Azores: riding in São Miguel
We were in May. My thoughts were flying to the next month, to where I should go. It was already late to book anywhere. Wow … what do I do? Where will I ride?
I work in a metalworking company and I have a compulsory holiday because the company closes the whole month of August and two weeks during the Christmas holidays. I have to organize myself for these periods, which are the most difficult and expensive. In Italy, as abovementioned, I do not know tour operators specialized in horse trekking, so I have to return to the most famous English tour operator that organizes tours around the world.
Last time in 2016, they had not accepted me for the Moroccan tour, but I am a stubborn woman. I did in the same way with the Ranch de Diabat. I had to try again !!! The Italian representative considered that it was a bit late and that so many tours were already full booked. After knowing that I was in Morocco with tour operators, she did everything she could to be their customer and find a place not too expensive and not too far away.
I’ll not tell you how to wander through various riding schools to understand the differences: what they do, how much it cost and …by the way, it’s always a way to meet new people and different horses and above all, to keep learning.
I found the tour that suits me both as a destination and as a cost: the Azores.
I’ve never been to the Azores. I’ve only heard about it from various Oceanic Skippers as a landing place before playing with the trade winds to sail for America.
I read on-line: The Faial Island is part of the central group of the Azores, forming the “islands of the triangle”, together with São Jorge and the nearby Pico. From the latter it split up with the Faial Canal, about 8 kilometers wide. Faial/ This Island is also known as the Blue Island because of many hedges of blue hydrangeas planted surrounding its white houses and embellish its streets. During the seventeenth century, the island became a very important commercial port, thanks to its position that turn it to a safe haven between Europe and America.
In my mind, there is a great expectation, and I read all information regarding the Azores. What a surprise … they should be beautiful.
Vegetation, volcanoes still active, beaches, cliffs, flowers everywhere, waterfalls of warm water, Mediterranean climate, a nine islands’ group, each of which historically and traditionally different from the other.
I entered into travel contract with this tour operator. A confirming contract of 22 pages has been forwarded to me (or … This tour operator drew up a contract of 22 pages and sent it to me. I run to look on-line the place where I would go for a one-week trip on horseback: a beautiful estate with 50 horses … it seems all right.
The day of the great departure has arrived! I’m much quieter than before, since I’m now becoming a “veteran” of horse trekking … I smile on my own !!!
Level of riding required: intermediate / advanced – I cheated a little bit and I declared “intermediate” level.
My bags were ready for São Miguel – Azores
The first time in your life ever exists !!
I missed the connecting flight for Lisbon (three hours delay) and I arrived the next day without luggage.
I got off at Ponta Delgada, a little sad thinking that the following day I should begin my week of horse trekking but no clothes … I had almost nothing and I had no idea when my suitcase would arrive.
(In my handbag, I had the cap, Ariat boots, gaiters and gloves, so all things considered, I had also been great … but it was not enough to saddle the horse).
I met the person from the estate waiting for me, Rui , very kind, and we went to the estate: QUINTA DE TERCA. During the way from the airport, he told me everything he knew about the island and the estate. Arrival!! To welcome me here are the owners: Christina e Claude De Laval.
Wonderful folks, welcomed me as nothing had happened to my flights and to my luggage, showed me the place, my room and invited me to relax and go down for dinner at 7.30 p.m., where I would have met other people with whom I would share my week in São Miguel.
Actually I did not have much to do in the room, since I did not have to open and fix my bags!!! I immediately went to see where the horses were. The curiosity tickles me and never leaves me.
Before leaving the room, they knock at the door, and say: “Ester there is something for you, out the door on the chair.” I came out and I saw 5 pairs of trousers of different sizes, T-shirts, sweatshirts, socks … Everything excited me! !! In a second, I felt I had arrived in a “MAGIC” place.
I got hold of all the clothes and went back in the room starting to try on until one fits me. I have also prepared all the horse gear for the following day. The smile lit up my face. My mood has changed. I was happy. My adventure was about to start.
I reached the dining room, explored the place with all my curiosity … I met Claude – the owner of the estate, Debbie – an English girl from Bournemouth, Farzana – a typical Londoner girl of Indian origin, and a German family – mother, father and daughter.
I spent all week with Debbie, very good on horseback. At home, she has one of her own. That’s a good start! The London girl is a beginner and the German family have formed a grouping of their own.
We began to talk, to laugh, to joke, in English of course … I spoke ironically about my travel misadventures, about the week that awaits us and what we would do … A surprise! … Like the dinner. A Michelin-rated restaurant chef’s dinner! The location is beautiful. Christina, the owner of the estate has cooked delicious food. During the dinner, she presented us the activities of the following day and the scheduled program!
Nothing was left to chance !! Everything was well-organized to the last detail.
How do you live a one-week on horseback at Quinta de Terca?
On the first day, we rode for an hour in the arena, so the instructor made his considerations and assigned the horses based on our level.
Therefore, there were established the groups and then the itineraries.
The island is very beautiful and big, so starting from the estate, it is impossible to visit all. In order to do this they bring both horses and riders to different places every day, and from there they start the horse trekking.
I could not believe !! All horses were ready and brought on the trailer, and we – the riders who follow them by the Jeep to the starting point of the tour.
Mountains, volcanoes, valleys, lakes, dense vegetation … it seems to be in a jungle!
Simple and challenging paths, a mixture of everything.
Walk, trot, canter and gallop !!! Wonderful!
I do not tell you the each day story, because it’s nice to discover them day after day. I got excited in front of the breathtaking views before the eyes. Colors, perfumes, all kinds of plants, flowers everywhere … the whole island is full of pink and blue hydrangeas. There are also forests of: Hedychium gardnerianum Sheppard ex Ker Gawl. (Zingiberaceae) – large spikes of red and yellow flowers wrapped in large green and shiny leaves the horses like because they are sweet inside, so when you go through these forests …. The horses stop !!!
The other days were spent as a full day tour on horseback and at lunchtime, surprisingly, you stopped in beautiful places for an abundant picnic !!
After a half day riding, the guides took us by car to tourist places such as the thermal water pools, the active volcano … Nothing was missing.
The tour organization amazed me! Wonderful horses kept very well in herd, cared for, cleaned, with the possibility to walk among them, so well treated by the owners.
A wonderful week in which I discovered a magnificent island, above all expectations.
What about my merengue companions? I had a lot of fun with Debbie. She filled with the joy of riding on horseback in these places and the desire to compete with the guides. I enjoyed seeing her chatting, laughing, joking while riding. I followed her a little during her equestrian prowess.
An estate with beautiful horses, because they have wonderful owners, Christina and Claude – a Swedish couple who moved to the Azores 15 years ago, with love for nature and for fantastic animals, for not to mention the cleanliness, the food and their relationship with guests. It never missed anything; every day a surprise, trying to catch the expectations of customers and to satisfy them.
I have no words! I will definitely return! They have left into my heart; everything remains in my heart. Christine and Claude have turned their estate into a “magical” place.
I have to close this article with a thank-you to Christina, Claude, Rui, Marco, ……… Debbie, Farzana.
It must be stated this, especially after having spent a magical week from all points of view!