Azores 2011, day 3, Salto do Prego och Furnas

Augusti 20, Salto do Prego and the fumaroles in Furnas. Today we drove quite a bit eastwards to visit one of the many natural tourist attractions on São Miguel, the Salto do Prego waterfall.

Here a stop on the way to admire the view.

Salto do Prego 00

The path up to the waterfall is a rather easy walk where the beginning is the steepest. You pass an old village ruin, small banana plantation and fantastic jungle-like nature.

Salto do Prego 01

Salto do Prego 02

Salto do Prego 03

The waterfall. A refreshing swim in the cold water is a must.

Salto do Prego 04

Personally I am a cowardly bather, but I can’t let an occasion like this go to waste.

Salto do Prego 05

We chose an alternative route downhill and found the only levada we saw on the Azores.

Salto do Prego 06

Another break to admire the view on the way home. Breathtaking.

Salto do Prego 07

More view.

Salto do Prego 08

And finally we made another stop in Furnas. You can’t miss the fumaroles, oozing their sulphurous gas.

Furnas fumarole 1

The people in Furnas use the fumaroles to slow-cook cozido, a stew you can enjoy in a restaurant nearby.

Furnas fumarole 2

From the mysterious netherworld all sorts of substanses make their way up and colour the surface.

Furnas fumarole 3

Madeira 2010, day 10, Levada do Castelejo

April 19 . Levada do Castelejo is not one of the most frequented levadas, but it offers a varied walk along its path, first through the upper parts of the small village Cruz and then along the luxuriant valley of Ribeiro Frio. Occasionally you almost get a feeling of jungle. The narrow path and the sparse existence of railings may not make this levada the first choice for the unexperienced levada walker. The most important rule for any levada is even more important here: Walk or admire the view. Never both at the same time.

Today was not the sunniest day of the journey, but the temperature was nice for walking. When we returned we walked the last hundred meters through pouring rain, but it didn’t matter much since we always have our folding umbrellas in our backpacks. On our way out though, there were quite a few glimpses of sun.

Here we have parked above Cruz. The last bit was the steepest I have ever driven by car. When we returned, the road was so slippery after the rain that it wasn’t possible to brake, the car started to slide immediately. If it hadn’t had ABS brakes I don’t know what would have happened.

This is the slope. The mountain beyond the village is called Eagle’s Rock, it’s a landmark for seafarers north of Madeira. It may be worth a hike of its own.

Madeira is truly an island of flowers. There is always something in bloom, all year round. And you find flowers with such intense colours. The beginning of this levada walk passas a few meadows where we found this plant among others. I have no idea what its name is, but for our personal use I have named it fireflower.

A closer look at a fireflower.

I don’t know the name of this one either. It looks like something belonging to the carnation family. It too has the most intense colour you can imagine.

A closer look at this one too.

I’ve had garden nasturium myself, easy and goodlooking in the garden. This is no garden though, it grows like weed here. (In Sweden we have the expression “grows like weed” about something that multiplies easily and seemlingly without any effort. Don’t know if the expression has the same meaning in English. In this case it’s obvious though.)

Att the beginning of the walk we pass some of the highest situated houses in Cruz. The levada almost seems to be part of the house.

But it is not long before the levada turns south, into the valley. This is the last building before nature takes over. On the other side a waterfall dashes down towards the river.

Here begins the wilder part of the hike. Ribeiro Frio runs a some hundreds of meters below us and to the east the wall of the mountain rises even higher.

We have come to the beginning of the levada. There isn’t a lot of water running in Ribeiro Frio at the moment, but it is enough to fill the small chilly pond, which in turn provides the levada with water. If it had been a warmer day a freezing swim in the pond would have felt wonderful.

The nature of Madeira, exciting and varying.

A last levada picture. Close to this place we had an unusual experience. On our way back, on the one foot wide path, with hundreds of meters of nothing on one side, we met a couple of joggers in full speed. It was so narrow we had to squeeze against the mountain wall on the inner side of the levada to be able to pass each others. And if they haven’t fallen over the edge by now they are still alive and in good condition.


