Travel | Touratech Azores Rallye 2023
In the run-up to the official Azores Rally, Touratech Portugal is organising its own rally. Only 30 riders can take part in this exclusive event with their motorbikes. Elvio Andrade and Martin Wickert from Touratech headquarters went to see for themselves - and were thrilled.
Though only a two-hour flight from Lisbon, the Azores are a world apart. In the middle of the vastness of the roaring Atlantic, a few volcanic islands rise up, splashes of green in the middle of the dark sea. This unique island world is the venue of the Azores Rally, part of the European Championship ERC until last year.
The motorsport enthusiastic team of Touratech Portugal around Filipe Elias was inspired by the unique spirit of the rally many years ago and created the Touratech Azores Rally. Always a few days before the cars, Filipe invites dedicated adventure riders to explore the island together. Only 30 participants are allowed in this unique experience.
For several years now, Elvio and I have had the plan to take part in this rally. However, the timing is anything but favourable, because at the beginning of March we are up to our ears in preparations for the trade fair and the season. But this year we sense our chance. Adventure bikes from our photo shoot at the beginning of March are still at Touratech Portugal. So off they go into the container.
Slopes like they were for the Norden 901
While this trip fulfils a long-cherished wish for me, the participation of my colleague Elvio has another, highly emotional aspect. Elvio comes from the Azores. He spent the first years of his life here, but due to the difficult economic situation on the archipelago, his family decided to move to the Portuguese capital Lisbon when he was still a little boy.
To meet up with some old friends, Elvio flew ahead. Together with the hotel manager, he picks me up at the airport. He has already prepared the bikes, so we can start the next morning.
The coastal roads offer magnificent views
At first, there are unpaved sections directly along the sea, while the route runs through meadows, forests and partly jungle-like areas. Before the route turns off into the mountains, we can enjoy spectacular views of the of the rugged coastline. Down from sea level, we wind our way up almost 2000 metres in altitude towards the highest point of the main island of São Miguel, Pico da Vara.
The road conditions change constantly, good asphalt gives way to gravel sections before our cleats claw into soggy volcanic soil or we mill our way through muddy tracks. Suddenly we find ourselves in the middle of a volcanic cone. A mighty lake with a diameter of about three kilometres covers the bottom, the slopes are overgrown with dense forest.
Jungle-like vegetation lines many routes
For three days, we criss-cross São Miguel: first, the route takes us to the south, then to the north and then once again right through the middle. In the run-up to the Azores Rally, the roads are already closed to traffic so that we can enjoy the dream routes undisturbed. Even tree felling along a track through dense cloud forest can hardly stop our forward momentum.
The gravel roads at the edge of the volcanic cones open up fantastic views of the crater lakes
At lunchtime we stop at small restaurants serving local specialities. Naturally, fish dominates the menus here in the middle of the Atlantic. In the evening, we celebrate with the entire group of 30 Adventure Riders in selected restaurants on the island and talk about our exploits on the track - although the Touratech Azores Rally is not a race. There are three groups in which the participants travel according to their riding ability. With the help of guides who know the area, there is always time for a photo stop. Filipe, the boss of Touratech Portugal, is a top organiser and has scouted the routes a hundred times. We are kindly allowed to load the track onto our sat nav and drive to a few photo spots ourselves on Sunday. This allows us to spend more time at these special places than would be possible with the group. Visiting some geysers takes us right to the origin of the archipelago, which once rose from the sea due to volcanic activity. And it is no wonder that Elvio experiences this sight even more intensely than I do.