The Honeymoon, Part 2 (Cha Gorreana)

There were parts of the trip that I found quite emotional.  Ever since my dad passed away I have been acutely aware of his absence, but while we were away I kept thinking, “I have to tell Dad about this” or “I can’t wait to show Dad a picture of that”.  And then, the heartrending letdown when I realized that wasn’t going to happen, that he was still gone.  At one point I burst into tears, but then started laughing hysterically because really?  Dad would have hated this place.  He would have hated the bathrooms, he would have hated the roads, he would have hated the flight, and he would have hated how they don’t debone the fish.  You could kill somebody with that fish, I could just hear him sputtering.   He would have hated the lack of signage, he would have hated the crazy drivers, he would have hated the cows, and he would have hated being on an island that is basically a volcano waiting to erupt sometime in the next 300,000 years.  Because you never know.

But he probably would have liked the tea factory we visited.

Erik is a big fan of kombucha, a fermented tea that he started homebrewing a few months ago.  So when we found out that Sao Miguel is home to the only tea plantations in Europe, we knew we had to visit them.  And we did visit them; in fact, we went to Gorreana THREE times.  The first time, we spent a half day there, first touring the factory then hiking up through the hills.  The second time was because Erik wanted to take a few more pictures and buy some more tea.  I don’t even remember why we stopped the third time, but I’m pretty sure we got the side-eye from one of the ladies working in the gift shop, because normal people probably don’t go to a tea factory three days in a row.  We also stopped by the other tea factory on the island, but it felt like a museum and frankly, we felt unwelcome…it was weird, and it started pouring, so we moved on to other things.  But Gorreana is definitely worth the trip.

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Located right off one of the “fast roads” on the northern coast, Gorreana is easy to get to from pretty much anywhere on the island.  We were lucky that we went on the one nice day we had all week (though it still rained on us at one point during the hike).  It’s ridiculously beautiful, and we learned a lot.  There’s no tour, per se, you just wander through the building on your own, which felt a little awkward, but there’s some interpretive signage, plus they give you free tea at the end.  I had never given tea growing much thought; I had no idea it grew in hedges, or what it looked like before harvesting.  The factory uses very traditional methods for processing the tea, it’s all pesticide free (because there are no pests), and there was even a small group of ladies in the back who hand-sort the dried tea and then package it.    This was one of the times when I wished I’d learned Portuguese, because I would have liked to ask the tea sorting ladies some questions but they didn’t speak English.  Or maybe they were just sick of being asked the same questions by tourists for the umpteenth time?  (I know I would be.)   We also learned that before WWI/II (I can’t remember exactly which war it was) there were several tea factories on the island, but Gorreana was one of the few to survive in part because they developed their own hydropower from the river that runs through the property.

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Across the road from the factory, you can hike up into the tea fields, and then up even higher into cow pastures and forests of Japanese red cedar.

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At one point we stopped to watch them harvest some of the tea — they have this weird sort of lawnmower-ish contraption that they graze the tops of the plants with.  Note that they are all wearing rubber overalls – I found out why during our hike:  those tea bushes have SHARP and sturdy stems.  I got back to the car from the hike and realized I had blood dripping down my leg from where one nabbed me in the calf.

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The hike we did was billed as “easy”…a 6km (about 3.7 miles) walk.  They lied, though to be fair the topography chart on the trail map should have been a clue.  Let me just stop right here and say that I’ve spent the past year and a half working out with a personal trainer, and I am stronger now that I’ve been in a good twenty years.  Even Erik, who is an avid hiker and takes his equipment-filled backpack to the gym to walk on the treadmill, said this was not an easy hike, and I don’t think it was an “appease the wife so she feels better” thing.  This hike was basically straight up and straight down.  Luckily, the views were amazing.

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At this point of the hike I thought we were done, and my camera battery chose this spot to die on me, but there was in fact more to climb.  Getting to the top involved navigating a very steep, muddy, and cow-pie filled path, but we made it, and have the iPhone selfie to prove it!

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The other fun thing about Gorreana was the flowers around the facility.  While Erik bought tea, I amused myself by taking pictures:

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Last, but not least:  this guy and his friends were croaking their little heads off in a tiny pond on the grounds.  {Their croaking sounded a lot like a certain bodily function, and so “Gorreana Toads” are now to blame for any breaking of wind in our vicinity.  Because sometimes we behave like eight-year olds.}

gorreana toad

One more post, possibly two…

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About Lori Allen Writes

Lori is plotting to take over the world one essay, one quilt, and one hand knit sock at a time.
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2 Responses to The Honeymoon, Part 2 (Cha Gorreana)

  1. Art Laramee says:

    Gorgeous flowers.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Great puctures!

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