(grab a snack or some tea, it’s a long story)
It’s been a while since our trip to the Azores, but there’s still so much to tell. Somehow, I need a little distance first, before I’m really able to write anything down about it. None of my blog posts about the Azores will be in chronological order. It’ll be posted in the order I write it, which will really only depend on what I feel like writing about.
We had already been on the island of Pico for a day or two and seen a little bit of the island. We had checked in with the station, from which you climb/hike up the mountain Pico. So we knew that the weather would be good the day we were planning on going up.
In all the guide books, it says it takes about 2,5 – 4 hours to climb the mountain. It’s also for all levels of fitness, as long as you can take steps that are about knee-high. We figured that we would be able to climb it within those 4 hours. After all, we go hiking a lot and were fairly fit (okay, I’m fairly fit, the boyfriend is crazy in shape). We arrived at the starting point and left from there around 9:30am.
Before we left, we received GPS trackers; in case we got lost or needed rescuing. That was the point where it all started to sound a little more dangerous than just hiking up a mountain. It continued with instructions like: don’t leave any trash or harm the environment. We were also told we would have phone/Internet reception on the mountain, but that we wouldn’t count on it inside the crater. Like honestly, we don’t even have phone reception in our house.
Then came the (unbeknown to us at that time) fun/exhausting part: we were to follow the white markers. We would follow the path to the first one and then we would always be able to see the next one. Sounded simple enough. It sounded like there were going to be a couple of paths and in order to stay on the right one, you had to follow the markers. WRONG! So. Wrong.
The beginning was simple enough; we followed the path. After a while, we saw the first marker. From there we saw the second one, which is where the ‘fun’ started. These paths we thought we were going to follow? Gone. None existent. Sure, a couple of times there were pieces of vegetation that had obviously been threaded on more than others. However, as it’s a vulcano, it’s mostly just a bunch of rock. And… no paths.
We didn’t take too many pictures on the way, because we were too busy trying not to die. Yea, I know. That sounds like I’m being dramatic. Perhaps I’m a little dramatic, but I really did feel that way a few times. I just kept thinking: “if I fall now, I’m going so far down that I might not survive this.” Mostly, which you’ll be able to see in the pictures, because we didn’t simply hike up the vulcano. We walked some of it, but we also climbed some of it; hands we involved a lot. I was just happy I had such great hiking boots; they had amazing grip!
Inbetween, we took a lot of breaks. I’m not in bad shape, but I also am not into endurance sports, so it wasn’t easy for me. Add to that the thinning air and it was a perfect recipe for disaster. Not physical disaster (not yet), but definitely emotion disaster. On the way up I broke down twice, because I just couldn’t go anymore. Even more frustrating was all the people easily passing us on the way up. It seemed so easy for all of them.
After 5 hours (5!), we finally made it to the top of the crater. It was a great feeling to have made it all the way up… although there was still Pico Pequeno. A small, steep mountain within the crater. In the photos you can see it just peek out. It looks so tiny on those pictures. After climbing all the way up to the crater though, I didn’t have the energy anymore to go up. Besides that, it was super steep, so it would definitely be climbing, not hiking.
We sat down and had something to eat, enjoyed the view, and left again for the way down. After all, it had taken us longer than anticipated to go up, and we still had to get down. Down however, must be easier than up, right? Again: wrong. Although, it could’ve been. There was one giant problem: exhaustion. I’m not talking about being tired, or having sore muscles. I’m talking about my body literally failing to support me .
Apparently, I’d gone all the way past where ‘mind over matter’ is still a thing. My mind still wanted to go, but my body was done. Not immediately, we still got down a fair end. A lot of it just sitting on our butts scooting down, like little kids down the stairs.
We didn’t have much to go anymore, when I fell down because I couldn’t stand on my legs anymore. That’s when it started to get dangerous, because the only way for me to stand was to lock my knees and then step down, which sometimes was quite a ways down. The boyfriend tried to help me as much as possible, but it wasn’t easy. It took us forever to make it all the way down; another 5 hours. Considering I really couldn’t control my legs anymore, it’s no surprise that I had another mental breakdown.
I didn’t have a choice though and had to go on.
… and … I did it! I (we) made it all the way down!
The total trip took us 10 hours. My Samsung watch for some reason only recorded 9 hours. Trust me, we were not yet at the car at that point. It took another hour. I’m still not sure if all the pain was worth it. However, I can say: I DID IT! That’s worth a lot as well.