Madeira 2010, day 8, Levada do Paúl

April 17. Good weather at the hotel, but we went up to the mountain plateau Paúl da Serra. Here it was misty and only 6 degrees (Celcius). We parked below the Senhor da Montanha monument where Jesus appeared throught the mist. 

He is 6 tons heavy and made of white marble.

There are more religious symbols below his knoll. Here are the loaves of bread and the fish, also made of white marble. But isn’t there one loaf too many?

Levada do Paúl crosses the road a couple of hundred meters below the monument. It runs 1300 meters above the sea and gathers water from the great plateau Paúl da Serra. This high nature seems barren, the reason being centuries of misuse of the forests (I wrote something about the reforestation project here). There was also a fire here some years ago. The yellow bushes are furze, beautiful but fierce with thousands of hard, long and sharp thorns.

We were not the only wanderers on the levada path.

Here is an ancient stone paved road crossing the levada.

Some way after the road crossing you can walk a short path up onto a mountain top with a stunning wiew of the great valley. If you turn around you can admire this magnificent mountain wall.

Shortly afterwards it started to rain and we turned back to the car. On our way back home over the plateau we had a break at the bizarre bar/restaurant/hotel Jungle Rain Cafe.

The interior is supposed to make you feel like being in the jungle.

It is an internet cafe too. However, Gunilla didn’t manage to send her mail. Bad communication due to the rain, the waiter said. The fake tree is asleep at the moment.

Even the chairs have tails.

When we got back to the hotel, ants had created their own walking trail on the kitchen wall. What now?

Well, they had found a package of yummy crackers. I hope they enjoyed them to the full, because shortly the cleaning maiden entered with her largest spray bottle and spoiled the fun.

Madeira 2010, day 4, Levada da Serra

April 13. This would prove to be the only day with bad weather during a levada walk. Certainly, the bad weather stayed in the mountains, but alas, so did we.

The beginning of the day was beautiful, here the sun is shining above our hotel. Our terass is the one on the second floor. We really find no reason to complain about the view. Hotel Jardim Atlântico is situated quite a distance from Funchal, out on the countryside of which most of Madeira consists. A few meters out of the hotel area you find yourself in an ordinary Madeiran village. This was the second time we chose this hotel, and if and when we get here again we will choose the same one. Last time we stayed in Funchal, but a city is a city whereever you go. If you want trecking and nature, we strongly recommend a rental car and hotel Jardim Atlântico. Here is a link to the hotel website.

The hotel is situated almost 500 meters above the ocean, and if you are up for it you can make the first walk from the hotel down to Paúl do Mar, the little port village at the bottom of the cliff. It’s a beautiful albeit laborious trip, especially if you walk up again (instead of taking a taxi).

The levada we chose for today is called Levada da Serra. It runs on the northern side of Paul da Serra, the large plateau in the middle of west Madeira. Here you can see the actual birth of a levada. In this picture we have descended from where we parked our car and there is a little bit left to walk before entering the levada. We came from the path to the left, by which you can reach Bica da Cana, a peak whith one the most spectacular view on Madeira.

Gunilla is studying our levada bible, Vandra på Madeira (Walking in Madeira) by Anita och Birger Løvland, unfortunately not available in English (as far as we know). Clouds have gathered some hundred meters above us, but as you can see, down by the coast the sun is shining.

The heather trees are typical for the area, and this type of vegetation is to be found only here and on the Canary Islands. It changes the path in places to dark green tunnels.

Here are the two very first meters of Levada da Serra, at first just fed by a few tiny trickles of water.

With perfect accuracy a small waterfall is falling onto the levada. It hasn’t yet started to rain, but the umbrella came in handy nevertheless.

And here am I.

Some plants I seem to recognise from home. This looks like common wood crane’s-bill, but then again, it doesn’t. Some kind of crane’s-bill at any rate.

We had our packed lunch at a beautiful place where the levada runs down in a steep drop to a lower level. When we had finished it started to rain. We had planned to go back a little bit and then take a shortcut on a path that was supposed to lead up over the mountain. We didn’t find it and we think that it had been swept away buy one of many landslides, so we had to go all the way back in pouring rain. We came back to the hotel soaking wet, but there the sun was shining, and altogether, it had been a nice day’s walk.