Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Madeira, part eight, Ribero Frio

Oh dear, rain got us at last, and it was tipping down! Today we decided to just chill, but we had a big walk planned for tomorrow - Ribero Frio, one of our 'must do' levada walks.

Every cloud has a silver lining, so they say, but this one had a stunning rainbow, which bowed right across the city of Funchal.
The camera tries, but in real life, it was incredible, and VERY strong colours!
Anyway, we watched TV for a bit, got bored and left as soon as the rain stopped. We made our way past the park fountains, admiring the difference between now and night time.
The sun came out, and so did the butterflies.
We kept meaning to go to the market again, so we chose to dodge another shower by slipping into the market building. You can see my pics in there from last time, if you click on this link; http://peakwalks.blogspot.com/2009/04/madeira-day-4-day-of-dolphins.html
After walking round the market, the rain stopped again and the sun came out. Today was like an April day back home, only MUCH warmer. We found a great little cafe that did good coffee, AND good home-made poncha, plus a tapas style bowl of some sort of stew - whatever it was, it was delicious! We lingered there far longer than we'd intended, because we just felt SO comfortable.
That night, we decided to go to the toy museum......for dinner! A guy we spoke to on the bus from the airport said that the museum had a quirky little restaurant under it, and it was good. We had walked to it a couple of nights previously, and having seen it, decided to try it. There's no menu - the waiter just tells you what they've got that night. To be honest, we didn't mind that, and the food was really rustic, basic (but good and tasty), and inexpensive. We were told it can get very busy. I can imagine it does, but when we were there, it was just us, and a small family group. Shame really, as more people would have improved the atmosphere. On the way home, I shot this great night picture of another sculpture near our hotel.
The next morning, our taxi arrived prompt on 9:30, as arranged, and we set of to walk the Ribero Frio levada. There are no buses to this remote starting point, so we had to pay 30 euros for a taxi (one way). The driver told us he was working for half what he was three years ago, coupled with the price of diesel, he said times were very hard. He also said he could understand that people didn't have the cash they used to have, so he was happy for any work he could get. This trip was good for him, he said. He told us all about the recent fires that raged after the floods. He said that lots of native woodland had been destroyed by the fires, and only the introduced Eucalyptus trees survived the intense heat. You can read more about the 2010 fires here; http://www.madeirahelp.com/madeira_flora
As we climbed, we saw sections of the road that were new. The old one having been washed completely away by the 2010 floods. Some of these mountain roads were closed for over two weeks - and they were the ONLY access to the higher places in this part of the island.
Here. you can see the total devastation caused by the fires. Stark, black trunks, all that is left. Introduced Eucalyptus can stand this sort of abuse, but indigenous ones were destroyed!

After the dead forests, we climbed higher to reach Ribero Frio, a little oasis in the middle of nowhere. This is what the woodland looked like before the fires.
Of course, they did poncha here, but it was a bit early for us - even for Sue :-)
A chapel dedicated to Fatima. You can read about Fatima here; http://www.lisbon-and-portugal.com/our-lady-of-fatima.html She was a very popular saint on Madeira.
But - we had 11 kilometres to walk, and it was time to get going!
This is the levada, or small canal, that we followed all the way to Portella. You can see the level of water is fairly low at this point. I had issues with the amount of vegetation, as it totally blocked any views to the mountains. Every now and then though, we got a glimpse (and you'll see the pictures).
Truly a lovely walk, with sunshine shafting through the trees. I STILL think it needs some trees cutting back to open things out a bit.
Lots of waterfalls added to the volume of the levada as we followed it.
Sometimes we had to dash under them!! This is Sue, getting her hair washed for free.
We'd read in the guide book about these trees that grow horizontally out of the levada banks, and here's a picture of one to show you what they mean.
Now then, HERE'S a break in the trees, and just LOOK at that view! A bit of low cloud, so not perfect, but good enough for us. That wire was all that protected us from the sheer drop to our right. Goodness knows how they clung on to these faces to actually BUILD the levada in the first place.
The instructions told us about this place, the meeting of three levadas. Built only recently, and the workers had done a special thing (besides building this junction). They had tamed the wild birds to feed from their hands. The book said they (the birds) would expect something from you (and hassle you, if it wasn't provided).
See what I mean?
OK, OK - I'll just have a look..............
Some of your lunch? That'll do NICELY!

Now this one WAS a bit much - how were we going to avoid getting REALLY wet?
Luckily, there was a 'short cut'. Some steps dropped down below, then re-joined the levada - thank goodness! It was a lovely sight though as the water fell in a wide cascade.
As you can see, all these waterfalls are now filling up the levada, so now it was quite deep, and fast-flowing.
As we followed it, the ingenuity of the builders was more and more evident as the levada twisted and turned - went behind fallen rocks, round immovable obstacles, and crossed sheer faces.
Every now and then, a break appeared in the trees, and although visibility wasn't perfect, it was good enough to stop us in our tracks as this fabulous landscape!
We thought that the way the levada threaded round fallen rocks, blocking the way, was good - but what was to come next really was a feat of engineering........

No comments:

Post a Comment