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 didn’t 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
The day started (as all the others did) with all the minibuses meeting up at a café 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 didn’t 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 – I’d not brought my usual fleece (the
plum-coloured one that I’m 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. I’d 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 I’d 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.