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Funchal Ecological Park

 
20020403a nunsvalley.jpg (148382 bytes) 20020403c clouds.jpg (147109 bytes) 20020403d basalt.jpg (146298 bytes) 20020403e funchalpark.jpg (146816 bytes)
Looking down the Nun's Valley from Pico Arieiro Peaks in cloud A basalt outcrop Atmospheric picture
20020403f funchalpark.jpg (146921 bytes) 20020403g treeheaher.jpg (155818 bytes) 20020403h levada.jpg (144848 bytes) 20020403i flower.jpg (148315 bytes)
Another atmospheric picture Our first encounter with tree heather Our first levada The pride-of-Madeira flower

As I said we pre-booked all our walks with Turivema. We saw one of their brochures when we arrived and the walk that we had booked as our first didnt seem to be on the programme. There were two walks down for today; one we had booked to do on Saturday (the mountain ridge) so we assumed that we would be on the other. However when a minibus arrived at our hotel it was to collect other people we assumed they were doing the ridge walk. Oh no, they said. Curiouser and curiouser. Would the minibus actually appear?

Well it did and we had a very pleasant walk but not at all what we were expecting. We were actually doing a check out of a walk that they were thinking of thinking of including on the programme. All this at no extra charge!!

The day started (as all the others did) with all the minibuses meeting up at a caf for a drink. We thought that we might have other minibuses doing our walk but not so. We had a party of seven and very cosmopolitan it was; Horacio, the guide from Madeira, a Finnish couple and two who had lived in London for many years but were originally from East Africa.

We had a bonus at the start of the walk. We went about half a mile beyond the start point to the end of the tourist road up Pico Arieiro (the third highest peak on the island). The cloud was up something that is far from certain at this time of year and Horacio wanted to show us the views. Stunning they were too, although I didnt know enough to engage in my usual game of Name that Peak. It was also very cold because of the wind. This was faintly ominous as the only long-sleeved garment that I had brought on holiday was my waterproof Id not brought my usual fleece (the plum-coloured one that Im wearing on most of the rare photos of me on this site) favouring the sleeveless one instead.

We started walking from below the peak and dropped sharply into a valley. This was very good because it got us out of the wind. In fact it was very pleasant walking as it was quite sunny whereas the coast looked to have more cloud. It is open grassland up here. Horacio (who we learnt is very knowledgeable on plants and landscape) explained that this is a problem. The land has been used as grazing from sheep and goats and they have stripped out the natural plant cover, mainly tree heathers. The cover is very important to the island it helps to retain moisture in the soil the rainwater tends to drain straight off. The government originally tried to replace it with eucalyptus, which spreads quickly but which also uses much more moisture to survive. So they have created an ecological park and are progressively banning grazing animals, clearing the rampant eucalyptus and reintroducing native species they have a special nursery raising these.

We passed the last icehouse on the island as the valley opened out. They must have been hardy souls who carried that down into Funchal. Then we were on more open land and wandering gently downhill as Horacio pointed out different plants. We stopped for lunch at Casa do Burro.

Below that the land dropped away much more fiercely and we worked our way down a precipitous path. Id not been able to take my wooden walking pole on the aircraft but Turivema keep poles (native wood) on all their minibuses and I was really glad that Id borrowed one. Gradually we picked up the source of a levada that was also going quickly downhill.

Eventually we picked up a more normal levada and started contouring around the hillside. This was very pleasant walking but we were heading towards cloud so the temperature was dropping. We got to what should have been the end of the walk but the path we were on did continue and Horacio kept suggesting that we added a bit on. First we went to Pico Alto to get views over Funchal. Then we walked nearly to Monte.

A final stop for a drink. It was really cold by this time and I had coffee rather than beer.  

 

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