Another day, another island! Today we were due to travel to Pico and, unlike with the other islands we've travelled to so far, we were going by ferry. There is an airport on Pico and so it would have been possible to fly, but because São Jorge, Pico and Faial are all relatively close together, it makes more sense to travel between them by boat.
Our ferry was due to depart at 11.40, so we were booked to return our rental car in Velas at 10.30. The booking confirmation said that we should return it to the city office of the rental firm in the centre of Velas, but after we'd navigated our way there we found that it was closed. Tim rang the company and they said to bring the car to the port, which was luckily just around the corner.
Once we were in the right place we handed the car back without any problems and then tried to figure out what the procedure was for checking in for the ferry. I'd bought our tickets online in advance and they were really good value; €11 each. It turned out that all we had to do was go to a desk, show our tickets and then hand over our suitcases to be stowed away in the boat. It was quite similar to checking in for a flight.
We still had a bit of time to kill before the ferry departed, so now that we were free of our suitcases we decided to have a quick final stroll around Velas. Right outside the port we found the main gate into the town.
On the wall behind the gate there was a map of the island and we were able to see all the places we'd visited yesterday.
Walking through the gate, we found ourselves in the town's main square.
Somehow we'd manage to miss this on our first trip to Velas, but it was very pretty.
I really loved the tiled pavement again.
As is fitting for an island named after St George, the square also featured a statue of a dragon.
Once we'd finished exploring we said goodbye to São Jorge and headed back to the port buildings to catch our ferry to Pico.
As soon as we stepped onto the ferry we could feel it being rocked by large waves. Fortunately I still had a supply of seasickness tablets, which I'd bought for all our holidays to Scottish islands during the pandemic, so we'd both taken one of those after breakfast this morning.
We found seats outside at the back of the boat, which gave us a good view of Velas as the ferry pulled out of the harbour.
As we got further away, we began to get an impression of what a long and mountainous island São Jorge is. I'd read yesterday that in times gone by, the inhabitants of Topo were closely linked to Terceira, importing their supplies by boat from Angra rather than making the difficult land journey to Velas over the Serra do Topo, the range of mountains separating Topo from the rest of the island. Looking at the top of São Jorge disappearing into the cloud today, it definitely made sense!
There were some big waves in the sea today and the crossing was quite choppy as a result. We were fine with our sea sickness tablets, but there were definitely some other passengers who weren't coping so well. Tim managed to climb to a higher deck to shoot the video above, but the waves were so huge that I decided to stay sitting down!
It was only a short journey though and by 12.30 the boat was arriving at the port of São Roque on Pico.
We got off the ferry and waited by a small luggage carousel to retrieve our bags.
Then it was time to pick up yet another rental car and explore a bit of Pico!
We didn't actually drive very far in the first instance, just a little way around the coast from the port.
There was a nice viewpoint here, complete with bright red windmill.
We admired the views of the windmill and the sea for a while.
Then we walked back towards the port and found a small cafe to get something to eat.
After lunch we drove about 15km down the road, south of the main town of Madelena, towards the holiday home we'd rented. We were allowed to check in from 15.00.
It's quite a spacious little house, with two bedrooms...
...a well-equipped kitchen...
...and a comfy living area.
We've got an outdoor terrace too, from where we can see across to the island of Faial.
As you can see, it was a bit wet and cloudy again today and it rained for a while after we'd arrived. Once the rain stopped we set out for a walk down the road. The view of Faial became much clearer.
We are staying in a neighbourhood called Criação Velha, which is next to an official world heritage site called "Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture". We were walking down towards the coast to try and find some of these vineyards.
Early settlers to Pico soon realised that the volcanic soil here, combined with the mild climate, meant that it would be an excellent location for growing grapes.
The only problems they ran into were the strong winds and salty spray from the sea, which had a nasty habit of destroying the vines.
In order to work around this, they built an extensive network of stone walls out of the black volcano stone that was lying around the island. The walled enclosures were designed to protect the vines from the wind and the sea - and they worked!
Pico's wine became famous all over the world and was a particular favourite of the Russian tsar!
Unfortunately, most of the vines on Pico were wiped out in the mid nineteenth century by a plague. The majority of islanders were dependent on the wine trade by this point and so mass emigration ensued.
Many of the emigrants went to the USA and some of them later returned with a new Californian breed of grape that was more resistant to disease and well suited to growing in Pico's climate.
So wine production on Pico continues, admittedly on a small scale than it once was. After we'd finished exploring the vineyards, we went to the supermarket and bought a bottle of Pico wine to try it out
The cloud has been too low for us to be able to see the volcanic peak of Mt Pico today, but once we got down to the beach we could definitely see that this area had been formed by lava flows.
Pico seems like a fascinating island and we're looking forward to seeing more of it tomorrow!