Madeira: levadas, peaks and flowers

9 June 2016 | 0 comments

Madeira certainly delivered for us Ramblers: levadas, sunshine, flowers, sea cliffs, mountains and the lovely Hotel Bela Sao Taigo….a stunning week. Our 20 guests divided tidily and perfectly into two groups of 10, to be led by myself and co leader Charlie, brilliant!



Of the 40km of tunnels and the 2170km of levadas (remarkable for an island that’s a mere 57km x 22km) our keenest walkers covered a total of 96km this week, not too shabby!

Day one: Assomada to Camacha (of the basket weaving) to Monte. The first scent of the riot of flora we would immerse ourselves in this week: agapanthus and nasturtium, wild sweet peas and poppiesstood out among the vast array of colours. Our first tunnel experience was full on – low, wet and narrow- so glad no one was coming the other way. Our final descent by cable car was a treat – no takers for the basket toboggan descent in this group though, even had it been operating!

by the 25 Fontes (and the 200 tourists!)

by the 25 Fontes (and the 200 tourists!)

Day two: Cristo Rei, the high plateau moorland, Levada do Paul and the 25 Fontes or Rabacal and the Risco waterfall. The open moorland was a delight, stunning views down to the ocean from the airy levada. We all experienced the levada tunnel of epic proportions, tolkienesque in it’s resemblence to the mines of Moria….no dwarves here though.

Day three: the High Peaks, all together today. Taking the chance of clear sunny skies whilst we had them, we drove up to 1816m to the breathtaking Arieiro viewing station. Weaving our way across the sharp spine of the volcanic rock, we marvelled at the basalt dykes standing alone when all else had eroded away, startling orange, yellow and rust and greys in the rock, orchids and pride of Madeira growing in the most unlikely of terrain. Many a well constructed staircase and six tunnels later, we reached the Pico Ruivo hut. After lunch, the summit team set off to conquer Pico Ruivo, another 60m of ascent, the highest point on the island at 1867m and the view was outstanding. Half an hour later, our group was reunited for the gentle descent overlooking the vast Laurisilva cloud forest.

Why and when this high peaks path was hewn out of the rock remains a puzzle, despite another search on the web. But build it they did, and maintain it they do, as we watched in admiration as the guys hauled, and mixed cement and strung pulley systems over ravines. They laid down the path with a courteous and cheery smile, despite blazing heat and hundreds of hikers stepping over them through the day. Astonishing.

Next, a break from walking for most, we scattered to a wonderful mixture of activities: botanical gardens, stylish dining at Ried’s, out on the ocean watching dolphins and whales, and for just 3 who just couldn’t get enough walking, a hike along the end of the island to the Sao Lourenco peninsula. More spectacular lava formations, this time plunging into the sea, spires and sea arches everywhere.


 Camara de Lobos

Camara de Lobos

Somewhat rested, day five, off to discover another levada and on of the several ‘highest cliff tops in europe’ Cabo Girao 589 m (1,932 ft) was pretty impressive with it’s glass platform. Then down to Camara de Lobos where Winston Chruchill did his painting, for some; along another levada through splendid cultivation for 12km or so for others.

An honourable mention to the food and drink of the island,  local dishes galore: limpets (much like snails, I thought), scabbard fish with banana and custard apples, to mention a few. And Madeira  – several of us returned more than a little happy from our tasting sessions at Blandy’s.

There's Porto Santo Island

There’s Porto Santo Island

And our last day, a clifftop/cliff side walk from Boca do Risco to Porto da Cruz, along the north east coast of the island, with the extra coastal cliffs and a hot hot climb on the south side of the island for the C group doing the ‘coast to coast’ from Canico port. A fine finish to our week, a wonderful meal at the ‘pink tablecloths’ and happy 44th wedding anniversary to Neil and Sue. Wow.

Some last snIMG_8353ippets that caught my imagination – the history of the Aquila Flying boats back in 1949, a twice weekly service UK – Funchal; the jaunty Carapuca, traditional madeiran hats; the vibrant purple of the jacaranda trees in Funchal, the terraces of bananas, the immaculately tilled terraces, the chipry chaffinches and the little green lizards.  What a great place, made extra special by such a brilliant group. Thank you.

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Post script: now for some REALLY decent photos sent in by Kathryn: (the frog is my favourite)


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