Resurrecting the trail markers

Gordon: The island of Santa Maria has two very different halves: a gently rolling, rather arid west, and a green, mountainous east. We have spent the last couple of days cycling and walking around the western half.

Yesterday we cycled to the island’s second largest town, Anjos. This was the site of the first settlement on the island, in about 1440. It offered open land that was suitable for grain farming, but it lacked a natural defensive position in the face of piracy. Raids by Spanish, French, English and Algerian pirates were a risk for the island from the 15th to the 17th centuries. In one notable attack by Algerian pirates in 1616, 220 islanders, a tenth of the entire population, were abducted. Two-thirds of them eventually found there way back to the island when their ransom was paid, but a third never returned. As a result of the security issues, the main settlement on the island shifted from Anjos to Vila do Porto, which has canyons on two sides of it.

In addition to being the first settlement, Anjos does have another claim to fame: in 1493 Christopher Columbus stopped there on the return leg of his first voyage of discovery. He was initially given a hostile reception by the nervous locals, but was eventually welcomed into the community church, which still stands.

Church visited by Columbus in 1493
Vila do Porto, including our hostel

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