Friday, 2 April 2010

A Hike to the Caldeiros Verde and Inferno

Saturday 21st November 2009, Sao Jorge, Madeira, Portugal

Happy Birthday Kristine, she is 50 today. Although this is of course tempered by by yesterday's events.

After a simple breakfast from which we manage to get enough material to fix some sandwiches for lunch we take our taxi up to the trail-head at Quesemada which is up in the hills. The weather is not great but we are looking forward to a hike along one of the wilder levadas.

Walk: 5hrs 22mins starting at 9.19
Low: 479m at 14.37
High: 903m at 12.19
Descent: 443m
Ascent: 39m

Today is our last walk along a levada. It's an old one too and all overgrown with mosses and ferns. It's cut right into the mountain-side and often has steep drop-offs into the valley below. For much of the way you have to balance along the side of the levada but at least they have fixed a railing in the hairiest places.


At first the trail was wide enough for two but pretty soon it narrowed and we had to walk single file. The green-ness was amazing and we sometimes walk alongside curtains of tiny waterfalls. Every now again we are forced to take a shower! Fairly soon the levada broke out of it's green tunnel to continue in a cleft cut into the rock-face. The fact that a railing had been built here was re-assuring. Eventually we came to our first tunnel which we had to creep through for fear of slipping or banging our heads. The views down the valley to the ocean and up into the spiky mountains was sensational.


We past a succession of 'caldeiros' which are a kind of green amphitheatre overgrown with ferns with a narrow and high waterfall as a centrepiece. soonn after this we reached a fork in the trail. From here it's a 2km hike to the Caldeiro verde and then 2km back again.


First of all we had to get through two tunnels (good job we've got our head torches). Both of them were curved so you couldn't see the exit for a while and they were both pretty low too. The first tunnel had a window half way through which proved an interesting view and in the second the levada was  running in a channel at waist height so their was no fear of falling in as is usually the case.

After that the walking was spectacular as you balanced on the edge of the levada and held onto the hand-rail. This really was a stunning walk with outstanding views. Though visibility wasn't great and it began to rain later. The plant life in and around the levada and on the walls was of an intense green and amazing in it's details.


Eventually we reached the Caldeiros Verde and it's 1000ft waterfall. It was now raining quite heavily and it was difficult to look up at the fall. Like standing under a huge shower. A bit further on we sheltered under a tree and sat beside the levada to have our lunch. from here you can walk a further 1 and a half hours to the Caldeiro Inferno. However we've been informed that the levada has been abandoned and not repaired for may years and has been damaged by rock falls in many places. We met a guide here who told us that only last year a couple had tried it and the man's wife had fallen to here death. We took the hint and returned the way we had come back to the junction. The walk was just as spectacular this way round too though now visibility was even worse and we couldn't see the ocean any more. Pretty soon we got back through the two curved tunnels and then took a left at the fork instead of returning to where we had started.

This trail followed a smaller levada which had also been abandoned and we followed this narrow route in the direction of Ilha After an hour or so the trail widened into a track and eventually into a dirt road that meandered steeply towards the village. It was raining again now and this last bit of the walk was a bit dull and quite heavy going as our boots clogged up with mud.

Fortunately  our driver had anticipated our predicament and had driven up to meet us instead of waiting in the village below. after washing our boots off in a convenient gully we clambered in and enjoyed the ride to our hotel in Sao Jorge.

It's a pretty weird place as all the rooms are in separate cabins which seem to be modelled on the traditional thatched buildings of the island. They are conical and our room is round! In fact every room in the building is round. After changing where scuttle off to the bar and sit by a log fire with beer, sandwiches and cake.

In the evening we come back for a game or two of pool before dinner in the large dining room. The meal itself is a bit disappointing but we celebrate with a decent wine.

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