Here in the Azores, we notice two seasons –
Summer or high season, which normally starts with Easter and lasts till around the end of October. Main signs of which are tourists, buses and rental cars, grilling along the side of the road and summer festivals, both musical and religious.
For us, this is the season when we tend to lose track of time; our days are divided between rivers, bicycles and canoes. Work is constant and gives you a kick of good humor and a tired body by the end of the day.
Winter or low season, which reigns the rest of the months. Time to hear some Portuguese in the streets again, and get a bit more organized. Grilling gets replaced with dinners in restaurants or at somebody’s home. Tourists are still here, but not so many big groups. Rainy days with hot water pools and grass growing everywhere.
One might think that this is the time for us to relax, gain some weight, sleep in late and enjoy blissful long mornings and sometimes work a little bit.
But what happens before we step out of the car to meet you and (hopefully soon again) shake your hand to start the next adventure?
Is the nature guide some kind of hibernating species or is there something more than meets the eye?
Time to Reflect
Due to the situation in the world, Azores has now had, what we are calling three winter seasons in a row.
However, this does not mean that we are at a standstill. There is always a lot for us to do to prepare for the coming year.
Everything starts immediately after October or November. We look back over the season, gather together and make our conclusions. What worked very well, what needs a bit of improvement and is there something that went wrong and why. Everybody has their say and this functions as well as a vision board for the next season. We recheck our normal procedures, see if there is something that could be made simpler for the guides and for the guests. Remembering safety and reconfirming with the guides our normal rules.
It’s also a time to count and check all the equipment. Many things are used on a daily basis during the summer period and constantly checked during our normal workday. But winter is the time for repairing and replacing anything broken or too old. Ropes need to be inspected closely and sometimes we need to cut them shorter or buy new ones for the new season. Neoprene suits can need some light repairs and shoes may need some mending. Some things are too old and need to be replaced, while others need to be saved and stored properly. The same goes for the bicycles; some parts need greasing, some parts cleaning and some need repair. All together it can be a bit of a messy time until everything is counted, ordered, repaired, cleaned, tried and tested and ready to go for the next adventure.
Behind the Scenes
The biggest part of the winter work is made behind the desk. Homepage needs refreshments, website need to be updated, photos need to be sorted. Publications need to be made. This is the time, when the guides clean their hands and start to work more with their head. There are platforms and programs and loads of emails. New projects and ideas, insurances and fees, taxes and rules. Partnerships, collaborations and courses to be made. Some days when you send one mail and get four to follow it looks like a never-ending task, other days it looks fun or challenging.
After a while, everybody starts to complain that they need some action, and that’s the best time to bring in some practical lessons, or exploration. Sometimes we invite specialists of some activities like coasteering or canyoning to teach us new techniques and polish up on the old, or we go out and try to open new routes to get access to the rivers and try them out for potential tours. We study maps and explore real landscapes, which brings a lot of adrenaline and fun.
When the weather is good, we film or take photos for promotion, and then we spend countless hours of editing, repeating, searching for music, until we get two minutes of something we like.
Of course, there is outdoor maintenance to be done also. From time to time; we clean rivers, make a safety check of cramps and screws on our canyoning routes, and move some fallen trees. We re-walk our trails to check their condition after periods of heavy wind and rain. Besides this, we spend some time at the sea side cleaning-up beaches from washed up debris. These kinds of activities are good to test and teach new guides, as we get to know each other better, share our knowledge with each other and learn more about our field of work together.
Plus, and maybe the most important part – we dream. We bring in new plans and thoughts. Share our ideas about new activities or games. Search on the internet, speak with people, spend hours planning, and if everything looks good, we take a leap. Order some new equipment, try and learn something new and create a new product.
Then, before you know it, summer is at our doorstep. Mainly we notice it by the restlessness in our soul, giving us a sign – the need for people and movement.
It’s about time! let’s have some Fun together!