Location: Horta, Azores

After our entire world being simplified to 112 feet of steel and two shades of blue, interaction with the bustling port town of Horta feels, to say the least, different.

An 8 am wakeup feels pleasant compared to the revolving watch schedule that we adopted. Somehow still groggy, we mustered on deck at 8:30 for a blueberry bread breakfast prepared by Santana. Once the loaves were put down, we quickly cleaned and packed/provisioned for a hike coordinated by Amanda. We loaded into vans near the harbor and began a luscious and scenic drive to our trailhead.

The beautiful winding roads of Horta took our breath away; our eyes were glued to the windows as we passed pastures of cows, making sure to call out every single one. Rapidly gaining in elevation, we were soon able to look back on the town, white buildings with shingled red roofs populating the soft hillsides of the island. Furthermore, seeing the ocean from higher than 6 feet reminded us of its true scale. There was some tension in the van., some apprehension about our physical fitness after so long on a boat at sea. Then we stopped and unloaded [THE LIZARD PEOPLE ARE GAINING IM SCARED] the vans, unaware that the apprehension would soon give way to awe.

We quickly set off through this small tunnel, which was the most interesting thing in the otherwise grassy hillside, and were met with potentially the most stunning view any of us had seen. The walls of the green caldera fell away before us, and the bowl carved out of this otherwise typical mountain blew us away. It was almost as if a blanket of green draped the walls, interrupted by cliffs of volcanic rock that strutted out towards the center. The flat bottom contained a smaller hill and two bodies of water, so clear that you could see right through the water from the rim. After the photos were taken, we returned to the trailhead and began our hike.

The trail circumnavigated the caldera, following the deceptively subtle changes in elevation around the rim. We went clockwise, quickly humbled by the concept of elevation, one that we had forgotten during our passage. Our crew spread out, and some of us (Tim, Maria, Alex, and myself) decided to run, losing our shoes in thick bogs of mud and tripping over hidden rocks. Regardless, it felt amazing to stretch our legs. Shortly behind us, Celia, Cate, Santana, Leo, and Charles followed in pursuit. Santana’s hiking boat deteriorated, leaving him with moccasins to finish the hike. The rest of the crew followed, opting for a more sightseeing and less cardio-intensive experience. It was impossible to look away from the sheer dropping walls on our right side. Dense clouds sometimes fully immersed us in a blanket of fog, but the sun came out just as we loaded up the vans to return to Argo.

Physically exhausted, we were given the afternoon to rest, explore the town, and wait. Celia and Maria helped Santana prepare a delicious Costa `Rican dish, fried pork belly with rice, beans, and pineapple. Needless to say, there were no leftovers. Horta and the caldera have reenergized the staff and crew. We are excited to spend the next five days here, but the ocean is calling, and we will soon answer.

Signing off and stuffing my face with gelato. Will H.