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Socorridos Valley

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Typically Madeiran house in terraced fields Bird of Paradise plant Beryl by flowers by leavada Socorrdios valley with expressway bridge
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Looking up the Socorridos valley

This was a walk we did on our own, using the walks book. It started reasonably near our hotel by the Maritimos football stadium. I'm not sure how they managed to create a football pitch here. The island is only about 10 miles across and rises to 1800m in the middle. Consequently nowhere is flat except the levada walks which use the natural contours of the hills. The pitch ought to have a bigger slope than Yeovil's.

We were following the Levada dos Piornais as it left Funchal, skirted around Camara de Lobos and enters the Socorridos Valley. In fact the first part of the walk was fairly scruffy as we followed a concrete path alongside and often on top of the levada. It is never very wide and has lots of holes in it so you have to keep a careful watch. However it snakes through houses for the most part and whilst you can see the sea they aren't the most interesting views. The saving grace were the gardens we passed as these had some flamboyant plants. In fact even the uncultivated bit tended to be covered in wild nasturtiums which were in follow.

After passing Quebradas the walking improved. We were still largely on concrete but we were passing through larger scale cultivation. The predominant crop is bananas, one of the specialities of the island. They are quite small (they have fallen foul of the EU because of this - the Euro-aparatchiks being deluded in their belief that a banana can only be a banana if it reaches a certain size) They are also very sweet - that is their big selling point. We also say traces of a former speciality crop, cane sugar; there are still clumps growing wild.

They levada also starts to turn away from the coast and into the Socorridas valley. It is slightly scruffy in the valley bottom (containing amongst other things the only brewery on the island) but you start to get views right into the peaks. These seemed to be totally cloudless - this left us wondering whether we should have hired a taxi and done the ridge walk on our own. But our walk was growing more interesting.

Then we came to a fun bit. The land started to fall away at the side of the levada and the walking became much more exposed (The book does warn about the danger of vertigo). Then it entered a series of short tunnels that I had to crawl through in a number of places. At the far end was a set of steps either side of the path. I checked the book. Apparently we should have descended a bit to avoid the tunnels (what? Miss the fun - no way) and then climb back up again. However I was right to check becuse we had to climb the stairs. These took us up 500m into the village of Pinheiro das Voltas. Turn left by the bar, more climbing up a narrow track (actually it was a road as we discovered when a car squeezed past it) and pick up the Levada Curral.

This provided a really good high level route up the Socorridos valley. There is still a lot of walking on concrete but the path does have wilder sections with stretches of exposure. You can wander up as far as you want but you have to come back the same way. We reached our boredom point and came back.

The book says that you can catch a bus back from Pinheiro das Voltas but it was Sunday and we worried that they might nt be running. On the levada we bumped into a couple we recognised from one of the early walks. They said to head for the Madeira shopping centre. This is very new, certainly post-dating the book, and whilst we had seen some signs to it we hadn't realised that it is actually in Pinheiro das Voltas. In fact we did even better because we missed the track back down into the centre of the village and continued along the levada. This brought us right to the Centre from where we caught a bus right back to the hotel without difficulty


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