Vila do Porto, Santa Maria, Azores

Vilo do Porto harbour:

We stayed on Santa Maria for nearly 2 weeks in the end and had some more very enjoyable walks as well as mixing with locals for their August 15th festival events.  For one of the walks we were lucky to be offered a lift across the island by a British yachtie who has owned a house there for over 25 years.  In fact we were surprised to find how many Brits had settled in this fairly remote location.  It is very lovely of course and the island is dotted with the white painted traditional houses, all with their distinctive tall chimneys and large attached bread ovens.  The walk  to the pretty little seaside village of Maia after our lift, led down a very steep stone stepped path and we cut ourselves some sturdy cane sticks to help us keep our feet as we hadn’t taken our proper walking sticks with us.  Maia was backed by more of the amazing little basalt walled vineyards stretching a long way up the steep slopes.  The farmers must have been very fit to make those climbs to tend the vines!  We panted up just a short section to reach the road which led to the lighthouse at the south eastern end of the island and from there looked down on a ruined whale factory tucked into a sheltered cove.

 

Terraced vineyards on the coast near Maia:

Typical countryside & scattered houses:

Another walk took us on a “mountain to coast” trail which gave us great views over the sea to the north and took us to one of the island’s main attractions.  This is a totally man made site, with awesome pink shaded basalt quarry walls rising sheer above a now tranquil pond filled with rushes and accompanied by the croaking of frogs.  We also walked up to the island’s highest point on the Pico Alto trail and were rewarded with terrific 360° views at the top.  These 2 walks involved catching the island’s once a day bus which meanders around the various tiny settlements dropping off shoppers on their way home from town.  We then phoned for a taxi at the end of our walk whilst drinking a very welcome beer in a local bar.  The weather was pretty hot and humid despite quite a bit of cloud cover and we several times jumped in our dinghy and motored out of the harbour so we could have a quick swim to cool off.

 

Looking down on more coastal vineyards:

And the awesome pink “pyroclastic” rock quarry:

It was fun to join in some of the celebrations for the festival and we watched a concert of Fado singing with some excellent Portuguese guitar playing in the attractive cloisters of the old convent which now serves as the Town Hall.  We returned on another evening to watch a village folk dance group give a very lively display and  were impressed by the complexity of some of their patterns.  We also heard a lot of North American voices amongst the crowd as many of the other summer visitors here are Americans returning to their roots.  

 

Eventually the winds looked reasonably favourable to move on the Sunday and we were ready for a change of scene.  We will always have fond memories of this delightful spot however, though not of the sticky uphill slog into town from the harbour or the intrusive sound of fishing boat engines and the ice-making machine in this busy little fishing port.  We were also looking forward to a destination which promised a beach next door to the marina rather than several miles away.