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Clare
Clare

Day 14: Corvo

When I said the other day that we'd arrived on our final island of Flores, I wasn't being strictly accurate. There are nine inhabited islands in the Azores archipelago and our hope was that on this trip we would manage to visit seven of them. There were two islands which we had deliberately left out of the itinerary because we just didn't have time to fit everything in. Firstly Santa Maria, which is significantly further south than the other islands so just didn't work with our itinerary geographically. Secondly Graciosa, which is a rather small island and doesn't have a lot of must-see sights. So far on this trip we had visited six islands: São Miguel, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico, Faial and Flores. The seventh island we were hoping to see was the island of Corvo, the smallest and most northern island in the Azores.

I say that we were "hoping" to visit it, because visiting it isn't terribly straightforward. There is a ferry service which runs between Flores and Corvo during the summer, but it doesn't run every day. It's also a pretty small ferry and when I searched for tickets at some point during August I found that they were already all sold out for the day that we could do. The other way to visit is via a boat tour with a private company, but finding information about those online is quite difficult. At least, it's quite difficult if you don't speak Portuguese! After a fair bit of googling, I found a company which sounded promising and emailed to try and make a reservation. I succeeded, but the trips depend on weather and sea conditions so I wasn't going to find out for definite whether the trip was going ahead until two days before.

As it happens I didn't hear anything at all so I had to chase up the booking people yesterday. But they replied with good news - our trip to Corvo was going ahead :) The less good news was that we needed to be at the port in Santa Cruz das Flores at 08.45 this morning, so we had an early morning drive across the island ahead of us.

It actually turned out to be a really pleasant drive. It was a bright sunny morning and as we passed one of the many marked viewpoints on the way to Santa Cruz, we realised that we could actually see Corvo in the distance.

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This was the first time so far on this trip that the weather had been good enough for us to see it.

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Weather on the Azores is always mixed though and by the time we got down to Santa Cruz das Flores, it was raining slightly.

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We parked the car and made our way down to the port.

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We found a group of people waiting for the boat and paid our fare (€20 each) to the skipper. Then we were fitted out with our life jackets.

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I hadn't quite known what to expect from the boat in advance, but it turned out this was it!

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It was fairly small, with two long benches running down each side of the boat which the passengers sit astride. We squeezed in and then we were off, leaving the coast of Flores behind us.

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As we pulled out of the harbour, the water seemed quite calm...

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...but once we got out into the open sea it soon became a lot choppier!

The boat took us along the northeastern coast of Flores, where there are some amazing rock features.

We saw waterfalls cascading into the sea...

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...hole and arches in the rocks...

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...and even sea caves.

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In fact, the boat took us inside some of the sea caves.

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We were right next to the waterfalls!

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And we could see all kinds of interesting rock formations.

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We exited the cave...

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...and sailed past some more great views of the coast.

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There were more waterfalls...

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...more colourful rocks...

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...and at one point the skipper even stopped the boat because we'd all just caught a glimpse of a pod of whales :o 

It was definitely an experience travelling on this type of boat and at times there were some pretty vicious waves.

 

Once we'd moved away from the coast and were on the open sea we didn't take many photos because we needed our hands to hold on :D And we were sitting on the side of the boat that was being hit by the waves, so from time to time we were sprayed with salty water. I ended up with salt in my eyes, in my nose, in my mouth...! But before too long we could see Corvo getting closer on the horizon :) 

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Here it is: you can see it's a small island with only one settlement - Vila do Corvo - which is where we were headed.

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Before too long we were in the calmer waters of its harbour :) 

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There were taxi vans waiting at the harbour to take tourists up to Corvo's main attraction: it's caldera. The boat company had recommended that we travel with one particular provider, so while we waited for space in one of their vans we had a little stroll around the town.

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We learned later on in the day that the population of Corvo is 384 people, so Vila da Corvo is definitely not a large town.

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We found the church though...

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...and walked uphill to a viewpoint where we could look out over the sea.

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Soon we got high enough that we could see Flores in the distance.

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The boat was coming to pick us up again at 3pm and I was wondering what we were actually going to do on Corvo for that long. I didn't have great hopes of us seeing the caldera, because as we'd approached the island we'd seen that the top of it was covered in cloud.

