Thursday, 20 August 2015

Running in Santa Maria - The Cai Agua

One thing that I'm going to do every time I run in a different country: I'm going to ask a local where their favourite trail is.  We asked my Mom's cousin Luis this question,  and he gave us a fantastic recommendation. He told us about a trail near my Grandma's house where he used to walk with his mother as a child.  On our last day in Santa Maria we ran his recommended trail.

July 14, 2015 - The Cai Agua
   We ran up the mountain road from my Grandma's house towards the trail head.  This trail was very lush and green and followed a small stream.  We ran along it for about 1k, and then we got to a clearing with a view that took our breath away.  There were several small waterfalls cascading down a huge beautiful rock face.  It was amazing.  It was one of those moments that made me feel so small compared to my surroundings.  Glad Greg was there to enjoy the moment with me.  It was beautiful.
   We followed the trail back to the road, and ran back down the mountain for the last time of the trip.  Thank you Luis for this fantastic recommendation, we really enjoyed it.

Running in Santa Maria - Entra a Serra e o Mar Trail loop

Sunday July 12, 2015- This was one of our favourite runs of the trip.  We ran the entire Entra a Serra e o Mar Trail loop - 9.5k, plus at least 4k of Fajazinha climbing and descending fun to get to and from the trail.  This trail takes you around the town of Santa Barbara, the little town where my mom was born.  It starts off passing the Church of Norte that overlooks the North Coast of the island.  It was clear so we could see the large island of Sao Miguel in the distance.
   We continued on the trail through a tunnel of trees leading to a few large climbs.  On one descent we got stuck behind a farmer moving his herd of cattle.  The dirt road was so narrow that we couldn't pass, and we were forced to walk behind the cattle until they got into town (and we could sneak by).  We didn't mind being part of the cattle-parade.  It caused us to take in the scenery - and it was beautiful.  The little clay-roofed houses nestled in the hills.  Very pretty.
   The trail wound around the town, and beside more fields, before it led us to red peak, a large red rock wall, hidden from the road. That was neat.  We made our way back down the Fajazinha and home. It was such a fun run.

Repeating Ellie's photo from yesterday

Ruins for sale

We could see the big island from here!

The church in Norte

So pretty!

Greg was very excited to see this - solar hot water tank heater

Approaching the herd of cattle - that we would get stuck behind for a k.

Santa Barbara - the little town where my mom was born

Love it - the cows are still on the road - we snuck by them soon after this photo was taken

Red Peak - awesome

and down the Fajazinha and home

Up the Fajazinha with Mom and Ellie

Saturday July 11, 2015  - My Mom makes sure to climb the Fajazinha at least once every time she travels to Santa Maria.  I was excited to join her on her Santa Maria tradition.  We decided to climb the mountain on a hot Saturday afternoon.  My 8 year-old daughter Ellie, really wanted to join us, so after asking many times if she was sure, and warning her that it's going to be a long climb, she insisted and came along.  I packed enough water and Larangada (a orange-fizzy drink that's very popular in the Azores) in my shoulder bag, and we were off.
The climb was challenging.  We took many breaks, but as we got closer to the top, Ellie was amazed by both the view of the beach community below (how small Granny's house was), and the "cliff cows" that were grazing along the steep cliffs.  We enjoyed our Larangada at the top of the Fajazinha, and made our way back down the mountain on the trails and later, the switchback roads.  A fun girls afternoon.  It's going to be fun to do this again in a few years when we come back.

Ready to start climbing.

Mom giving Ellie a pep talk

Cliff cows!

Mom's relatives used to use the leaves from this type of plant to weave baskets.

Taking a break on some shrub-chairs

Friday, 14 August 2015

Getting ready for school lunches -sandwich bag-free

It's rainy this morning, so Ella and I decided to do some sewing.  She chose the fabric, and we made sandwich wraps for our lunches this year.  Hopefully we can eliminate the need for any kind of plastic sandwich bag, and it will save us the frustration of trying to match lids to bottoms when using plastic containers.  These are washable, and the inner (owl) side is laminated cotton (waterproof-ish).  I used the tutorial from this link

They turned out pretty good.  I added more velcrow on the outer-side (so smaller bagels fit better).  The nice thing about these sandwich wraps is they can be laid-out on the kid's desk like a placemat.  Now onto cloth snack baggies... that post is coming.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Running around Anjos - keeping an eye out for washed-up whales

   July 11 - Another early-morning coastal run around the trails starting at the town of Anjos.  When we parked at the boat launch, we noticed that the harbour was really smelly.  Grandma explained to us later that it was probably a dead whale that washed ashore - we didn't see any dead whales, but funny that that's normal to her.
   We went west up a large hill and through more cow pastures (no aggressive cows this time).  We ran along a cobblestone path along a high ridge and back.  That was neat.  We figured out that we were on the wrong path and made our way back to our car early to try a different trail before we got too lost.
   Greg and I ran along the new trail that started a big statue of Christopher Columbus - who was credited for discovering the island for the Europeans - then I guess Portuguese explorers claimed it, and settled there.  The trail was mostly on open fields of cactus and grass.  There was a lot of cow-pasture running.  It was hard to run in some of the open cow pastures because it was both very rocky and rutty from deep cow tracks in hard mud (then covered with dry grass).  It was hard to choose where to step.  It slowed me down quite a bit.  Greg flew along without a problem.  I was confused - then he told me that his big size-13 feet stayed above the holes - like snowshoes on the rutty trail.  We ran for about 6k before circling back to the car, driving home and having breakfast with my mom, grandma, and the kids.