Loving the Levadas
Beth Marshall sets foot in Madeira
I joined the Exodus team a few months ago and went on my first ever trekking trip in April - Walking in Madeira. It was a great choice for a newcomer to trekking with a leisurely pace, fabulous scenery and a few challenging moments to get to those all-important stunning views.
The small, mountainous volcanic island (700km sq) with a population of 250,000, has deep valleys embedded amongst the highest peaks and cliffs so there are endless trails to choose from. Madeira has a sub-tropical climate, making it a winner for year-round walking with its pleasantly warm temperatures and lush vegetation.
We started the week at the very comfortable Dom Pedro Baia Club in Machico, a pretty little town on the east coast of the Island. From there we started a leisurely walk along the coast to Ponta de Sao Lourenco. The coastline was more dramatic than I expected and the huge rocks set against the dark blue of the sea gave some great photo opportunities. Bruno - our guide for the week - was brilliant and told us loads of great stories about the history and culture of Madeira and kept us entertained along the walks with his (bad) jokes.
The next few days were spent enjoying the coastal and forest walks. We followed the levadas, (small irrigation canals that snake all around the island and provide marked walking trails), up past lush green eucalyptus trees and lily of the valley to fabulous views over the famous thatched houses and steep terraced hillsides. There were a few ‘don't look down moments’ as we tackled the cliff edges and many ‘WOW!’ photo stops along the way. Our walks ended in sleepy fishing villages such as Ilha and Porto da Cruz where beer or ice cream provided welcome refreshment.
On day 4 we were up at sunrise to start the climb of Pico Ruivo (1862m). This was the toughest day by far but a definite highlight as we turned round to see the pink sky with miles of rugged, volcanic landscape below us and the route of our 8 hour trek ahead. This walk was definitely not for vertigo sufferers but we were all up for the challenge and thoroughly enjoyed it.
The hotels we stayed in were lovely, all with great locations, facilities and friendly local faces. The food also was gorgeous; I recommend the island’s favourite Bacalhau Cod – delicious - and the local tipple of Poncha (but it’s not for the fainthearted!).
The last day spent in Funchal (Madeira’s capital) was a great way to finish the week. With its back against the mountains and its front facing the Atlantic Ocean, it is a good city to explore on foot and I enjoyed taking in the sights and sounds as I spent a few hours walking along the harbour. It seemed a shame not to try out one of the many cafes so I sat sipping my coffee and watched the world go by. It gave me a chance to reflect on the week I’d spent in Madeira walking across its varied terrain, from forest trails to waterfalls, tunnels, and breathtaking steep coastal drops. I felt like we really saw the best of Madeira. What a great first trip. Now, when's the next one?!
Beth Marshall, Exodus Sales Consultant