Our hiking circle around eastern Madeira continued with a 15km loop around the finger of shattered land that sticks out into the Atlantic pointing towards the Moroccan coast 600km away.
Madeira is essentially a volcanic island, and enough basalt from deep within the earth had spewed onto the ocean floor to eventually create an island rising above the ocean. activity is thought to have finished approximately 25,000 years ago, and we were going to see some fine examples of the weathered remains of all that upheaval.
We had to climb up out of town past the docks and industrial zone and an area that must have contained or produced most of the islands energy needs, with masses of oil storage tanks, windmills and a vast solar farm where the panels seem to have been laid on the ready made slopes of a conveniently angled hill.
Once clear of the industry the road narrowed and climbed past some fine seaview properties with exotic plantings back up to the north coast, affording us a reminder of the wild grandeur we had walked the day before.
We followed a side track up to a mirador at Pedras Brancas for a spectacular view to the east.
We headed off road, skirting around the perimeter fencing of some installation bristling with masts and antenna and followed a rugged path past strange lava formations.
We climbed down to a flat area atop the cliff edge for a view towards the pinnacles of rock in the sea at Pedra Furada before crossing back to the south and joining the main route around what is now a Natural Park, shown by the red line on the map above.
We joined a good few other folk there as there was a car park and this was a walk “to do”. Coaches released crocodiles of people to get as far as they could in the allotted time along the, at times, rugged track.
The landscape was big and thrilling enough and the season late enough for us not to worry about sharing the paths and we headed happily up the broad wooden boardwalks. There were sections of steps cut into the rock and other places where the path was supplied with cable fencing.
We had fine views along the coasts both north and south and back inland towards the high mountains to the west, still wreathed in cloud. We had done very well with the weather. According to an ex pat we had met there had been a lot of rain since October and there was more promised after we left. Apart from the slight drizzle at Porto da Cruz we’d had fine walking conditions, not too hot or cold and mercifully, not too windy on the narrow coastal cliff paths.
It was nice to be walking across the open country after the equally nice , but enclosed, wooded levadas.
Dramatic examples of classic volcanic/ geologic structures were open to view in textbook fashion. Banded colours of rock made abstract patterns of the landscape and weirdly hued and shaped lava were like natures sculpture.
The weathering by wave and wind over eons had left a place both attractive and hellish, at times a strangely alien ,but familiar,world.
The “Seahorses” rocks soaring like spears from the waves at Pedra Furada were different shades of grey and ochre as were the cliffs behind.
We clambered through the lava on a narrow path atop a jagged ridge at Estreito
where we were astride the north and south of the island simultaneously in some kind of metaphor of our journey through the week.
We picnicked at Pico do Furado, the eastern end of our trip before turning back and retracing our steps against a rising tide of walkers.
After a welcome drink at a stall in the car park we followed the Tarmac road back and shorty arrived at our plushest accommodation. A bargain on Booking.com the 5* Quinta do Lorde Hotel/Resort/ Marina had obviously been some big developers wet dream during the boom but sadly had not fulfilled the fantasy. Laid out to resemble some ideal village it in fact was like something out of The Prisoner, the surreal tv show shot in Port Merrion’s strange surroundings.
The layers of villas and apartments arranged up the slopes were seemingly empty and forlorn whilst the hotel in the centre did its best to appear a going concern. We did what we could to behave like the attractive middle aged couple in the advertising video showing in the reception lobby, and had a dip in the pool adjoining our room, ambled around the many plazas, admired the infinity seawater pool and drunk a gin and tonic in the marina bar.
There were electric golf cars for driving the few guests about and we kept a wary eye out for giant white balls bouncing menacingly towards us.
As the sun set and the Christmas tree lit up outside the church (Presumably built for the wedding market) we retired to our second luxury bed of the trip with the wonderful peninsular of Ponta de Sao Lourenco stretching out its finger into the darkness.