Back in Minnesota, today was the monthly installment of Cars and Coffee. Car nerds get together in a parking lot and look at other cars. We did something similar, but it was while sipping espressos on the waterfront of Horta, watching rally cars drive past on their way to the first stage of the day. It’s so much fun to see them in normal city traffic: Fiat Panda, Citroen C3, bonkers Subaru that sounds like a constant string of firecrackers, another Fiat Panda…
While we considered getting up super early to get a hike in before the rally took over the trail around the rim of the caldera, we decided that after a week of pretty intense hiking (12.5 miles per day average, 111 flights of stairs climbing) we could slow down a bit for our last day. Hence the harbor-side coffee. Then the second harbor-side coffee and pastry. Then we got in the car for a hike.
Our destination was a part of the island that we knew the rally wouldn’t be, which also happened to be the location of a couple faults that interested Kat. The hike was a 10km loop, starting and ending in a small town called Ribeirinha. The trail took us down to the coast and into a charming little swimming and picnic spot. Then it zigged and zagged up to the ruins of an old lighthouse, destroyed by an earthquake in the 1990s. Another drop into a valley brought us to a church, destroyed in an earlier earthquake. Then the real climb took us to the top of a hill overlooking the whole scene. The ridges we were climbing are actually the faults, which cut through the island. Hence all the earthquakes.
Until the last mile or so, the trail was in great shape, because it was host to the Azores Trail Run last weekend. This is one of those crazy people activities – one of the routes was a 125 kilometer path that both circled and criss-crossed the island (the fastest person did it in 13 hours). Towards the end of our path, we came to a junction where the trail runners went right, and we went left. Which meant we were no longer on the nicely prepped path, and instead were descending in overgrown ferns and prickly bushes. Oh well! A little bloodied and itchy, we made it back to town and rewarded ourselves with ice cream.
With only a few hours left before our flight, we needed to pack in more fun. We took the northern route around the island, stopping for lunch at a random snack bar. We ended up back at the Capelinos lighthouse, where we climbed to the top of another set of volcanic features to get some photos. Right as we got to the top, the rally cars started rolling in – apparently the next stage was starting right down at the coast, a few hundred feet from where we parked. We sat on a cliff, watching the cars take off down the coast. The dust clouds rising through the trees let you track them well off into the distance.
Our last destination for the day was to circle back to the tea house for a cup of tea and a toasted sandwich – it’s such a cozy, inviting space, we wanted to enjoy it one more time. Then it was back to the airport and back to São Miguel. We intended to find a light dinner along the lines of salad somewhere in Ponta Delgada. Instead we found a bunch of locals eating from hot dog stands in the main square – it was a no brainer. The ice cream stand on the next corner over helped us polish off our last meal in the Azores. Tomorrow, back to the US. It’s been an amazing time in the Azores, and we’ve only seen 20% of them!