Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Saturday, 8 November 2014

The 25 Springs

Today we drove along the coast to Calheta and then up a hill to Rabaçal.

Meanwhile, Pat went on a short walk from the hotel to loosen up for another bout of authoring.

A light mizzle up at 1200 metres was at first ignored by us, but when Dave produced a brolly the mizzle turned to rain. We were in a cloud. It was probably clear and sunny up at 1800 metres.

After walking down to the big forestry house in the middle of nowhere at Rabaçal, we headed down to the Levada do Risco and onwards along the easy path to the Risco waterfall, a long thread that wends its way down a cliff face.

Retracing our steps, we soon descended to the popular Levada das 25 Fontes. The gang is pictured here, with Dave sporting his brolly that most of the time looks like a satellite dish. The path was busy. The levada was full of trout. Chaffinches could be fed by hand. Heather trees were everywhere, as were many varieties of lichen. Coachloads of folk seemed to be coming back from the 25 Springs, which turned out to be an amphitheatre of small waterfalls. Photos were taken in the rain. My phone had camera shake and my wet weather camera was on the sunset setting. Boo hoo. 

A continuation of this levada was thankfully quiet, as most people are guided directly back to Rabaçal. So we found a sheltered, albeit drippy, spot for lunch.

Returning along the busy path, we soon found a steep zigzag route down to the next levada - there are at least four levels hereabouts - the Levada da Rocha Vermelha. This was a superb levada, and we didn't see anyone else on it. We walked along it for some way, passing a long tunnel, the Seixal tunnel, whose exit several kilometres away was just a pinprick of light. 

Vertigo got the better of Carol, but the rest of us continued a good halfway towards Adeneiro. Returning along the same beautiful path, we admired succulents on the levada walls and rejoined Carol near the cave that marks the way back up to 25 Springs. 

We chose to continue on this lower level before taking a steep ascent path near a tunnel. After that a right turn along the 25 Springs levada soon brought us to a huge tunnel, the exploration of which will have to wait.

Then a final steep haul up to the forestry house found us indulging in €3 fares for a minibus ride back to the car.

Our walk had covered about 15 km, with around 400 metres of ascent. 

Coffees etc at a good café next to the  Jungle Rain Café (closed for refurbishment) on the plateau warmed us up, as did the steep 1000 metre descent in Whitey back to the coast road. For a change, we were back at Savoy Gardens before dark, and for the first time, there was room for Whitey in the car park.

Keith and Carol even found time to walk into Funchal. 

Later - the Madeiran buffet was excellent - full of local delicacies like Scabbardfish.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Camacha Adventures

Pat decided to go painting - she's designing a cover for her latest 'British Cosy' genre book.

The rest of us drove to Camacha for a gentle levada walk - Levada da Serra to Largo do Miranda above Funchal, then descending to the Levada dos Tournos for the walk back to Camacha. 

Lots of people were walking these popular levadas, including several large guided groups. Thomsons charge over €35 per person per day for such excursions! Gorse, daisies and sweet peas were amongst the colourful flowers lining the path as we passed through verdant green eucalyptus woods.

The day was warm but overcast. Blossoms of a host of flowers adorned the path. We reached a tunnel. It's known to us as 'Walton's Wade' in memory of Barry's adventure here on 22 November 2009. Today we managed the 500 metres underground along a narrow 'towpath' with no untoward incidents. 

After 20 km and nearly six hours on the hoof, we found ourselves back at cloudy Camacha at 4 pm. "Let's go to Pico do Arieiro" suggested some joker. Four of them actually. I thought it was a wind up. I was wrong. Soon I was chauffeuring the foursome up a 1000 metre ascent full of potholes in a thick fog.

"Blue sky up there" observed Sue. Amazingly she was right. I'd been proved completely wrong. We emerged into bright sunshine and calm weather above the clouds at 1810 metres. What more can I say. The lower picture should be sufficient. We lingered at this viewpoint with views to Pico Ruivo, the 1862 metre high point of the island. Yesterday's summit, Pico Grande, was also just about visible. 

The drive back through more fog wasn't that pleasant. 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Pico Grande

Today's first picture is from yesterday. I meant to attach it instead of yesterday's second image but I made a 'wrong click'.

Today Pat went on another bus ride and did some more writing. 

The others decided the weather would be suitable for some summiteering, so the five of us went up to Encumeada, a pass at about 1100 metres, in Whitey.

Sunny though it was at 10am, clouds were clearly making their way in. However, a delightful paved pathway through eucalyptus woodland, from which today's second picture was taken, took us down to Grass Bridge and then inexorably up to Bocca do Cerro, at 1300 metres. We were still half a mile away from and 350 metres below the fog-bound summit of Pico Grande. 

The paved way is called the Royal Path, and was used by generations as a means of crossing the island in the days before the current network of roads. 

By now the cloud had come in as expected. Our Cicerone guide had been discredited as we were about half way round Route 19, which Paddy Dillon claims to be 9 km in total. We had already walked nearly 10 km!

Paddy's route seemed to me to be inappropriate for the conditions, so after lunch I took a final picture of the summit party (see above) and retraced my steps from Bocca do Cerro. The first 3 km were in mist, with unseen mewing buzzards and very visible flitting firecrests - intent on their foraging and oblivious to human presence. Nobody had been willing to join me, so I'd left them to scoff at my suggestion that they pay attention to micro navigation and the possible need for 'pacing' in order to get them to the planned descent path to the north of Pico Grande.

I arrived back at the café at Encumeada at about 4.15, after a 19 km outing in about 6 hours. Shortly before that I received a message from Dave saying that they were back at the lunch spot and returning the same way - 'Eta 6.30'.

Hang on - 6.30 is dinner time! Ho hum...

