April 13, 2017

Flores: Fajã de Lopo Vaz

We are staying in Lajes, the same town I stayed in the last time I was here. We found a great hike nearby that I didn’t know about before, at a place called Fajã de Lopo Vaz. The word fajã refers to a flat place along the coast, caused by a landslide or a lava field extending out from the base of some cliffs toward the water. Most of these islands have coastlines made up of steep cliffs that plummet directly into the ocean; there aren’t so many beaches, natural harbors, or flat coastal areas where you could easily build a town or raise crops. This is especially true on Flores. So a place where this occurs is significant, because it means you can live within easy access of the ocean, which makes boats useful for coming and going, fishing, etc. Many of the towns in the islands are built on a fajã, and include the word in their name.

Our hike led us on a very steep trail down the cliffs to this particular fajã, which consists of a rocky black sand beach stretching between two points that jut dramatically out from the cliffs into the sea. Apparently this area was an early settlement on Flores, and there are still a few tiny houses that people maintain and occupy during summer months. There are also ancient walled fields, a few cows that seem quite content, and old gardens of bananas and taro root. This area is only accessible by boat or by the same steep, narrow trail that we used; I can’t quite imagine how you’d get building materials in here, let alone cows. The views are stunning going either up or down the trail, and when you get to the bottom the beach is likely to be deserted. The overall feeling is that of stepping back in time.