I arrived in Pico, Azores on August 27th 2014 and immediately went to my hotel. I dropped off my things, changed my clothes and took a picture of the view from my hotel room. This is what I saw:
The mountain, my destination for the following day, was completely covered in clouds. I was beginning to think that I should have asked for an ocean view.
I took a nap and had a four course meal. I drank wine, hit the bars, made friends, and treated myself well knowing that the days ahead were going to be difficult.
By chance, I made a friend at the bar named André. He worked at the tourist center located at the base of the mountain aptly named the “Casa da Montanha”. I told him about my plan to start my trip to the summit at the ocean and walk all the way to the top. He told me he had done the same before. He commended me for the effort as most people drive to the tourist center, already 18 km and 1200m in altitude from the ocean. He kept saying in Portuguese, “From zero to 2351. That’s the way to do it!” He also suggested I bring a bottle of wine for when I reached the summit. I thanked him for the good advice.
I woke up the next morning and looked out my window. This is what I saw:
It was the second time I had seen the mountain. The first time had been in 2008 from the neighbouring island of Terceira, 150 km away. From the top of Santa Barbara in Terceira you can see the islands of Pico, São Jorge, and Faial over lapping each other. They look like this:
I ate an uncomfortably large breakfast, knowing I’d need the energy, and went to the grocery store. I estimated the trip would take three days. I bought 9 litres of water in 1.5 litres bottles, a good bottle of wine, a knife, a corkscrew, 2 loaves of traditional corn bread, a chorizo, a good sized chuck of cheese from the neighbouring island of São Jorge, some apples, and some bananas. I ended up bringing only one loaf and 6 litres of water with me. When all was said and done, here is what I packed to go up the mountain:
I also carried a wooden rosary with me from a religious site in Boznia-Herzegovina called Medjugorje. I had never heard of the site before. My godmother had given the rosary to me to keep me safe during my trip. The plan was to pray the rosary along the way in order to pay my respects to those involved in my journey, to give me protection, and to keep me sane during the long walk ahead. Here’s a close up of the rosary on the nightstand from the picture above:
Once I packed my bag and was ready to go I became overcome with fear. I began to curse my decision to come to Pico. What the hell was I thinking? Why had I left everyone I loved? Would I ever make it back to them again? Was this a fool’s errand? My eyes began to water. I begged for strength and received it. I pulled myself together. I took this picture moments before departing:
Well laden and in good spirits, I set out for the mountain.