Gordon: Yesterday dawned beautifully, with sun, a gentle breeze, and the usual mild temperature. The forecast was for significant rain today, so we wanted to have an outing before the anticipated indoor day.
I plotted a 47 km circuit that would take us along most of the length of the high plateau at the center of the island. The plateau, dotted with small lakes and volcanic cones, is considered to be one of the scenic highlights of Pico.
Ruth and I set off shortly after sunrise. We were immediately climbing at an average grade of 7 percent. Ruth was climbing quite well, but she opted to turn around at the 500 metre level as the winds started to increase. I continued on, hitting the top of the ridge at about 750 metres. After a short descent I turned onto a small forestry road that runs the length of the plateau.
By this time the wind had increased significantly, blowing the fog over the boggy landscape. Moisture began condensing on my glasses, exacerbating the poor visibility. The single lane road wended it’s way across the moors, gently climbing most of the time. The short downhill stretches were a bit of a concern, as I was worried I might collide with an unseen cow in the fog. I did chase one small herd of cattle for several kilometres, before they finally had the sense to step off the road.
Due to the wind and the altitude I became a bit chilled. I stopped and put on the jacket and mitts that I had with me. I was a bit tardy in this effort, as my hands were already becoming numb. It was at this point that I realized that Ruth had made the right decision. There was nothing to see on the plateau in the prevailing conditions, and it was becoming unpleasant to be there. I had a feeling of déjà vu for the many previous hiking, cycling or skiing outings that had gone sideways. There was nothing to be done but grind it out.
I continued along the road, passing signs for lakes I could not see. Occasionally the fog would clear for a moment and I would see a portion of a cinder cone. The road eventually found its way to the top of the ridge, connecting a chain of cones at 800 to 950 metres. The wind was mostly blowing sideways, but periodically it was behind me. It was a strange feeling to be pushed uphill by the powerful gusts, particularly since I was having trouble braking with my numb hands. At open points in the ridge I was blasted by crosswinds of 80 kms per hour, and several times I dismounted and pushed my bike from a partially crouched posture. The edge of the road often dropped away steeply into a white blank, which was a bit unnerving. I kept my eye on the mileage on my bike computer, knowing that the unpleasantness would ease when I reached the halfway point and turned downhill into the lee of the wind.
At a complicated intersection I pulled my phone out and confirmed the homeward turn. Within a couple of minutes of descent the clouds opened up to reveal a village, farms and the sea beneath me. I was rather disoriented and had to check the phone again to confirm that I was indeed on the correct side of the island. The remainder of the ride was an increasingly warm and pleasant coast back to town.
Ruth: It only took me minutes to coast back to our apartment and warm up with a cup of coffee. I spent the day painting and meeting my new friend.
Gord will be kept on a shorter lease from now on. Allowing him to make his own decisions clearly is not going to keep him out of harm’s way.