Four months ago I had never heard of Terceira Island or the Azores.
Today I find myself preparing to hike up Mount Brasil, the remains of a long-extinct volcano. Jutting out into the ocean, flanked by two bays, most of the peninsula has been designated as a natural reserve.
Parking our rental at Relvao Park, the Reluctant Traveler (my husband) and I walk towards the Fort to begin our ascent. After a brief exploration, we move along a paved road towards the trail. A soldier with a gun is stationed in a guardhouse at the end of the pavement, but I will not be deterred.
The Reluctant Traveler suggests that this may not be the right way, but I think it is.
It isn’t. As I barrel towards the soldier, he seems confused. Probably wondering what the hell this woman in an ill-fitting backpack is doing. He tightens his grip on his weapon. I smile, he doesn’t. I concede that this may not be the right way.
Retracing our steps, we find a dirt road which gets us back on track. The path is relatively wide and well-used by tourists and locals alike. The bay is on the left providing a breathtaking backdrop to the swarms of people walking and talking. A group of old men having a spirited conversation pass on the left, followed by the European version of Richard Simmons, complete with short shorts, prancing alongside a standard size poodle with a cigarette hanging from his lip.
We turn off towards Pico do Facho and begin the climb to the highest point on Mount Brasil.
The crowds are gone, and we hike in solitude through a thick forest that’s full of wildflowers. We reach the top, and the view is magnificent! Both Angra Bay and Fanal Bay, in addition to most of the preserve, are on full display.
Continuing the loop, we pass a large memorial cross commemorating the discovery of the island in 1432 as well as a few decommissioned artillery pieces. The trail veers left and narrows. We descend towards Fanal Bay on stairs carved out of tree trunks and hewn out of rocks. A small offshoot trail takes us to Quebrada Fort.
We enjoy a snack and head back to the main trail.
As we’re walking an animal (hopefully) lets out a bloodcurdling shriek. It comes from the left side of the path and stops me dead in my tracks, What the…I look at RT. “What the hell was that?” I ask. “Don’t know, but we got to close to it” he replies. I haul ass out of there trying to put some distance between me and whatever made that noise.
Back to a more forested area, we come to a fork in the trail and find a small white building perched on a cliffside. There are long thin windows on the side facing the sea, and we decide that this must have been a whale lookout. Whaling was an essential part of the economy of the Azores, beginning in the 19th century. It was officially prohibited in 1982, but the ban was fully implemented only in 1986. The archipelago of the Azores, is on a migration route for many species of cetaceans, making it one of the best places in the world for whale watching.
Continuing the loop, we follow the beaten dirt track until it becomes pavement and we arrive at Pico das Cruzhinas which offers a splendid view of the city as well as a monument marking the Portuguese occupation of the Azores during the Age of Discoveries.
An arrow indicates the way back towards town.
Walking along the pavement, we pass through a small zoo. There’s no one around, and we stroll through checking out the birds and animals on display.
This hike was incredible. We’ve seen so much! Gorgeous scenery, jaw-dropping views, interesting plant-life, and plenty of history. The Mount Brasil track offers plenty of bang for your buck. Hike 19 is done, now it’s time for a well-deserved meal and a beer.
Want more about the Azores? Click here to read about the island and our adventures.
To read about Hike One, click here.