Hello Everyone! It’s true, we’re back in action! After the last couple of months with the Azores on lockdown, the team finally had the freedom to go out together in nature again ?. Fun Activities, in collaboration with Junta Freguesia Lomba S. Pedro, began work on making a new canyoning and hiking trail in Jan 2020. So, for our first venture, we decided to check out our project to see if mother nature had caused any damage in our absence.
Being one of the newest members of the Fun Activities team, I was warned that this hike is about 6km long and rated as difficult, so, armed in my sturdy hiking boots, I was ready to go! I was very excited about seeing this new route as I was promised an adventure full of surprises!
I was not disappointed, as you quickly find yourself in the thick of the forest, surrounded by an expanse of lush greenery, looking down over the valley. This view, these surroundings, feeling like you’re in the middle of nowhere, is for me, the true essence of the beauty of the Azores, with Nature at its best, untouched by man.
With that in mind, I’m proud to say that all the work that has been done so far and will continue to be done by Fun Activities here, will be made with utmost care to work with nature, to embrace it and enhance it for sustainable tourism. In fact, the idea to make a new canyoning route started three years ago, when the Fun Activities team, realized that the island is in desperate need for an alternative Canyoning route, as the ones being used at the moment have become too popular due to easy access, and are being exhausted by tourists and locals alike. In reality, Sao Miguel Island is made up of 60% of greenery, a lot of which is uncharted territory waiting to be discovered and explored.
So, we came up with this plan which got approved by the Tourism Directorate and hence started this project for a new canyoning route and a new hiking route, involving and committing the local farmers and fishermen. Our goal is to make sure that not only is the environment protected, but also to help the locals improve their lifestyle. By starting this project and partnering up with the local council we hope to improve the area for everyone to enjoy, to benefit the local community economically and to include locals with social problems to help them gain new skills and a chance at better future prospects.
However, we are a long way from finishing, and today, with a bit of slipping and sliding on my part, we made our way down the steep slope down the valley, to the sound of rushing water as our guide. Reaching the bottom, we were welcomed with an amazing sight; 360 degrees of greenery, a river flowing down, topped off with a beautiful waterfall.
If you want to get to the foot of the waterfall though, you have to be willing to get your feet wet and walk up the river bed. Luckily for us, this winter season hasn’t been particularly wet and the river was quite low, so we found some logs and driftwood and built ourselves a makeshift bridge to higher ground.
Getting closer to the waterfall, you wouldn’t think it could get any better, but it does! It’s not just the waterfall, or the beautiful blue pond below it, that beckons you for a dip, but all the lushness surrounding you with a curtain of spring water coming down on all sides of this enclosed area. The suns’ rays pouring in making it look even more magical. No photo can do this sight justice. So here we sat for a short break and enjoyed the peace and the sound of the birds and listened to the swish of the trees.
Making our way back up to the start of the hiking trail took my breath away, literally, but continuing on to the hiking route was my reward. All along the way you are surrounded by the many endemic trees and plants of the Azores, and the soothing smell of Eucalyptus.
I soon found out why this trail is marked as difficult, but if you enjoy a route with an obstacle course like I do, then this is definitely for you. There are a couple of spots where balance and lightness of foot is essential to pass through unscathed and some slippery wooden walkways and bridges. I’m ashamed to say that my post quarantine agility left me ankle deep or sitting in the mud in most of these spots, but still we had a good laugh. Dredging forward, we had to get our hands dirty with a bit of scrambling, and climbing up a wall with the help of a rope that is not for the faint of heart.
However, getting to the top of the final waterfall in this trail was well worth the struggle. Personally, I’m very excited about having a canyoning activity here in the near future. Whether you’re afraid of heights or not, this location makes you want to abseil down under the waterfalls or if you’re brave enough, to just jump off a ledge and down into the pool below.
We took the circular route on this day, but there are other options to getting back to the starting point. It was interesting to see that during the works that we’ve started recently, the team uncovered an old trail that had been made and previously used by our ancestors, and so now, we have integrated this into our route also. Throughout this whole adventure, it was hard to keep my attention on my footing as I really just wanted to look up at the old, grand and magnificent trees around me, or look towards the river and waterfalls along the way and imagine all the fun possibilities in this canyoning playground.
Knowing that I have a lot of muddy clothes and shoes to wash later didn’t dampen the fact that it was a great day and we had a lot of fun! I can’t wait to come here again, and once the building works have been finished and the trail officially opened to the public, we can bring all you adventure lovers for a morning or day of Canyoning, so you can experience all of this with us too. Stay tuned for further updates ?