With a short hike of only 12km to do we took it handy in the morning and didn’t get on the road till 9.30. We had to retrace up steps up to the levada at Lombo das Faias so we headed out past the roundabout with a tribute statue to the cider making industry of the area.
The track up beyond the bull and the trout ponds was strangely coloured as it climbed through the big cedars. >
Where we rejoined the waterway there was a water tower and system of sluices sending the clear cold life giving liquid a variety of ways. Dated 1906 the tower was a favourite rest stop for hikers who sat under the fantastically contorted cedars.
On the way there had been the usual mass of flowers coveted at home including nasturtium , hydrangea and agapanthus which are both used to hold the soil together on the steep slopes ,and for the first time, dahlia. As we entered the dark laurisilva forest we came upon species of bay and tree heathers, Madeira mahogany and what looked like Arbutus. Somewhere lurking in there were other trees we could not identify like the til, lily of the valley tree and wax myrtle. There were also some impressive tree ferns and on a smaller scale, lots of little mosses and liverworts beside the water.
Passing a small tunnel and crossing a stream bed we reached another water tower at our journeys highest point, 862m where other paths led off into the mountains. We however were now going to follow the Levada da Portela down and down to Portela at 600m and then down paths to Quinta da Capela at about 300m.
we reached the viewpoint and bars at Portela where we soaked up the view of the northern coast and Porto da Cruz before having a coffee and buying more flower bulbs and some unknown fruit and veg like apple custard.
(I’m afraid the last section of this blog, the tale of the journey from Portelo to Santo da Cruz, got sucked into some data limbo land and was never seen again so I’m attempting to write it again)
We also sampled some of the local cider which turned out to be dry, flat and a bit sour like scrumpy. It was also strong and so probably not the best thing to be drinking before we started the long long descent of the Camino Municipal. It was an exquisitely crafted cobbled stairway but it was very steep and very long.
The north side of the island was even lusher than what we had been in so far. The trade winds mostly come in from the northeast and drop their load on the mountains sticking their fingers up to them. There was water running and dripping everywhere and it all looks lush. A wider variety of plants than in the eucalyptus forests and the bird life seemed to appreciate it. We heard more birdsong than we had.
The little homesteads clinging to the hillsides cultivated every inch they could, and with a huge array of crops, a lot of which we couldn’t recognise. And there were flowers everywhere.
Eventually, after a couple of Km of slippy steps we made it down onto a flat road where we turned toward our sanctuary for the night, a 17th century house with adjoining chapel perched on a knoll high above the road with views down the valleys to Santo and the sea and back up into the tree clad peaks.