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Never mind. We walked back down to the harbour for the taxi, which was €10 each for a round trip to and from the caldera. The driver assured us that the weather was actually good and we should be able to see the view....

...and when we arrived at the top and stepped out of the taxi, we found that we could!

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There were some clouds on the highest rims of the caldera, but we had a perfect view down to the lakes at the bottom.

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I think it's quite rare to get views as good as this; I'd seen various reviews online from people who had travelled by boat to Corvo only to find that the centre of the island was covered in cloud and they couldn't see a thing.

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The taxi driver explained to us that there was a walk we could do, following a path down to the bottom of the caldera.

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We could then hike around the edge of the lakes, before climbing back up to the top.

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It was about 11am by this point and he said he'd come back at half past one to pick us up. So off we set!

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The first part of the path was relatively easy, just following a grassy downhill trail.

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We did stop to take a lot of photos on the way down.

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Possibly too many photos!

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But we were really very excited to be here and be able to see this view :D 

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As we got lower down the path became a bit steeper and muddier, but it was still far less slippery than yesterday's path to the waterfalls.

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We made it down to lake level without any difficulties.

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And once we were down to the level of the lakes, we had some great views up to the sides of the caldera.

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I think this has a bit of a Jurassic Park feel to it as well!

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It was mind-blowing walking around down here and thinking about how long ago the landscape was formed.

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The island of Corvo was created by a volcanic eruption 730 000 years ago!

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The volcano would originally have had a large central cone, but that collapsed during a subsequent eruption about 430 000 years ago.

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That collapse created this caldera, which is about 300m deep and 2km wide.

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The volcano is now extinct, so Corvo isn't one of the islands that has to worry about future volcanic eruptions.

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Locals say that the islands in the lake represent the nine islands of the Azores.

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I couldn't quite make that out but it was a beautiful view to look at anyway :) 
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The path had been quite busy when we set off, with various groups of people getting out of taxis and starting around the same time, but as we progressed further around the bottom of the caldera everyone became more spread out. 

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It felt like we were in the middle of nowhere, completely alone. 

(If you look carefully towards the end of that video you should be able to see me for scale compared to the caldera!)

We did have cows for company at times...

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...and at one point there were some horses too!

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But otherwise it was pretty peaceful :) 

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We could see that it would have been even more beautiful if we'd been here a few weeks earlier; we passed hedgerows of hydrangeas which were now just going over.

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At one point we passed this tiny little waterfall too :) 

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The route was well-marked by little red and yellow striped poles. You should just be able to make one out next to this cow :D 

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Shortly after this point we realised that we'd completed a full circuit of the bottom of the caldera and it was time to start climbing up.

Climbing up was hard work, but as we got higher we did get great views down again.

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Here is me being very pleased I've finally made it to the top and don't have any more uphill to do!

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At the point at which we reached the top, we could still see down into the caldera pretty clearly.

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It was probably about 13.20 when we got to the top, so we had ten minutes or so to wait around for the taxi. During that time, the caldera started to cloud over.

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We went to have a look at the view on the other side of the road, where we could see down to the sea...

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...and to have a look at the info board, where we could see the trail we'd just completed around the caldera (and feel grateful that we'd paid for a taxi up and down, rather than walking the entire thing!).

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By the time we'd done that, the view had completely disappeared :o 

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That just reinforced how lucky we were to have got all the views that we did!

The taxi arrived promptly at 13.30 and we travelled back down to the town. The driver stopped at one of the viewpoints on the way so that we could look down over Vila da Corvo.


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We could see that there is a runway, right by the sea, so it is possible to fly here with SATA from some of the other islands. The driver also pointed out the school, where children can stay until they're 14 (after that, they have to go to one of the bigger islands) and the hospital (which has two doctors and two nurses).

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For such a remote place, it feels like Corvo is quite well-equipped!

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We were absolutely starving once we got back down to the village. Luckily there was just time for a drink and some pastries in the local pub :) 

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Then it was back on the boat towards Flores and another battle with the local WiFi to get some photos online! It's been such an exciting day; I'm really happy that our trip to Corvo worked out :) 




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