Think about it for a while – when was the last time you visited a place that made you forget your name, where are you from, what year or even what time it was. A place where you didn’t feel the fatigue, your lack of sleep or the heavy backpack weighing you down. Such a spot that carried you away to the world, where only “now and here” is important, nothing else. Where all your problems disappear and you just feel so light, feel in such a peace and reconcilement with everything.
I’ve been on the road for almost 12 years. I’ve recently counted – this journey took me to 80 countries, 6 continents and thousands of different spots in various corners of the world.
The result of my long-standing trips is that they kind of make you used to the surrounding beauty and to unique landscapes. Suddenly something that should be a phenomenon becomes your reality and nothing unusual. Places that should leave you speechless and take your breath away turn into just another pretty spot. This process is really hard to stop. But, like with everything you experience every day, if you have it, you begin to take it for granted, like something obvious that you are entitled for.
Mother Nature vs. human – 1:0
I will honest with you – I was so afraid that all these journeys would make me stop feeling these intense emotions, this rapture, delight and appreciation that I am allowed to discover another beautiful place. That at some point even the most beautiful view would go unnoticed without even bringing a smile on my face. That all these places wouldn’t make my heart beat faster and that they simply would start to blur into one, pretty collage. Very few of professional travelers would ever admit to that but the worst nightmare for us is the burn-out syndrome. It’s tactless, inconvenient and simply not right to say that something doesn’t delight us much as it is expected of us. But it happens anyway. You know that I am always honest with you and I hope that you feel this while reading my articles. So, I would lie to you if I said that I always feel the same emotions as I did before.
Usually this is the moment when the surrounding world flicks me right into my nose. I visit a place that I don’t expect much, but the Mother Nature reminds me with all her power that I don’t know this world at all, that I’ve seen nothing yet and I am only starting to learn what beauty means.I am taught humility for my human arrogance and in the same time I breathed with such an inexpressible relief, because looking around, I start feeling gratitude and delight again. Mother Nature vs. human – 1:0. And I love losing to her like that.
Pico do Arieiro on Madeira was one of these places lately that made me forget about the whole world happening around me.
Third time lucky
We visited this peak three times, so the pictures you see in this post will differ quite a lot. This is the most fascinating thing – the same summit but it looked different every time. At least one thing is constant about this place – you have to be there at sunrise. Our first morning was difficult – only three hours of sleep, so we barely managed to drag ourselves out of our beds. We started off at 5 AM, driving in total darkness on a winding road towards the Pico do Arieiro peak. My motion sickness was, as usual, extremely happy to ride along. It takes about 25 minutes to leave Fuchal city but then you can drive very close to the peak, where a free car park is.
The first sunrise at Pico do Arieiro was clear, intensely orange, the clouds were thin and they quickly disappeared over the horizon, letting us see the layers of the view and the surrounding mountains.
We visited both observation decks – one right next to the car parking and the second one, about one kilometer further. The path between these decks was delightful, not even to mention the view that spread in front of our eyes. I was already charmed with what I saw but I had heard stories that it still wasn’t the best you could experience there.
Michael and I came back happy but not fully satisfied, because the mountain peaks were not bundled up in clouds. It would have to be foggy and rainy, instead of beautifully sunny, like it was then. Besides, I think it was the first place, in which I secretly hoped that the weather would get worse and that it would start to rain.
The next climb, which happened 2 days later, was not easier for us at all and I can’t say that you can get used to getting up at 4 AM. Definitely not if you were editing pictures till 2 AM. Well, those are the charms of travel blogging!
With our eyelids drooping, we did a re-run and this time it was a complete fiasco. When we reached the peak we were greeted by thick fog and rain so heavy that we were barely able to see anything more than our outstretched arms. We sat in the car for 40 minutes and it didn’t seem to improve even a little bit, so we drove back to our hotel. Someone took my prayers for foggy weather a bit too serious.
Surrounded by the clouds
We had the last chance a day before our departure, so it was a total shot in the dark. But, following the “third time lucky” rule, we decided to give it a shot.
Actually, driving to that peak again, I had no expectations whatsoever, because I didn’t actually know what kind of view we are fighting for. What I saw is very difficult to describe only with words, so I hope that our pictures would help me. When we started at the car park I knew already that this was it and the Mother Nature rewarded us for being stubborn and for getting up so early in the morning.
That day there were seemingly less people around, nothing and no one obscured the unbelievable space, spreading in front of us. From the above we could only see a sea of clouds.
And it looked literally like a sea, a vast view of bubbling waves. Surrealistic, monumental and engulfing everything. This was the moment when I was flicked in the nose. The beauty of the landscape left me speechless. I simply stood there in one place, afraid that had I moved or even blinked, everything I saw would have disappeared. This was the most touching moment during my Madeira trip and it’s worth to visit this magical island even only to see this place.
When the sun began to rise higher and higher above this slowly thinning cloud carpet, we set off to the second observation deck, which was about a kilometer away. It protrudes further above the valley, so you have the feeling like you were floating above the earth.
It was simply a fairy tale – the summits were enveloped in clouds, the sun lit them up slightly from below and the wind blew my hair around. I felt like I were the queen of the world and like I were capable of achieving anything.
And this was only the beginning… – the PR1 trail
Pico do Arieiro is 1818 meters high and it’s the third tallest peak of Madeira. Just to paint the picture for you, the tallest Pico Ruivo is only slightly higher – 1861 meters.
The connection between these two peaks – so the famous PR1 trail, leading through the Central Mountain Massif, is one of the most important and in the same time most challenging routes on the island. Narrow passages and the elevations go through tunnels, hewed through the mountains.
You can reach Pico Ruivo in various ways. From the south you can take Pico Arieiro trail, from the east the route from Achada do Teixeira, and from the north-west, driving from Ponta Delgada to Lomba do Urzal, where the Pico das Eirinhas trail begins, which leads to Pico Ruivo. You can also try going from Boca da Encumeada but this route is a long one.
The easiest climb is from the Achada do Teixeira side but you’ll get the most spectacular views on the most difficult trail, so from Pico do Arieiro. This route leads downhill at first and then uphill straight to the Pico Ruivo peak itself and on the return way you visit also Pico do Arieiro, so in fact you reach two summits.
I always persuade you to try traveling and discovering on your own but if you, for various reasons, can’t or won’t do it, I would not miss this place, not for the entire world.
An organized trip with a guide, from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo, costs about EUR 35. During such trip you would be picked up from your hotel, taken to Pico do Arieiro peak, then you walk the whole trail with a guide and at the end you’d get picked up at Pico Ruivo back to your hotel.
Another option for those who don’t want to rent a car or buy an organized trip, is… hitch-hiking or taking a public transportation to the bus stop most near to the peak and then trying to catch a lift to the summit. But this might be an extremely difficult task, if not impossible at all, if you want to see sunrise there, because at this hour in the morning, Fushal city is a totally empty place. You can also take a taxi, this is – next to renting a car – the most convenient and reliable option.
If you are not able to walk the whole 7 kilometers trail to Pico Ruivo, it’s not the end of the story for you! Believe me, this one kilometer long stretch between the observation decks at Pico do Arieiro is considered one of the most beautiful places and you can really get the feeling there that the world is at your feet.
The photos you can see in this post are the effect of my collaboration with Michael. We believe in the synergy effect, which is why we have decided to work together during this trip. We hope that it will be an inspiration for your European trips.