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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Hike Sao Miguel Sete Cidades PR4SMI, PR3SMI & PR25SMI 7 October 2011

Caught the 0825hrs bus from Ponta Delgada to the western caldera of Sete Cidades on Friday 7 October. The weather forecast was for a warm sunny day. Around 0930hrs, got off the bus at the bend above the village where there is a link track to the PR 4 SMI walking trail which follows the farm track along the top of the northern crater rim
Please click on photos to enlarge
As we set off, the sky was a hazy blue - it looked as though the weather forecast was going to be correct.
The track went through an area where lumber jacks were busy felling part of the Cryptomeria Japonica forest. Later we saw several cleared areas, some of which had already been replanted. At an age of around 40 years, we understand that the roots of these superb quick growing trees start to rot, so the forestry management have a policy of felling  and replanting. The timber is good for building construction.
 By 0950hrs we started to get our first views of one of the caldera lakes.
 and shortly afterwards had good views of the sea to the north of the island
 The town of Sete Cidades came into view nestled in the west side of the caldera. In the foreground is a clump of the beautiful Amaryllis, Belladonna , which grow wild all over the island. As their flowering usually coincides with return to school after the summer holidays, they are also called "Meninas para a escola" literally translated as "Girls back to school".

A zoomed-in view of Sete Cidades
 The steep cliffs on the north side of the shimmering lake - our track stays on the narrow rim on top of the cliffs around the lake

 In the Azores, cows are everywhere

 The sides of the track are thickly grown with Ginger lilies, Hedychium Gardnerianum
 Most of the beautiful orange flowers have died but a few remain

 More views of the caldera

 The track climbs to the highest point, the 845 meter Pico de Cruz
From where we had hazy views of the east of the island
 After descending a steep concrete track we reached a field which we crossed in an endeavour to find a short cut to the track which follows the rim to the west of the caldera, route PR 3 SMI
 more wonderful views towards the caldera

 After exploring the far side of the field we found a track in the woods which led to a car park for a popular viewpoint. There we were very fortunate to meet a very friendly German couple who , when asked the way to the start of the second part of the hike, told us we had to follow a boring road for several kilometers and would we like a lift in their car. We accepted with alacrity as we were getting a bit concerned about the distance we had to walk to catch the last bus. So we joined them on the short walk to the viewpoint before being taken to the disused hotel at the start of the hike.

 Thanks to our kind new friends we were at the start of hike PR3SMI by 1330hrs

 At times along the rim we had glimpses through the trees of the caldera and the northern rim where we had been a couple of hours earlier

Took a panorama video of the magnificent hike we were on - very unusual to be able to see more or less the entire 15 or so km hike from one location.
Please click on arrow to watch video clip

 A few kilometers before the end of the caldera rim track, we came across the track down to the village of Ginetes, 3.8 km away on the southern side of the island - hike PR 25 SMI. As it was only 1450hrs and the bus did not leave Sete Cidades until 1625hrs, we decided to follow this track and catch the bus at Ginetes.
The track was bordered in places by enormous hedges of Hydrangers - which must have given a magnificent floral display a few weeks earlier

At times the track was so steep that, in order to save our knees , we walked backwards

Please click on arrow to watch video clip

 At 1600 hrs we arrived in Ginetes, at the start of the PR 25 SMI hike

 Treated ourselves to an icecream while waiting opposite the Ginetes Church for the 1700hrs bus back to Ponta Delgada.

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