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The three peaks, Madeira-style


Pico Ruivo sounded unmissable. Its summit (1862m/6107ft) is at an impressive height, reached via knife-edge paths and long dark tunnels through the basalt, passing amazing flowers lower down, then centuries-old heather trees and, near the summit, patches of snow. Madeira Explorers even organise a tour that drops you at Pico de Areeiro, lets you climb to Pico Ruivo and then collects you from Achada do Teixera, thus combining Madeira's three highest peaks with a long scenic drive and no backtracking. So I booked with them for Saturday.

Our guide Adriano was excellent, and the group a pleasant bunch of 8 other hikers, all of us going at roughly the same pace. It being January, we were lucky to set off on this itinerary: it has to be rearranged whenever there is too much snow or rockfall. Perhaps it is churlish to report that, as the photo above shows, we were in fairly dense cloud for almost the whole time. Even in poor visibility, you couldn't miss the dramatic skyline and basalt pillars:


The path was so well engineered as to seem disconcertingly tame, with ropes and cables for protection and little drama even on this exposed rock bridge, with sheer cliffs falling away on both sides:


The walk featured a lot of steep staircases and we had to cross the odd land-slip along the narrow path: Madeira's heavy rainfall must create huge challenges for path maintenance. I suppose it was the summit that troubled me the most: the vast timber platform seemed at odds with my concept of mountain summit, with a wide boardwalk leading to a further viewpoint. Doubtless it works well for picknicking tourists. However, my smile below reflects the brief break in the cloud that let us glimpse a breathtaking view of the coast from this lofty viewpoint before closing in again. It was almost enough to overcome my reservations.



This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 1, 2010 11:11 PM.

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