Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo on Madeira

General info

The week before Easter the whole family on my wifes side went on vacation to Madeira. Madeira is a small island located in the Atlantic ocean, off the west coast of north Africa. It’s an autonomous region of Portugal. The island is relatively small, but it’s full of mountains, and the capital Funchal is built on the mountainside. The highest point of the island is Pico Ruivo, at 1862 meters above sea level. Madeira is a mecka for day hikers, as the island has a system of more than 2,170 km of levadas, accompanied with a walking trails. Levadas are aqueducts made to carry water to the agricultural regions.

Trip report

The trail between Pico do Arieiro and Pico Ruivo offers some stunning views, as you hike on the top of the island. The round-trip is about 12 km. On Pico do Arieiro theres a big parking lot, and the road to Pico do Arieiro is in good shape.

As me and my wife drove from the house we rented in Funchal, we left the 20°C and palm trees for colder weather. As we came higher up the mountain we first drove through Eucalyptus forests. Even higher than that the Eucalyptus trees got replaced with a really old-looking spruce forest. It didn’t feel like we were close to the equator, but we could just as well have been in an old forest in the Nordic. The spruce forest was a lot more beautiful than I’m used to though, since most of the spruce forests in the south of Sweden consists of dense plantations.

Even higher than that bushes and grass replaced the spruces. We saw a man and his teenage son hitchhiking and picked them up. They were on their way to Pico do Arieiro and was going to hike the same trail as we did.

When we came to the parking lot it was full. We dropped our passengers off and drove down the road and parked at the side of it.

The skies were partly clouded, and the air was cool. I was glad that I had brought my synthetic puffy.

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The wind blew hard, and the trail was narrow at places, with steep sides. My wife has a fear of heights, and that fear was even bigger than she knew before this hike. But she overcame it and hiked the entire trail, despite the the height.

Almost the entire hike we had clouds around us, or just above our heads. On most parts of the trail there was wires as a fence from the cliffs. But in several places the poles had come lose, and the wires hung outside of the cliffs.

After a few km there is an intersection. The right trail is supposed to be a harder trail than the left one. But it was closed, so we took the left one instead, which goes through a series of tunnels.

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When we came near Pico Ruivo we passed a dead forest. The trees, with branches that had been twisted by wind, had died from a fire. The boles where pale and white, with the cracks painted black by soot.

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Just under the top of Pico Ruivo there is a cabin. We were hungry, and hoped it would be a cabin that sold food, but unfortunately it was closed. We rested for a while and ate the snacks we’d brought and then hiked the last 500 meters up to the top of Pico Ruivo. The top was covered in clouds so we didn’t get any spectacular views.

We found a geocach on the top, and after we logged it we turned back towards Pico Arieiro. As we hiked back we saw two pigeon-sized birds next to the trail. They were probably quite used to humans as they sat still while we photographed them.

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On the last stretch back to the car the trail was covered in fog, and the wind blew hard. We had brought too little food and were both very hungry. The fog made the parts on the image below feel almost magic. It felt like the trail was floating in the clouds.

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When we came back to the parking lot we stopped by the restaurant there and bought my new favorite fast food. A Portuguese steak sandwich. Two slices of Portuguese bread with garlic butter, a steak and a fried egg (plus cheese and ham, if you like the special). It was both cheap and delicious, and well needed after the hike.

Tomorrow evening I’ll be back on the trail, as I’ll hike Sigfridsleden from Asa to Växjö. It’ll be great to get a couple of nights under the stars again.

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