MADEIRA: Camacha to Santo da Serra 12th December

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The day dawned with a line of cloud out to sea hanging over the Desertas.
Our 20km hike for the day started with a climb out of the village, past the church with it’s Christmas crib.

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We were going to gain over 200m over the day and most of that was in the first few km. We had left the Levada dos Tornos behind and were climbing up to join the higher Levada da Santo do Faial. On route we past a motley collection of dwellings and gardens including the very modest number 54.

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We joined the sunlit and oak lined levada and wended our way around a steep and narrow valley, crossing a stream and admiring the gardens, and a gardener making his elderly way up the steep cobbled steps between his plots.

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The levada was an old stone built one unlike the concrete of the Tornos but was dry as it made its way around the terraced valley before disappearing into a tunnel and leaving us to walk a quiet road for a few km through the little hamlet of Ribeiro Serrao. There were more ingenious aids to gardening on the steep slopes including corrugated iron slides and tyre terrace walls. No space was left untilled.

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One house perched high above the road had an electric winch for hauling up the shopping and whatever and we were overtaken by an old lady carrying her shopping on her head.

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The surroundings were deeply peaceful and rural and the only sound came from the splashing and gurgling river below. The local bus network was very impressive however with request stops every couple of 100 m.
It wasn’t long before we were off again through the woods of oak, chestnut and eucalyptus which, in the dappled sunlight, reminded us strongly of hiking the Bibbulmen trail in Western Australia.

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There had been fires here too at some time and unfortunately the grand majestic oaks had suffered in places.

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Whenever the levadas came near to habitation they were lit as obviously still used as popular paths between places and street lights would often be visible in unlikely spots.

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The waters were controlled in many ways, with stepped waterfalls and tunnels and canals alongside rivers.

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We suddenly emerged onto a road with a transport yard and abandoned piggery before plunging back into the deep forest beside the levada.

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The walkers on the sign indicating the way had a very jaunty step we did our best to match as we admired the verdant vegetation which now included huge ferns, laurel and tree heather.

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We had read that this was a very popular trail and to expect a crocodile line of walkers and we finally past a few coming up from Santo da Serra. The first fellow, who looked like he knew what he was doing with all his kit and his busy pace, turned out to be a Brit who had a b+b in Funchal and took out walking groups. He filled us in on the fires and as we walked over a new bridge explained that it had been put there after the devastating flood of 2010 had washed everything away.

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We left the levada at Lombo das Faias and went downhill on a track, past an unusual tea house/ trout fishing park and an unusual bull tied up by his headband.

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Another km of track past some finely positioned houses and a timber yard led us down to the main Er102 road and very shorty after our hotel on the outskirts of Santo da Serra, with fine views of the surrounding hills we would be scaling in the morning.

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