Thursday, 1 April 2010

A Breathtaking Cliff Walk

Friday 20th November 2009, Santana, Madeira, Portugal

It's my Dad's 76th birthday today. At 7am I got a call from Keith telling me the expected news that my Dad had passed away a few minutes earlier. We didn't speak much. He said he'd call back in half an hour. Even then there's not a lot to say. I had a brief word with almost everyone who had stayed through the night at his hospital bed. Kristine and I finish here in Madeira on Tuesday and fly back home then. In a daze I get myself for a day's hiking. We are doing a cliff walk today rather than following a levada.

Walk: 4hrs 24mins starting at 8.55
Low: 4m at 13.24
High: 342m at 10.31
Descent: 377m
Ascent: 359m

At breakfast we meet two English guys who are delivering a boat to Florida. They've been sailing for two weeks already. They joke about the guy who's bought the boat and who is on board as they cross the ocean. The weather is very dark and foreboding but decide to walk anyway. The cliff path is supposed to be quite dangerous if it's windy and wet and in one place you have to help yourself along a ridge using a chain. We decide we;ll see how it goes and if it turns out to be too much then we'll simply turn back and get a bus or something.

Our first objective is to climb out of the town and rejoin the levada we walked along yesterday. It's unfortunate that we have to retrace our steps but it only takes about 45 mins to get to the point where we leave the levada and cross over a pass to the cliffs beyond.

It's a steady and easy climb past the allotments and up through the woods. We can see that a bush fire has raged through fairly recently but the new growth is already taking shape. At the pass we the ocean and the cliffs in both directions. They look spectacular and gloomy under the dark clouds and through the drizzled light. Too our left we can see that the  path is cut into the cliff about 2/3rds of the way up.

We stop here for a little while and admire the views and take some shots whilst we debate whether we should continue or not. We go for it.


The path is narrow and wet in places and the path goes out to many points with superb views. sometimes the view straight down to the ocean is a bit disturbing but generally the trail feels safe enough The section with the cable to help you along is actually very short and doesn't present much of a problem as long as you don't look down.

After a couple of hours the trail leaves the cliffs and passes through woodlands reminiscent of the Under cliff at Lyme Regis. Here we sit in the sun on a fallen log and have some lunch. KLater the trail starts to enter ciclisation and opens out into a track. We pass a cabbage patch and some abandoned vines and what seems to be a mechanism for getting stuff up and down the cliffs.

Eventually the track turns into a road and meanders down a steep hill towards the small town of Porto Cruz. Towards the bottom we leave the road to follow a tiny levada whch takes us down to a rocky beach. from here we walk the short distance to the tiny port town.

We find a small cafe and have some coffee and cake before walking up to the church square to pick up our Taxi. It's not there and so I call. apparently I should have called earlier to arrange a time but this is not apparent from our trip notes. In any case our Taxi will be here in an hour or so so we just have another wander around the town.

It's only a short, but dramatic, drive to the hotel on the outskirts of Santana. It's a strange place, in two parts, but we are given a decent roum overlooking the sea which is far below.

I'm on the phone home before dinner. It leaves me a bit numb and a bit queasy. I'm glad I did the walk today though; the fresh air and the wind and rain in your face gave me some time to think and plenty of time not to think too.

Dinner in the hotel was fine. I think it was only the two of us n the dining room.