By admin on February 23, 2012 in Blogs

Farmers' tracks along the way to Moisteros

Yesterday, I went on my first long walk through the south-western part of the island. The early morning bus dropped me off at Rabo do Asno and with a trusty Sunflower guide in my hand, I walked down along a farmer’s trail towards Moisteros. The town literally called “monastaries” is about 11 km away, and the path wanders past small fields planted with corn and cow-sheds. Both are hidden behind tall rows of giant reeds Arundo donax which help break the wind from the ocean and allow for crops to grow. In the oldest farms, the reeds grow atop a wall made of small stones, a testament to the hard work of the first farmers who had to clear the land of the lava born rocks and stake out their territories before they could begin planting their first seed corn.

The difference between country dogs and town dogs is simple. A country dog will begin barking at the stranger’s scent and continue to announce his displeasure all the way till the stranger has disappeared down the trail. A town dog on the other hand coolly lifts his head and tracks you as you walk past, knowing full well that the street is not his domain. On my way down to Moisteros, I often met farm dogs mercifully chained to their posts, and I was glad for my two walking sticks. But beyond these snarling guardians of their farms, I also met ruddy men watching their goats, pushing their cattle from one pasture to another and working among the tall corn. Once a chubby farmer on a tractor passed me by pulling a tank of water behind me. Ten minutes later I saw him return, having filled a trough for his cows. In the olden days the troughs were made of stone. They are beautiful long tubs. Now, however, tastes have changed. A fridge and freezer unit, doorless and lying on its back, serves as the watering hole for cattle.

The old whaling lookout now herded by cows

The old whaling lookout now herded by cows

But the men and the dogs are few and far in-between. For much of my walk, I am alone save for the rustle of a lizard moving through the canes, a flock of partridges taking to the air. On the top of a hill, a lone lookout stands amid a herd of Azorean cattle. Till 1986, a man would stand inside this structure and scan the water’s surface for a puff of water and air. The blowholes of the sperm whales would give away their location. Men would hurry to their schooners, smaller than the beasts they meant to capture and row out to the whales. Now the lookouts are either abandoned or refashioned to serve as guides for the whaling boats that take tourists. The whales are still hunted, but with cameras not harpoons.

Albatross nesting on a cliff face

Albatross nesting on a cliff face

Three hours into my walk, I reach Ponta de Escalvados “Bare Point” overlooking the town of Moisteros. A glimmer of a story has begun to appear in my mind. I interpret the nesting pad of the Albatross native to the island on a rocky shelf as a sign of good luck. By the time I reach Moisteros, nestled against a sea brawnier than the waters around Ponta Delgada, I am tired. I lay on the black sand beach and allow the reel of the morning’s images to begin forming a narrative.



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