Here's what I've managed to extract from them concerning the three hours or so between leaving them at Bocca do Cerro and hearing from them again from that same spot. (I knew I should have brought my Kindle.)

"We summited without difficulty. Fantastic but brief cloud inversion. Descent to Paddy Dillon's route. Thin path. Little evidence of people having gone this way. Then fog. Missed 'plummeting descent' and ended up back on the ridge, where a superb cloud inversion started to emerge. Unwise to continue on Dillon's route as now 3pm. Returned to lunch spot then a quick descent in two hours to waiting Whitey, arriving at dusk - 6.10. Uneventful drive home thanks to the dynamic duo of navigational genius Keith and his assistant, Lady App."

Dinner is served between 6.30 and 9 o'clock, so no problem with that - just in case anyone was worried!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

A Coastal Classic

Today Pat enjoyed an open top bus ride and a bit more writing. 

Keith and I visited a car shop and came away with a reasonably priced Fiesta - 'Whitey' - in less than the time it took Carol and Sue to acquire provisions for lunch. No insurance excess, no charge for extra drivers. Bargain!

The 8 km (4 km each way) stroll on the spectacular rocky coast of the São Lourenço peninsula is an old favourite.  This is the fourth time I've been on this walk from Baia d'Abra to the summits beyond Casa do Sardinha and back. It's delightful. 

Rain was clearly falling over 'inland' Madeira, but we enjoyed sunshine and an occasional stiff breeze. A little over four hours was spent over the 8 km course, before we reached the ice cream van at the car park. 

During the walk we enjoyed the company of a multinational cast of humans, as well as a kestrel, lots of pigeons and lizards, and a variety of common flora with a Madeiran twist. Madeira Sea Stock for example. More flowers should be identified in our slideshow in due course. 

The short walk enabled us to return to Funchal by 4pm for an afternoon and evening of traditional debauchery.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

An Urban Levada Walk

Whilst Pat set about writing another chapter of her book, the rest of us enjoyed a walk from the hotel.

About 30 metres above the Savoy Gardens a narrow lane reaches the Levada dos Piornais, which we followed for over 8 km to a gate. Well, Sue, Dave and Keith went to the gate; Carol and I stopped in the vicinity of a bridge shortly before the final vertiginous section of unprotected path.

Bananas and kestrels, and an excellent coffee shop in Quebradas graced the sunlit route, though the mountain rain did occasionally stray our way in the form of a light drizzle. 

After retracing our steps to a bemused foreign couple, we ascended 150 metres up steps and roadways to join the Levada Novo do Curral up an alleyway beyond the Pinheiro das Voltas snack-bar. Lunch was taken on a concrete roof top adjoining the levada, before heading back round to the Socorridos valley inhabited by the Piornais levada 150 metres below.

Our respective susceptibility to vertigo dictated how far we each went along this path. I stopped soon after the houses of Fajã came into view ahead of us. Carol joined me twenty minutes later, with the other three enjoying 30 minutes (a good kilometre) each way beyond my inclination. It was most pleasant waiting in the shade of the levada walls on this hot and humid day.  

In fact, Carol and I were waiting at the point where our Rother guidebook states "Due to the perilously close steep drops, do not continue along this path." Rother's latest edition does not even include this walk.

In contrast, Paddy Dillon's Cicerone guide quite happily describes a walk from Curral das Freiras, which we could see high above the Socorridos valley, all the way to Funchal. He describes the section walked by Sue, Dave and Keith as follows:

"... use a crumbling stony path ... walk down exposed steps ... turn another corner where the levada is covered with rockfall detritus, then a series of descents drop the water level" (here the three adventurers enjoyed a view down to the sea, thinking they had passed right through the mountain to the north side of the island!) "Pause and study the awesome rocky side valley, which is the most dangerous part of the walk ... use steps to cross a wedged boulder. Enter a curious tunnel, which is high and wide, with water rushing through it. The tunnel is bent, so the exit cannot be seen ... a series of 'windows' allow light to enter. A waterfall pours down outside (and inside!) these 'windows' ... stacks of boulders in the tunnel, and the roof is low. The next stretch is very dangerous. Turn out of the tunnel and walk down 35 steep, exposed and slippery steps ... go through a rock arch to reach safer ground. Take a break and get things dried" ... etc, etc, etc. 

Reading this whilst waiting certainly made me glad I stopped when I did, though the protagonists returned elated from their adventure. 

The lovely weather continued as we returned to Pinheira das Voltas and meandered slowly back along Paddy Dillon's 'Walk 38' route, reaching the hotel at 5pm after a 7.5 hour walk covering between 19 km (me) and 24 km (Dave, Sue and Keith), with Carol somewhere in between. 

Today's pictures are an early view from the Levada dos Piornais, and a Bird of Paradise flower taken late in the day.

There should be a slide show in due course with evidence of a bit more 'excitement'.

Monday, 3 November 2014

November Sunshine and Warmth

This morning's bright sunshine and warmth in Timperley surely couldn't last, could it? 

Past Novembers in Timperley have been cold, wet, windy and dark - in comparison with our current surroundings, anyway. 

The view from our room on the second floor isn't much different to the picture shown above, taken from the roof terrace of the Savoy Gardens Hotel, where we are spending the week with our good friends Dave and Pat, and Keith and Carol.

The sunlit amphitheatre of Funchal (Madeira) is quite stunning in the afternoon light.

This week's entries should be fairly short as they will mostly be repeating previous escapades recorded on these pages, and socialising will take precedence.

Jacob and Jessica

The grandchildren haven't appeared here for a while. Sue and I enjoyed their company yesterday, which included a visit to the swings.

They are growing up fast. Jacob has learnt how to burp. Jessica will be walking next time we see her.

Thanks for a lovely day, J and J.