Friday, January 15, 2016

Madeira Hiking Day 3: Boca do Risco and the Barrancos of Machico Valley

(Apologies for typos). 

We suffered through some confusion today. The plan was to head to a new location on the island that was somewhat farther away than we had already been. The departure time for our bus came and went and the bus did not appear. Their  was a mix-up and the bus company had us down for the wrong day. The upshot of this is that we had to re-arrange the walks. This is hardly a big deal as it just means we leave somewhat later than may be desirable but given the nature of the walks and the timing no real harm was done.  About an hour later than planned we piled into buses to head east towards a peninsula and the Machico valley and the towns of Caniçal and Maroços. Those of us tackling the harder walk would join HF leader Helen and begin walking at about 10:30 under overcast skies. The group would have 11 people leaving the remaining 4 to explore the ins and outs of the peninsula in a leisurely fashion with Jim.

Although I did not know it at the time it is interesting to see what walks get done. I've since found what looks like it could be a wonderful alternative walk that would be more varied but require more fiddling about with local bus transportation (the public buses are reportedly pretty good) and the sea-cliff path might be a bit tough in places for groups. Our planned walk  can be best thought of as two distinct walks: the Levada do Caniçal and the track to Boca do Risco. The levada runs about 8  miles and the track is an out-a and-back trail that climbs for about a mile gaining some 600 feet as it heads north to a wonderful lookout at Boca do Risco.
Overlooking the Machico valley. We immediately get on the Levada do Caniçal. The town is, I think, Maroços and we end at Caniçal but I'm not certain. 

Walking along the levada is easy. It is nice enough too though perhaps a bit boring. You hear the sounds of the town down in the Machico valley below pretty much all the time. Now and then someone was calling out through a loudspeaker what sounded like the same thing over and over, kids screamed in playgrounds, ever-present dogs barked and roosters crowed, a goat would bleat now and then, and construction. Now and then it would quiet down and birdsong would intrude but if you are looking for a hike where the sounds of civilization do not intrude this one isn't it. That is until you get to the start of the path, Vereda da Boca do Risco, that leads north and into the hills towards Boca do Risco.  By this time the clouds had lifted and the sun was blazing down. It was well into the 60s if not 70 and we decided to take a morning break (elevenses) before assaulting the path.  For some reason the section of levada seemed to be home to several kittens and small cats. We found one particularly aggressively nice begging cat at this point. She sure wanted to mooch off of the softer touches in the group. 

The track winds up past homesteads with their dogs but soon leaves them and man made sounds behind as it wends its way up a good trail into the hills of pine, small yellow - and just opened - flowers, eucalyptus, and more. There are some rocky bits that slowed me down a bit but it is overall an easy path to follow that should not give anyone trouble. In about a mile you arrive at the northern facing cliff and can gaze down and out upon the Atlantic Ocean. It was a very fine view even if it was a bit breezy. A fine place for lunch once you found a spot out of the worst of the wind. The return journey might take you a few minutes longer just because going down can be tougher than going up but certainly most people will be down within a half hour. This is a popular track. We saw two trail runners and at least a half dozen other walkers usually in groups of two or three. I can understand why it is a favored spot.
Views from the "dangerous pass" (Boca do Risco). It takes about a half an hour to climb the good path from the levada. A few short rocky bits will slow you slightly but they're hardly worth mentioning. Footing is good and I doubt anyone would feel exposed. 
We were struck by this lovely tiny house. Like many it had a garden plot nearby. 

But, after the out-and-back hike we had to return to the Levada do Caniçalmar and the many miles of its twisting path through barranco a of the Machico valley. It is remarkable how twisty these water channels can seem to be. In and out of little canyons we strode ever onward upstream. In time we came to a nice snack bar (and yes that was what it was called) and were able to enjoy tea and such. The ice cream sandwiches (sorta) we had were at least as good as the hotel desserts which is a sad commentary on the latter.  When we left the cafe we still had a good 4 miles to go and so we plowed on. This is the downside of the walk. It feels a bit lengthy as it is, in a way, unchanging. But that is also a bit unfair because you do see interesting things like the extensive terraced small farm plots being worked (often just tilled) to many intriguing tiny houses snuggled into the mountainsides. Eventually we worked our way into the town of Caniçalmar (I think) and found the other hikers waiting for us) They had had an interesting day too apparently seeing quite a bit even though they only walked about 4.5 miles.  By this time, it was a bit past 16:00 the skies had clouded up again but that was hardly any concern. We piled into the buses and returned to the hotel in short order having all had a fine day even though it had started out with a bump.

Watch video of the hike. 

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