Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A walk down the Nuns Path in Madeira

While I have talked about our scary levada walk and our beautiful walk in Baia D'abra on the island of Madeira, I haven't mentioned the "Nuns path" we did the last day of our one week stay on this beautiful island.

The village of Curral das Freiras (known as Valley of the Nuns in English) is situated deep in the mountainous interior of the island.  It obtained its name as a result of the nuns of the Convent of Santa Clara taking refuge here from attacks by French pirates back in the 15th century.  It is accessible by either a steep winding road into the valley or a 4.8 km steep winding (mostly) cobbled basalt path.

Our airbnb host Jorge is a teacher at a school in this village and said we should definitely walk this path.  He offered to take us when he went to work and pick us up at one of the local restaurants in the village.  (he didn't specify which one as there were only two)  As he helps out with sports events his shifts can vary...

So that's how we found ourselves in Jorge's car heading inland mid afternoon on Tuesday January 27th.   Jorge dropped us off on a main road and indicated a road opposite that would lead us to the start of the walk in apporoximately fifteen minutes. 

Before I continue I must thank my friend June who let me use most of her photos here...I was too freaked out to take many photos sad to say.  June owns and operates Treadon Travel. so was interested in the different walks on the island with the idea of running a walking trip there. (which would be an awesome one)

The white buildings (Eira do Serrado) are where the hike started - at this point we didn't know that and hoped to hell that was it!

Finally after forty five minutes (fifteen minutes Jorge?  I don't think so!) of walking on a winding mountain road (luckily not busy at all except for the odd tourist coach roaring past) we reached Eira do Serrado where the walk was to begin.  I had a quick toilet stop and we were off.

How's that for an official sign.  Due to construction they moved the beginning of the path.
I have to walk all the way down there????? 

Here we go....
As you can see the path was pretty wide and stayed that way for a good portion of the way although there were some narrow parts.  The "fence" beside it disappeared at times however. - lots of times!  It would not be a good path to do on a rainy day.  Sadly my vertigo cut in pretty badly - I will spare you the details.  I had taken my "happy pills" so my knees were okay except when we encountered steeper steps...then they grumbled. .I muttered and cursed my way down (bringing out my special "roller coaster" language at times - used previously on the levada walk)  and what was supposed to be a walk of just over an  hour turned into a two hour trek.  June was a doll and found a long branch and turned it into a walking stick for me which helped a lot. 

I liked this part of the path! Nice and flat and foliage hiding the drop!
Easy does it - looks easy but when you have vertigo, a HUGE fear of falling and wrecking your dream trip and progressive lens... not so simple. 

See the moon....
We were battling against time as dusk was going to be settling in soon and we were still working our way down.  Well I was...June would have been in the village on her second glass of wine if it wasn't for me!!! 

It's getting closer! 
This was getting near the end...

Stairs - my worst nightmare normally - but I can see the street!  Whee!  (and make that a large white please!)

Almost there
And then we walked into the village...the first restaurant we tried was closing up so I had time to buy a quick post card and then we carried on to the next restaurant.  We never got a chance to explore the village but from what I've read there really isn't much there.  People go for the trip into the valley.  The other restaurant was open thank goodness or who knows what we would have done....I even posed as a nun in front of the restaurant - I was so giddy with excitement that I had walked down a mountain! 

Chestnut soup
We both ordered wine...and bring it quickly!  Chestnut soup is a local specialty so we ordered it.  Okay I've tried it...not something either of us would have again.  What I had for the main course I can't tell you...or was there even a main course but there was wine....

About 90 minutes later in strides Jorge all smiles.  He told us he had second thoughts after dropping us off and was worried as he knew I had bad knees but then thought "oh well I know people in the mountain rescue group and they will go and help them out".  Okay!  So off we headed back home with Jorge via the windy mountain road - it was pitch black out and we couldn't see a thing which was probably just as well! 

Despite the stress, worry and cursing all the way down I am glad that I did the Nuns path.  It is a good walk if you are fairly fit, wear suitable footwear and don't suffer from vertigo.  I wouldn't recommend it for children under ten as there are no safety rails.  This is considered a moderate trail - it starts at 3,445 feet and ends at 2,034 feet.  Oh and don't do it on a rainy day and walk DOWN not up! 


-pat- said...

Sister Laurie

Junebug said...

Imagine that!!! Sister Laurie... Mother Laurie.... Santa Laurie.... Bahahaha
This was an amazing day!! I loved it, but it was a long way down. So glad we did it.

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