Madeira is all about walking
(and perhaps Ponca – but more about THAT on the next post!)
We love walking, so we were itching to put on our boots and get out amongst it. Thing is, there are so many walks in Madeira that even with all of my usual research and reading it was a really tough choice to know which walk to choose. They range from easy to challenging, from intense climbs to flat wanderings, from 30mins to several days. The diversity makes the choice a little a difficult to say the least. Enter our trusty Madeiran pal, Alex.
With our daypacks packed, plenty of water aboard, hiking boots on, we started on the ‘Ariero to Ruivo’ walk, bound for the highest peak on the island, Pico Ruivo at 1861mts.
Alex assured us that it was a relatively easy walk (not what the guide books say!) A 12 km loop that should take around 5 hours and would take in all the beauty and splendor that Maderia walks are famous for.
After about 1 minute of walking I got it. The sheer scale of the stunning landscape that spanned 360 degrees around us was absolutely breathtaking. It took us around 4/5 hours to complete the walk, and I’ve got to admit, that wonder and amazement didn’t leave me for a minute. At each turn, over each crest and through each tunnel the sight in front of me was nothing short of spectacular.
It reminded me of my experience of walking through Angkor Wat for the first time. I couldn’t stop ohhhhing & ahhhhing & WOWing the whole time, and taking photos became almost an unconscious act. It would have been a little embarrassing if anyone was close enough to hear me. Well, I gotta tell you that here on the island of Madeira I was experiencing that wonder once again. So so lucky!
The walk itself is not for the feint hearted. The climbs and descents were pretty challenging with the catch cry of ‘what goes up must come down’ (or rather ‘what goes down must go up again’) becoming a standard part of our walking chit-chat. We walked up and down the dramatic ravines and we trekked on tracks that didn’t allow for any mistakes. During a lot of the walk we were rubbing one shoulder along cliff faces, and trying very hard not to look at what was, or more to the point, wasn’t beyond the other shoulder. As you’ll be able to make out in the photos there were some guide ropes along the more challenging drops, but to be honest in many parts they just weren’t stable enough to instill much confidence in using them to support your weight, or even part of. Plus, for our little walkers they were well and truly below the height that they were of much use. So … it goes without saying that I was pretty strict on the ‘no –running- on- the- track’ rule with our junior walkers.
The weather was good to us. As we set out the sun was shining, a layer or two of clothing needed to be shed at the first stop, beanies off – sunglasses on, and the views were clear, crisp and just perfect.
As the day progressed, and the weather changed slightly, we noticed the clouds slowly rolling in. Like big puffs of perfect, fluffy meringue, or pure white fairy floss. Yesterday we were walking through the middle of them, today we were walking above them. It’s not everyday that you find a walk that takes you above the clouds. Very cool indeed!
The plan was to walk to a certain point, sit and enjoy our packed lunch & a beer at the rest house that sits 10 minutes from the highest peak. We were all pretty excited about a ‘café stop’ so you can imagine our disappointment we when came to the end of a pretty hard slog up to find that it had been closed down – meh!
After the ‘beer that never happened’, we were then planning to turn around and complete the loop back to the car. All up it’d be around a 12km loop. Well, even the best plans change, especially when travelling with kids
Through out the whole walk in, up all those steep ravines and countless stone steps, our little adventurers soldiered on without complaint. Jed would skip off ahead, then sit patiently and wait for me and Deni to catch up. We’d walk around a corner, or over a crest, or through one of the cool tunnels and there he’d be, always with a big smile on his face, bless his precious heart. I was so proud of them both. Even though there were no complaints, and they were yet to reach their limits, I feared to repeat the walk we had just done, would push them both beyond their physical limitations. In my mind that doesn’t make for a good walking experience, and more than anything I want these two little people to love walking, and to keep walking with us. Taking the easier option from this point was the only decision. We would walk another 3 km’s to the car park along a pretty well worn, and easy track.
But what about the car? Well, that’s when Alex changed into his cape and tapped into his super powers. He walked back the way we came, picked up the car, then drove around to the other end of the track and collect us.
Thank you so much Alex, you really are our very own Superman!
And to Team Smythie … Congratulations … longest walk/tramp/trek yet!