Today I have something special for you – the first post from a new Europe for a weekend cycle, which we decided to create together with Michael from @snapshotsbymb.
The Europe for a weekend project was conceived in our heads because of our passion for photography, for beautiful natural or wild places and for outdoor adventures as well.
Michael and I strongly believe in the synergy effect and that a team is always stronger than an individual. We want to show you how great you could spend time in Europe, even without any longer planned leave but using, for example, “long weekends”. We hope that this series would become an inspiration for your European excursions.
Madeira – the island of pure magic
The first will be Madeira, which we recently visited. The island of “eternal spring”, as they say, because the temperature doesn’t drop there below 15 Celsius. For me, this island is full of seasons – all four of them. During our stay there we experienced heats, downpours, bitter cold and moderate breezes. I don’t remember of all my trips a place full of such diverse climate, which in only few days treated us to so completely different temperatures, and as a result also different landscapes. But this makes Madeira a truly magical island. An island, which surprises you at every turn, enraptures with mystery, diversity and extremes.
For me it is, above all, full of unbelievable, harsh and untouched nature. It’s a bit like a time capsule. You have the feeling that you are on Madeira but sometimes you don’t believe your eyes, because the deeper you go, the more spots you discover, it suddenly takes you to the green Bali, to the hazy Hawaii or to the windy Scotland.
During my stay on Madeira I felt all the time like I was traveling to different places, like I was experiencing a déjà vu: I’ve seen something like that before, something smelled very similarly or I’ve been here before. But this was my first trip to this island. I tell you, this is pure magic and a flavor of mystery, which triggers a pleasant tingling of slight anxiety at the back of your neck.
I am absolutely sure that you will be delighted with the places I’m going to show you as much as I was. Let’s begin with my favorite one, which surprised me the most but in the same time put me through the real mill.
Verde waterfall – welcome to the tropical Madeira
That day promised to be one of the more difficult days, because before we even went to the waterfall trail, we decided to get up early and catch the sunrise in the mountains, the most beautiful place on Madeira (more about it in the next post). Well, it meant that we slept only for 2 hours, got up at 4 AM, so we were dragging ourselves along the road barely conscious but knowing that ahead of us were many hours of walking.
The contrast was unbelievable. First a morning on austere rocky ledges with clouds below our feet and a few hours later – a seething green, foggy forest.
The Caldeirão Verde Levada – often called also Queimadas, because it is situated in the Queimadas Forest Park – runs among the hills and the trail leads through a dense, tropical forest, which is full of mysterious clouds of fog.
We started the route at a closed Casa de Abrigo das Queimadas hostel, next to which there is a parking lot but if it’s full, you can leave your car at a narrow access road (attention here! do not park too close to the brink of the bluff, so that the car wouldn’t slip off with the mud).
At the beginning everything looked like an ordinary trail but with every kilometer we plunged into the green, hazy abyss, advancing step by step along the chasm. The levada path lead along a narrow wall of a canal, separated from the slope only with a rope, attached to posts, concreted there.
It got much more complicated after another kilometer, because the drizzle turned into an unremitting rain. It poured for the next 6 hours.
You should know that you can walk the Caldeirão Verde Levada in both directions, so there and return. There is no way to walk this trail in such a way to start at one end, finish at the other and then take a bus or a cab. You have to walk all the 13 kilometers, which takes about 7 hours. So, if you decide to take up this challenge, there is generally no way to back out of it.
Submerged in fog and dense forest
We couldn’t return, so even though it rained cats and dogs, we waded among the palm trees leaves, surrounded by the sounds of the forest and darkness, which became more and more impenetrable. At first you try to fight it off, you cover yourself with your raincoat, hide your stuff, trying not to walk through the bigger puddles. But after an hour everything is so soaked that you don’t even care. You just resign yourself to your fate, you become a part of the drenched landscape and the whole tiredness and annoyance leave you along with the streams of rain, flowing off you onto the ground.
Because there is only a very small difference of heights, the levada is not a difficult one. The problem is not in the climbs but the length of the trail and its specific nature. It’s narrow and slippery. If someone walks past you from the opposite direction, one of you has to flatten him or herself to the rocky ledge, because the route is so small that two persons are not able to walk it abreast.
Michael and I like taking trips against the stream – literally and metaphorically, so we decided to start in the moment when most of the tourists were returning – so in the afternoon. We were aware that we would be coming back at sunset and, probably, at worse weather too but we had a goal – we wanted to reach the waterfall when no one else would be around. And believe me, being there alone with the nature was worth all the struggles.
This trail is also famous of its tunnels, carved in the rocks, without any source of light, so you should have a headlamp or a torch – some of these tunnels are quite long and you walk there in complete darkness and silence. It’s gloomy.
The deeper we went into the forest the more narrow the trail got, the wall was more and more narrow, the rain increased and the fog literally clung tightly to us. We were absolutely alone, not a soul around, no way to take a turn and escape sideways. We could only push forward, because walking back would take as much time as if we just continued the trip. I don’t know what you think about it but such places always impress me and they separate real hikers from the tourists. You can’t quit, you can’t sit in the middle of the road and whine, because no one cares that you’re drenched and hungry. You’re surrounded only by the nature, which is uncompromising, inviolable and overpowering with its strength and your only option is get your stuff together and reach your destination. I guess nothing teaches humility more than this.
The closer we were to the waterfall, the more the ubiquitous aura of mystery wrapped around us. The green was more and more dense, we literally forced our way through the thicket of palm trees leaves and streams, flowing down the slopes. The birds were more and more silent, while the swoosh of the falling water became louder.
We were getting closer…
At a sharp bend we quickened the pace. The waterfall was only 150 meters away and even though it was so close, we were not able to see it through the dense forest. My impatience grew as I was climbing slippery rocks one after another. Finally I saw it and I became weak in the knees. A spectacular, huge, over 100 meters high waterfall, emerged from the thick mist.
Again the same impression – it was the Madeira and there I had the feeling that I was standing in the middle of the Brazilian jungle. Blink of an eye and I returned to the real world. We stood there a few minutes in silence, both delighted with the view. Then we grabbed our cameras and separated, running off in different directions. Michael climbed the rocks, to be able to capture the magnitude of the waterfall from a perspective, while me, fascinated with more and more beautiful fronds of fem, got completely immersed in the forest, which surrounded the waterfall.
We were absolutely alone there, once more praising ourselves under our breaths that we decided to challenge this adventure back to front.
The rain didn’t stop even for the slightest while but I have to admit that in that moment I didn’t even feel the raindrops falling on me. Moreover, I was delighted that everything was plunged in the darkness, haze and rain. I wouldn’t change it for neither sunshine, nor blue skies. It was exactly like it should have been. And it was perfect.
This was also the moment, when I felt for the first time this day that the whole adrenaline just vanished and the fatigue almost overpowered me. Michael took a picture of me in this very moment.
What do you see in it? I see a girl, who slept only 2 hours just to climb for 6 hours in heavy rain to reach a hidden waterfall. All of this simply to admire the beauty of the world and to take pics of fronds of fem. This adventure is a story of passion and soul of a true explorer. Sometimes I am drenched to the skin in the rain, exhausted and frustrated but I am never unhappy. I will pay every price for moments like this.
Madeira delighted me and made me feel the magic again. And this was only the beginning of this journey…