & life. He said when he decided to leave Bel­gium and go to the Azores peo­ple asked him: “But what about your pen­sion? If you stop work­ing now…?” Now, 12 years after mov­ing to Horta he runs a suc­cess­ful yacht repair service.

On the next day I meet Emidio and Jean-Pierre again and it feels like see­ing old friends, although I try not to stop by to early but take some pic­tures before I move into the sailor bars again. I also meet James from the UK who turns out to be a great man in terms of com­pelling sto­ry­telling. It seems that this island is about meet­ing peo­ple who can give me guid­ance, because they have lived their lifes freely, fought for their dreams, made mis­takes and then con­tin­ued. This is my last sta­tion before fly­ing back to Ger­many and I am becom­ing very aware of the fact, that it is inter­est­ing to meet peo­ple who do live their very own lifestyle and make their dreams come true, although most of the times they start just with an intu­ition.

The Amazing Azores is also available as hardcover book here.

Amazing Azores by Alexander Klebe