Gordon: Santa Maria is the only island in the Azores to have a marked trail running all around it. The trail is 78 kms long and is generally walked in four or five days. Portugal uses the same naming and marking conventions as other countries in Europe, so the trail is called GR 1 SMA, or Grande Rota 1 on Santa Maria. The trail is marked with the red and white blazes familiar to those that have done some walking in Europe.
The GR 1 is cobbled together from existing trails and small roads. We don’t have large enough backpacks to do the trail as a multiday walk, but we do hope to cover most of it through a combination of day walks and day rides on our bikes.
The weather has been wet and windy, though still 23 degrees, since we arrived on Santa Maria. However, it was forecast to be intermittently bright today, so we decided to begin the GR 1. The start of the trail is only 100 metres from our hostel, so off we went on foot this morning.
While very wet from the recent rains, the trail was varied and beautiful. We only covered about five kilometres before walking back on a road, but in that short distance we had extensive meadows, a UNESCO designated fossil bed, a man made cave resulting from a limestone quarry, and a spectacular traverse above a wild sea.
The weather is forecast to be good for the remainder of the week. We have assembled our bikes and hope to do some more sections of the GR 1 tomorrow.