Whalers Great Route Ultra-Trail® (WGR)
The Azores islands were marked for over a century by whaling. Whaling left indelible signs within the Azorean cultural identity, being now a part of the collective Azorean imaginarium. With the end of sperm whale hunting, in last century's 80's decade, a vast patrimony related to this activity remained throughout the archipelago. In all islands, multiple testimonies that attest the technological, social, economic and historical aspects of the Azorean whaling are still visible.
Whalers Great Route Ultra-Trail® – Whalers Great Route Ultra-Trail® (WGR), begins at Salão whaling post (Faial), which was used from the 19th century until the end of the whaling activity. It integrates two seasonal houses and Salão’s slipway. The trail following towards Cedros parish passing through Cedros’s Whale watch post and Cascalhos’s Holy Ghost Empire. It continues towards Praia do Norte’s Fajã. This small settlement is located at an Island’s topographical lowering, next to Ribeira das Cabra’s bay, overlooking an imposing hillside covered by Laurel forest’s vegetation which are typical of the Macaronesia’s archipelagos. In the village there’s a supply in a cellar, next to Nossa Senhora da Penha de França’s Hermitage, whose construction dates back to around 1787.
Eventually you will arrive at São Sebastião fort. This ancient maritime defense fortification of the island, located in one of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World and whose construction dates back to the early 17th century. It is also where the first American whaling ships stocked, not only water but also seamen. This fact gave rise to whaling in the Azores, showing that Azoreans were among the best whalers in the world. Also, the worldwide famous Moby dick saga mentioned the Azorean whalers.
Afterwards, you will pass through Angústias (Faial) Whale complex, which integrates the following properties: Porto Pim Whale factory, old factory, Reis & Martins warehouse and boats house and Santa Cruz slipway. This complex was built at the end of the 19th century operating until the end of whaling activity.
The athletes will find emblematic places of rare beauty, like Porto Pim Beach, Monte da Guia, Monte Queimado, Monte das Moças (Prince Albert of Monaco Observatory), Horta marina and the avenue by the sea. They will run on ancient access paths and trails to the primitive village of Horta. The route goes through the fractured terrain of Faial’s Eastern Coast, a region deeply worked by tectonics, starting in Espalamaca and characterized by a complex tectonic structure, dominated by roughly parallel faults, direction WNW-ESE, which is a local manifestation of Faial-Pico Fracture. Some of these fractures have very pronounced elevations, locally called “Lombas” and deep areas called “Afundamentos”, flanked by large cliffs of exposed boulders, such as Praia do Almoxarife (Pedro Miguel) parish’s graben. This graben is an imposing geological formation, plunging into the sea in the small beach that gave the parish its name. Several volcanic cones and lava flows arose as a consequence of this tectonic activity.
Arriving at Ribeirinha parish’s centre, the route goes to the old port – Boca da Ribeira Port. This old whaling slipway was only used during the 19th century.
Afterwards, you’ll be transported to other times when the inhabitants used these “roads” to carry goods between the villages, by their own means or aided by animals. Passing by a lighthouse, destroyed during 1998 seismic crisis that keeps reminding us of the volcanic nature of these islands. A significant part of the trail is made in the biggest and most spectacular “graben” of the archipelago, a big piece of land that collapsed between two tectonic faults. Passing by Lomba Grande, the slope of one of these faults, the trail ends at the central caldera, the biggest and most important volcano of the island, where the Ten Volcanoes Trail starts.
The trail passes by Faial Nature Park protected areas, considered a European Destiny of Excellence (EDEN) by the European Commission, and it is the only area in Portugal with this classification. It transports us to a journey in time, in the history of the geology of Faial. It goes from coast to coast, following the formation of the island.
The last part corresponds to the Trail of the Ten Volcanoes. As the name indicates, it starts at one and most spectacular volcanic calderas of the planet and passes, along its 22 km, by the 10 most important volcanoes of Capelo Peninsula’s fissural alignment. Biodiversity and geodiversity are a constant on this course, standing out the astonishing landscapes of this peninsula, where a great part of the Azores endemic plants can be found in its natural state. This trail crosses the most recent volcanic cones of Faial Island and ends at Portugal’s youngest territory, Capelinhos Volcano, an authentic moonscape, where it is possible to step on only 57 years old terrain formed mainly by ashes, tuff and volcanic bombs, one of the most important geologic places in the world, the dormant Capelinhos Volcano.
It ends at Comprido’s port, at the sea level, on the main and largest whaling station of the Azores between 1940 and 1957.