We are on a bus traveling along a winding road, with a bunch of other sleepy tourists. His head is resting on my shoulder. I am wide awake and turned towards the window. I can’t help but think that we have mistakenly landed in Ireland. As if my mind was just read, someone from the passengers’ proclaims that it looks just like Ireland, but with cows instead of the sheep. All the eye can see is a never ending countryside. The green slopes are strewn with ornately built short stone fences, within which peacefully grazing cows are enjoying this misty morning. Upon exiting the airport at the crack of dawn, the first smells to fill my nostrils were of manure and fresh cut grass. Nothing can slap an immediate dé·jà vu into you, like a familiar whiff. Growing up, i frequently stayed at my grandparents’ countryside home in a rural area of Kazakhstan. Terceira smelled just like home-back-then. The only thing that was missing, was a call of a rooster.
In 20 short minutes we were already arriving at our designated hotel. The whole trip was like a joke that went too far. Just two weeks ago, him and I had no idea that we would be embarking on a 6 day journey to a place that we’ve never heard about before- Terceira. It was an odd timing: both of us were completely broke, but ready to breakaway from the freezing February gusts of New York City.
After a 4.5 hour bus drive from New York to Boston, and then a 5 hour flight from Boston to Terceira, all I wanted to do is crawl up in bed and let the first day out of 6 go to waste.
Terceira is the third largest island out of 9, that comprises the Azorean archipelago. The Azores islands are an autonomous region of Portugal, with Sao Miguel being the largest one in the family. It is a fairly unknown destination that only the Brits seem to be taking advantage of, due to it being affordable and easily accessible from the UK.
Angra Do Heroismo is one of the top attractions of Terceira. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site- a small city just 5 minutes away from our hotel. Naturally, it was the first place we’ve set out to explore. Having walked the whole city in about 30 minutes, we couldn’t help but be disappointed in the miser amount of things we’ve found interesting. A very scary question, that has started creeping into my mind was: “What are we going to do here for the next 5 days?”.
This very second day on the island was miserable. People always forget, that running away to a faraway place doesn’t mean running away from yourself. I was reminded of it once more on the island that was supposed to be our first and happy international trip as a couple.
Now we are in a rental car, driving around in circles for hours, just trying to find a place that would be open for food. He is vexed, because of something I said, or more accurately, because of the way I said it; and the little old me, just trying to perform an impossible juggling act of navigating through two unfamiliar territories- this fucking relationship and this damn island.
Here is a pine tree lined dirt road, taken straight out of a Brother’s Grimm tale; next is a humongous green mountain speckled with grazing cows; in 3 more minutes we are hiding in an area forested with hundreds of light brown trees, naked of bark and leaves; now we are climbing up a mountain where our shoes get smothered in dirt and it’s seeping through our socks; there is a mist filled field, fog blowing in the way that makes me think there is an enormous fog machine hiding nearby; then we find ourselves on top of a lava rock formation, just taking off our clothes and screaming at the top of our lungs; quiet ponds; a picture perfect meadow with a tree that looks like a spider: with it’s tentacle-like branches stretched out towards the sky. “And on the Third Day God created Mistérios Negros”, I exhaled in one breath. It looks like navigating the unfamiliar territories wasn’t such an impossible mission after all.
When we finally came out of the forest, it started getting dark, the fog started blowing harder and the light was depleting fast. I felt scared and excited at the same time- the thought of getting lost was terrifying, but I just didn’t want this hike to end. The last meadow was so vast and gloomy that I started imagining preternatural creatures coming out of the forest as soon as the last ray of light disappears. It reminded me of tales also- the Brothers Grimm ones that I used to read before bed and then not being able to sleep because of them. I’ve never experienced nature in such a way before. It was abundant and elating, plentiful of wonders and surprises at every turn. We were the only people on this four hour hike, connecting with the universe, nature and with each other.
I haven’t seen Him in over a week. Today would have been our anniversary. My very first anniversary in my very first relationship. I never thought someone could ever love me. I never thought someone would take me as I am and worship me still. Images of us at Terceira keep flashing in front of my eyes. This was, probably, the happiest time that we’ve spent together. I’m remembering the time when we were trying to drive back to the hotel in such complete darkness, that we would be praying not to swerve off a cliff, while at the same time we were both completely enthralled by the eeriness of the moment; the time when we stopped at a small idyllic park, full of smoke (rangers were burning leaves) and we didn’t want to leave so badly, but rushed on by our tour guide; the time when we got high on edibles and had the best tuna sandwich we’ve ever had in our lives; that time when we found our way to the most beautiful rock clad beach in Biscoitos and watched the waves crushing into the rocks until the sun went down; that time when we undertook another challenging hike right by the menacing cliffs, fearing to fall to our deaths at any moment. I can’t forget his smiling face. Every time we would do something we both really enjoyed, he would turn to look at me and he would smile. His eyes were filled with love, light and tenderness. It told me “I got you. It’s you and me against the World.” I’ve never had anyone look at me this way before, but I also realized, that I have to learn how to stand against the World by myself first. He will be forever happy in that snapshot of time I have kept in my mind. He will always look at me and forever smile, and I will forever remember the love that we’ve had for each other at that particular moment: Him looking at me, me looking at Him and everything around us turning into paradise.