It appears like a Madeiran fairy tale, the starting point of the walk.
The radiance of the great star reveals it, as it penetrates the mantle of clouds that embraces the north and west. west of the island.
Mist comes, mist goes, the elongated lake is defined in the heart of Parque Florestal das Queimadas.
The ducks that splash in it furrow the dark water, surrounded by a contorted fence made of old branches.
Entrance to Parque Florestal das Queimadas
The park is forested. Everything about it is organic, verdant, natural. And, like most of Madeira, almost tropical. Hyperbole and lush ferns shine.
A little above, around, the trees and shrubs that make up the endemic vegetation of the Laurisilva, the heathers, foliage and perennials, Madeira cedars, the Tis, ancient examples of whitewood and mountain uveira, compete for the light. , Piornos, Sanguinhos and Leitugas.
They are lined with moss and lichens that the constant humidity keeps soaked and dripping.
Distinct from this almost-Atlantic jungle, two or three buildings, one of them overlooking, with a look that borders on the surreal.
It is known that, sooner or later, whoever lands discovering Madeira, marvels at the typical thatched roof houses, preserved and improved, in Santana.
And the House of Enchantment of Queimadas
For, in Queimadas, worthy of so many or more postcards, he points to the heavens an improvised version, if he is the victim of an insensitive, exaggerated comparison.
The A-shaped roof and striped front seem to emulate Tyrolean alpine architecture.
But snowfalls are rare in Madeira.
When they are given, they cover the supreme heights of the Picos das Torres (1853m), Ruivo (1861m), Arieiro (1818m) and related heights.
In its precocious eccentricity, the Casa das Queimadas was created to shelter walkers who, in the first quarter of the 1877th century, the international notoriety of Jardim do Atlântico Island, attracted to the forest, the centuries-old trail and levada (work from 1904-XNUMX ) that revealed the mysterious Caldeirão Verde to them.
Two other chosen hikes passed through Queimadas, Caldeirão do Inferno and Pico das Pedras.
The house was part of a network of hostel buildings, planned from 1877 and, at least until 1904, distributed among the places that visitors preferred to explore.
Adjusted to reality, at 990 meters of altitude, rain instead of snow, it was the peculiar style of the houses in Santana that gave rise to that of Queimadas.
More relaxed and cozy, taking into account the care needed for people who stayed there anxiously and returned tired.
As the execution of this network, the completion of the headquarters of Queimadas, took a while.
For more than three decades, authorities maintained an elementary version of the shelter.
From the Simple Shelter to the Madeiran Mansion that Dazzles
With the end of the 2nd World War – Portugal and Madeira on the sidelines of the tragedy – the authorities confirmed the opportunity for Europeans to travel again in evasion mode.
Madeira has regained its status as an idolized Atlantic Eden. From the middle of the XNUMXth century, Casa das Queimadas was equipped to match.
At a time when the protection of the Laurissilva trees was about to take effect, the two floors of the house received floors and furniture carved in Madeira wood, in tilde and vinhático. The trees that would come to oxygenate us.
What is there today respects the initial decoration. A solid table covered in delicate Madeira linen.
In line with the island's intimate relationship with investors from Her Majesty's land, the crockery and other utensils were English relics, imported for the English – among others – to see.
Visitors and hikers will have shared this table time and time again. On the most wintery and humid nights, the unavoidable ponchas still warmed the atmosphere around the heat of the large fireplace.
On a summer day, with the sun rising over the horizon and losing its shyness, we expected to return still warm from the walk. We inaugurated it as soon as wandering around the thatched house stopped holding us back.
Levada do Caldeirão Verde Outside
Centuries after its construction, we are ready to follow in the footsteps of outsiders.
We leave the glimpse of the house to an arboreal tunnel composed of the tops, branches and assorted trunks, which culminate in the rough solidity of some wood cedars, one of them, with the unusual shape of a half menorah.
The same mist that trapped us upon arrival ascends the north-facing slopes, caresses and irrigates the vegetation.
Above all, the soaked lichens and Spanish beard that hang and drip onto a humus that is sometimes saturated, sometimes eroded by the blizzards and furrowed by intertwined roots.
Against the direction of the levada, the cold water and, we assume, that a few trout travel, we soon find ourselves at the base of cliffs so covered with ferns and mosses that they show no sign of rock.
The water goes down, fast, in the direction of Faial. We went up, but little, on the still distant Caldeirão.
The disguised zigzag of the levada takes us inside the abrupt cuts of the mountain.
Exposes ridges and valleys of the North and the rare settlements who ventured into them, trapped between the slopes and the ocean.
At intervals, the slope narrows in such a way that the trail loses its place.
We advanced along the very edge that supports the flow, under branches that the wind and gravity made to incline or almost topple over the path.
A preliminary waterfall eternalizes a true fall, divided between two smooth slides over the polished grain of the slope.
A view opens onto a new forested valley, massaged by the morning mist. Soon, we resumed the grip, against natural walls, wrapped in more moss.
The levada meanders at the base of large carved rocks.
After an enormous vertical fetal wall, it rounds out and adjusts to the horseshoe of Caldeirinha.
The Tunnels Dug into the Hillside That the Forest Takes Over
Shortly afterwards, we come across another of the four tunnels that make the levada and trail possible, all excavated using the pickaxe and auxiliaries.
Once again, the raw material is rock, volcanic and dark. The look of the entrance to the new underground section differs little or nothing from the forest.
An integral painting of moss and lichens makes the perforated wall vegetal.
As expected, the interior remains in darkness.
Ceiling height is uneven. Even with frontals, for a good part of the crossing, we are forced to lower our heads.
This is how we remain, when a ray of light intensifies and breaks the penumbra.
Out of nowhere, the tunnel surprises us with a double opening onto the forested cliff.
Back outside, we regain the view of the island's highest cliffs.
We can make out the furrow on the side of an opposite levada. Would it be a distant stretch of Caldeirão Verde?
Would it be another?
With so much meandering, by that time, we were confused.
We progress to a shaded passage, conquered to a concave section of the deepest and most dramatic ravine of the route.
The same simple steel cable fence that has long demarcated the trail and supported walkers, mitigates the vertigo of the cliff on the right.
When we leave it behind, we are rewarded with open and distant views of the São Jorge valley.
We hear the murmur of water and the communicative sounds of birds that have a habitat in this abrupt interior of Madeira.
The coo of distant wood pigeons.
The chirping of finches and friendly bisbis, these, endemic to the island of Madeira, used to approaching walkers, waiting for their sweet offerings.
Arriving at a too unstable Caldeirão Verde
After six kilometers of exercise, conversation and wonder, we are on the verge of the rounded cliff from which the Caldeirão Verde waterfall, which lends its name to the levada, falls from almost a hundred meters high.
Hidden at the top of the deep slope, it is supplied by a river that also has the same name, one of the many that the almost resident mist and the northern rains make run down the island, and against the waves of the Atlantic.
Rain often punishes Madeira with harmful intensity. It causes floods and landslides that generate lasting instabilities.
Caldeirão Verde and its waterfall were going through one of those periods. Lately, the river was dragging rocks that crashed into the lagoon below.
The probability of tragedy had made the authorities prohibit access to its surroundings. Unwilling to challenge norms and destiny, we conform. As do other hikers.
We sat down on one of the large pebbles rounded and polished by the erosive course of the stream.
We take sandwiches out of our backpacks, which we devour in three times.
Enough for the bisbis to detect the treat and settle around.
We had completed the 6.5 km of the Levada. The return ones were missing.
In the sense of flowing water.