Gordon: Our host José’s face lit up when we told him we were planning to do the Norte Pequeno hike. “I wrote a book and I promised to deliver a copy to a friend who lives at the fajã on that walk. Could you deliver it to him? He likes to serve coffee to tourists.” Armed only with the additional knowledge that his friend’s name is Seraphim, and his house is on the ocean side of the path, we set off yesterday morning.
The Norte Pequeno hike is a 10 km loop that starts at the edge of the interior plateau, drops 500 metres to the sea, runs along the fajã for a kilometre or two, and then climbs back up a gravel road that José advised us not to drive (“People have died.”)
Ruth was feeling fairly strong and said she would like to come on the walk. After an hour on the precipitous trail down she was having second thoughts, as her legs were starting to shake from the exertion. We finally arrived at a drivable track near the sea, and located Seraphim’s house through a sign encouraging a visit to a “traditional home”.
Seraphim’s house is a tiny stone structure with a dirt floor and a wood burning cookstove that sends its smoke up through a hole in the roof. His wife set to work making us a pot of espresso, while Seraphim presented us with a collection of photo and scrapbooks. He does indeed encourage visits by foreigners, as shown by the hundreds of photos and postcards he has saved. Seraphim is also an avid cyclist, with first place awards in his age category in the annual cross-island race. (The fact that he is over 70 may limit the competition.) After coffee laced with aguardiente (a match made in heaven) and some limited conversation in Portuguese, we asked if we could leave a few euros. Seraphim was clear that the only payment he would accept was a picture or postcard from our home. We assured him we would oblige, and bubbling with positive feelings from our visit we continued with our hike.
Ruth was able to complete the walk, but she was feeling some fatigue this morning. She dropped me at the Fajã dos Vimes and met me three hours later at the very quaint Fajã de São João. Being São Jorge island, the 10 km hike required a climb to 500 metres, and then a steep drop back to sea level. It was a beautiful and varied hike that followed an ancient trail through the forest, passing several cascading stream courses popular with canyoning groups.