Pico do Arieiro, Ribeiro Frio, Balcoes & Curral das Freiras

Community Highlights Europe Pico do Arieiro, Ribeiro Frio, Balcoes & Curral das Freiras

Tuesday, July 23, 2019 Day 12

On the road to Pico do Arieiro the road ranking standards we developed in Douro were updated. We now have a category of 'excessively steep and excessively windy'. It seems to apply to most of Madeira. Fortunately most cars are small and the drivers are courteous. Pico do Arieiro is the 2nd highest peak on Madeira at about 5,900 feet. It freezes every night up there and tourist shop at the lookout sells sweaters and jackets. Fortunately we got Arieiro on a clear day so the views were spectacularly sharp, dropping down to the valley below with the ocean in the background. We got there fairly early and soon the tour buses and a trekkers arrived. There is a 2 hour hike to the very top which takes around 2 hours to reach but is only a couple of hundred feet higher.

Our next destination was Ribeiro Frio (cold river) where there is a trout hatchery, you can pick out your trout and have it for lunch.


Instead of doing that, we headed up a 1.5 km. trail through a laurel forest to the lookout known as Balcoes (balcony). Madeira has a very old irrigation system called Levadas that is still in use today. These interlinking handmade canals bring water down out of the hills on to the fields below and into the city. Often hiking trails follow the Levadas. The Balcoes looked out over towards more incredibly steep peaks, down, very down, into the valley below, over a small town and to the ocean in the distance.


Time for lunch so we found a restaurant that served a local specialty called Espetada. Originally cooked on laurel branch, today they are often cooked over an open fire on a stainless skewer with various forms of meat and coated in butter; tasty.


Now is the part where both Google and our GPS let us down. With all the hills it seems to have a bit of trouble keeping up. Up and down and around and then back again on impossibly steep and winding roads then through a few very long tunnel, we eventually found Curral das Freiras, (the Valley of the Nuns). The nuns had moved to the valley in the 1600's to avoid pirates that kept raiding Funchal. The small community they founded, in what is possibly a caldera surrounded by high cliffs on all sides, is a very long a steep hike up from the ocean then down into the hidden valley. Today the community survives on tourism and agriculture, mostly based on chestnuts. We tried the chestnut liquor but were not impressed. The chestnut cake is going to be tonight’s desert after our dinner.


The ride home was much more direct. It's a lovely, warm evening.

This featured blog entry was written by fredgailmiller from the blog Gail/Fred/Portugal/2019.
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By fredgailmiller

Posted Tue, Jul 23, 2019 | Portugal | Comments