Trans-Atlantic 2008   -  Pico

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Although Pico has two ports, we did not sail there.   Several sailors advised us to visit by the short ferry ride from Horta.  those who had anchored in Pico were very emphatic that it  was a bad idea.

Seems then the Atlantic swells work their way into the anchorages, making for discomfort in good weather and even danger in bad.

The volcano is very obvious, and at 2,351 metres is the highest mountain in Portugal.  The top section was added by mother nature only about 300 years ago, so we have to wonder when it will grow some more.

In addition to the main peak, there are over a hundred small volcanoes on the island.

Some are visible if the photo is enlarged to full size.

We could enter some of the small craters quite easily, as cold the local sheep.

(Double click to see full size, then use the back button on your browser to return here)

Pico is the major wine-producing island in the Azores.  The vineyards are unusual in that most of the grapes grow on dry-stone walls, as in the photo.  they claim that growing on the hot rock improves the quality of the wine.

These cells are only about 10 metres square, with a narrow gateway between each, so mechanised harvesting must be impossible.  Like most of the farming in the Azores, these vineyards demonstrate that the islanders are no scared of hard work.  We often wonder how much nicer the Bahamas and Caribbean islands would be if the locals were equally industrious.

Climbing Pico is not at all technically difficult, but requires a longish day.  It is possible to take a taxi about a third of the way up, then follow a poorly marked and rough path. 

We started in cloud, and as we were climbing out of it, each one of us could look back down and see our  individual "halo-rainbow"


The flowers on the left gave way to the barren lava as we climbed higher
The summit cone was formed about 300 years ago, but already shows some signs of vegetation.

Climbing it is just a scramble.

The lines that look rather like tree roots are lava tubes, up to about 2 feet diameter. 

Although we had beautiful sun while climbing the upper half of the mountain, the solid cloud below cut off an view.

Once on top, if you cool off too much in the breeze, it is easy to find a steam vent to sit over and warm up.

Fortunately the steam was quite clean, with no sulphur smell at all.


As the lava runs down the hillside, the centre of some streams remains liquid longer than the outside, so they are hollow. 

Most such lava-tubes are under two feet in diameter, but this one is about 10 feet diameter, so we could walk through it.

The successive layers of lava that flowed through it are quite visible.

One unusual tube on the lower slopes so so large that people can walk into it, as shown in the bottom photo.

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