Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Madeira Hiking Day 4: Boca da Corrida and Chao dos Terreiros

(Apologies for typos and the like).
 My notes for this hike are a bit less precise. I believe that we started at the viewpoint at Boca as Corrida which provides views of, amend other valleys the Jardim da Serra. We were a couple kilometers west and a couple hundred meters higher up from the viewpoints where we began our trek down into the Valley of the Nuns the day before. It is a 45 minute mountains roads (I have a suspicion there is just one major road winding through but surely that is wrong) from Santa Cruz and our hotel in Caniço. On a clear day I am confident the views would be very good but I was enthralled by what I saw on this overcast mid-morning. The path is pretty much a two-track at first but soon we would join a proper mountain trail that sees plenty of animal traffic judging by the cow pies left behind. We crossed some small streams and plenty of mud in the early going. 

We sallied forth on a good path, a mountain road of sorts. The clouds would soon lift and are views would improve as we walked westerly eventually coming to our first proper mountain trail. This trail would take us around a ridge down into a valley and over a couple small streams. ALong the way we had to take care dodging cow pies. Madeira does have some cattle and clearly a portion of them spend time grazing in these particularly mountains. It was a treat to be in the mountains and away from the encroachment of more populated areas (granted nothing is really far away so you take what you can get).  

The trail was easily followed and I am certain it is popular as it was well maintained. In time we would work our way around a valley and to a dirt road where the people tackling the shorter walk would turn and head down into the valley to the village of Fontes. Our group would head up the road into the higher reaches to visit the viewpoint (and trig point I think) at Chao dos Terreiros. To get there would followed the dirt road up and up. It is hard packed with little undulations in the roadbed to catch the unwary foot. It could easily be a slippery walking surface but really should not pose any problems for people. Perhaps the bigger concern are the number of cows you will pass within touching distance. AFter all, they're a lot bigger than a person. I had no inclination to touch one. They minded their business and we minded them as we walked on by.

Madeira's cows. We followed a mountain road later in the morning climbing high. Along the way we came within touching, no one did, distance if many cows, bulls and calves. 

We left the dirt road for grassy track, crossing a broken down stile (fences help control grazing) and then climbed gently for most of 1.2km (the last little bit is steeper as you gain about 90m to the top) to the viewpoint. Our group spread out a bit at this point as some decided the views were good enough just below the topmost point.  I went to the top and while the view was certainly better it won't knock your socks off compared to what you see just below though you do have a broader vista in all directions. By this time the day had warmed to about 70F and the sun was pretty much completely out. Clouds zipped by a bit during our lunch break but though a tad breezy on the flat top of our viewpoint it was a fine place to relax for 40 minutes before retracing our steps back down.
A view from our highint if the walk.  I believe this highpoint is at Chao dos  Terreiros at about 4,700 feet above sea level.

From that point on we would follow a mountain road down to the village of Fontes. It is an easy road walk and the views, especially at the start, of the valleys dropping steeply away from the road were impressive. Eventually a Levada would join us as we walked on down and soon we would pass below tree line and start hearing sounds of civilization again. Dogs barking, goats bleating, a rooster crowing, and underneath it all the gurgle of a Levada flowing by.  It is an easy descent into the village and we were able to have a quick snack and drink at a cafe at the end of our hike before piling into the bus to head home.
Jim and Ken. The remaining 2 or so miles follows a sometimes mud slick mountain road down below tree line, past homesteads with bleating goats, along a levada into the village of Fontes.  

Watch the video of our third hike here.

Hike length: 7.5 miles with ascent of about 1,200 feet and descent of 2,100 feet. The bulk of the descent happens in the last 3.5 miles from the viewpoint at Chao dos Terreros (4,700 feet) to Fontes (3,100 feet).

Bonus:  We stopped briefly at the sea cliffs  Cabo Girão. I understand these cliffs are 590 (or was it 580) mets high making them the second highest sea cliffs in the world. THey're de definitely a tourist spot with a glass platform you can stand on and look down through towards the cliff face below (I found the view uninteresting through the glass). Gaze out over the railing and from side to side to get a better sense of the scale of things. I suppose it is worth a visit if it is on your way to someplace else already but if all there is to see there are the cliffs from the platform and a chance for a bite to eat at the cafe I'm not sure it is worth a visit for for itself.  

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