Camacha to Monte - By Alan Garner
Many people who want to walk on Madeira look to the levadas – the water channels that criss cross the island – to guide them through this fabulous countryside.
Whilst Secret Hills Walking offer mountain and coastal walks mainly, they do offer this lovely walk usually on day one – so we can look at the variety of the geology, geography, flora – as well as testing the legs.
Take the bus to Camacha – beware it may be colder when you get there than the balmy warmth of Funchal.
Make you way to Estalagem Café Relogio --- which hosts a vast collection wicker work-from baskets to animals, coffee to start maybe.
Cross the square opposite the Relogio and look for signs to Levada da Serra da Faial - walking past ---- and uphill to reach the levada – 15 minutes’ walk. Turn left onto the levada- and in 20 minutes of walking – past the “cycle” house and to the café /bar at Café Bar Moises. Carry on and this part is of the walk is on Paradise Valley – lovely flowers and bushes ion bloom most of the year.
Keep going for another 45 minutes or so - easy walking – sometimes you meet many tourists in large groups walking this easy and iconic levada stretch
Cross several roads including Caminho da Madeira, then the levada runs now dry- until you meet a cobbled road – this road comes down steeply from right to left – leave the levada and take this downwards- steeply here- take your time – the cobbles can be tricky if wet.
You reach the football stadium of Madeira – and you can get refreshments here.
Eventually after 15 minutes from turning onto this downwards stretch – you reach the Levada dos Tornos, where you turn right onto it.
Another 20 minutes further on, you enter the Choupana Hills Resort------ evidence of fire damage here- proceed through this area, then you will wind your way to the head of several valleys, in a long series of V bends.
It takes about 45 minutes to reach the hill village of Romeiros. You could end the walk here – buses to Funchal, but carry on through the village- leave the levada by steps and keep right through the village to a viewpoint looking over the valley between Monte and Romeiros – take the path slightly down hill, with the cliff face on you right. You will meet a winding path – cobbles Madeira style – as it descends sharply – to the valley floor below. Over a bridge and take the path upwards on the opposite side of the valley to eventually meet the cable car station – Monte to the Botanical gardens.
From here enter the village of Monte- walk past a couple of cafes, then the cable car station for the Funchal to Monte cable car, then the magical Tropical gardens.
Then watch – and maybe take part in the world famous toboggan chair ride.
Arriving Monte, the highlight is the magnificent panoramic view over Funchal bay that the 550 meters above the sea have to offer. Cooler climate hovering in the air and a peaceful environment, are for some, an asset that Monte Palace Municipal Garden covers much of this parish and immediately invites you to go for a walk. Beautiful flowers, ancient trees, some exotic species and the amazing landscape create a romantic environment.
Then it is imperative to visit another garden: The Monte Palace Tropical Garden! One of the richest places from a cultural point of view that Madeira has to offer.
Integrated in Quinta Monte Palace, owned by the José Berardo Foundation, this garden features a huge collection of 100 000 exotic plants coming from various countries (the millennials "Cycads" are the main attraction), a collection of tile panels, exhibitions, contemporary African sculpture, a pond with Koi fishes, a beautiful oriental garden and several minerals from all over the World.
It is in this parish that by the middle of August takes place one of the biggest festivities in Madeira. "Nossa Senhora do Monte" (Our Lady of Monte) is celebrated and thousands of people gather in this festival. You can try some of the Madeiran gastronomy at the traditional food and drink stalls; the “bolo do caco” bread, the meat kebabe, the “Carne-de-vinho-e-alhos (bread with meat marinated in wine and garlic)... Traditional music is also present through musical instruments made in our island. The most important day is August 14th, where many join the pilgrimage to the “Igreja da Nossa Senhora do Monte” (Our Lady of Monte church).
Further on is the square of Monte – a couple of cafes and an interesting garden of the town just below the square,
Buses to Funchal from here – the stop is just beyond the square, but also you can take the cable car – a magnificent ride over the roof tops of Funchal
This walk is 17 kilometres long.