The early days of the current pandemic and its confinements were taking place when the news of an undue evasion stood out from the rest.
Cristiano Ronaldo had gone to Madeira for a few days.
With the island and all of Portugal confined, he published photos of himself with his partner and son on a tour of Ponta de São Lourenço.
His, at the time, more recent whim aroused a dignified controversy, even so, far from the geological eccentricity of the extravagant peninsula that welcomed him.
The First and Strange Madeira Island Sighting
When passing by, if distracted, those arriving by ferry from the neighboring island of Porto Santo you may be led to think that you never left the starting point.
Ponta de São Lourenço is much more in keeping with Porto Santo or the Desertas than with the verdant, in certain points, luxuriant Madeira.
And yet, it encloses it as an oriental appendage, sinuous and bizarre, that the opposite end of the island has no equal.
In our case, we start from funchal capital. Passing Machico, the view of the port and industrial complex of Caniçal leaves us apprehensive.
Around Quinta do Lorde, we leave behind the last vestige of populated civilization.
A roundabout that houses a leafy palm tree and a mobile home serving food and drinks establishes the road limit.
From then on, along 9km, Ponta de São Lourenço assumes the colors and shapes that its volcanic and prehistoric geology gave it.
It reveals itself and dazzles by Nature.
PR8 – A Trail Above and Below Ponta de São Lourenço
The rail that furrows received the code PR8. It begins by curving the mid-slope, above the smooth, crystalline Atlantic of Baía d'Abra.
Then, it goes down to a tight spot closed by Praia de São Lourenço.
However, it deviates to the opposite direction.
There, he leaves us at a viewpoint facing north that displays a fort of islets and exuberant rocks, punished without mercy by the northern sea.
Even in the shade, we are impressed by the magnificence of the cove that extends from there to the kind of cape of Ponta do Rosto.
Its cliffs rise another hundred meters above the sea.
At several points, the track advances over the knife edge from these heights. It renews an unexpected sensation of vertigo.
In zigzags, we descend to the shallow, curved and shadowy isthmus where the “North Sea” almost merges with the South.
The opposite extreme places us at the base of the quasi-island that follows.
For some time we had glimpsed a tiny oasis, a palm grove as green as it was out of touch.
A few hundred steps later, we realized that it lent shade to the famous Casa do Sardinha, bar, restaurant, activity center and energy recovery.
For many, the main reason for walking.
Casa do Sardinha, the Logistic Heart of Ponta de São Lourenço
The name of the establishment remains that because over the years it became known.
Both were bequeathed by the former owners of those lands, cattle ranchers, as evidenced by the corral stones that still exist there, at a time when a good part of the peninsula admitted pastures and even crops.
Wheat, from the barley planted by the peasants of the fishing village of Caniçal, who made it germinate in the apparently inhospitable soil of the current Ilhéu da Cevada (of the Desembarcadouros).
We didn't take long to see him.
St. Lawrence, the reason for Holy Baptism
Ponta de São Lourenço is forever linked to the first moments of the discovery and colonization of Madeira. It preserves the name of the caravel of João Gonçalves Zarco, one of the three discoverers of the island.
The discovery of Madeira took place in 1419, a year after that of Porto Santo. In turn, the colonization closest to Ponta de São Lourenço, Caniçal, took place around 1489, when Vasco Martins Moniz and his eldest son Garcia Moniz settled on a farm there.
In the beginning of the XNUMXth century, the Moniz built a church that gave rise to the oldest of the small parishes in Madeira, São Sebastião do Caniçal, later the parish of Caniçal and one of the favorite game farms of the descendants of Captain Donatário pioneer of Porto de Machico, Tristan Vaz.
English Corsairs, Moorish Pirates and Related Threats
Colonization of the eastern end of the island has always proved problematic. About to turn to the XNUMXth century, in the middle of the Philippine Dynasty, the English, visceral enemies of the Spanish Crown, were in charge of attacking and plundering its inhabitants.
They weren't the only ones. The isolation of that tip of Madeira, at the gates of Africa, also made it vulnerable to Moorish looting.
The area proved to be so susceptible that the Captaincy of Machico often reminded the settlers to keep an eye out for the fires in Caniçal.
For some time, this was the only warning system for attacks coming from the Ponta de São Lourenço side. Years later, a small watch fort reinforced it.
The defense infrastructure could have been other, much more functional, if the Marquis de Pombal's ambition had passed from the mind of erecting a port in Baía d'Abra, conjectured to house ten ships.
Instead of this structure, today, Ponta de São Lourenço is served by the tiny Cais do Sardinha, the anchorage and small beach made of pebbles and crystal-clear water that delight hikers with rewarding baths. There we would also have our but, let's get back to the trail.
The Ultimate and Most Strenuous Ascent
It is behind the Casa do Sardinha that the last stretch of the PR8, by far the most tiring, starts. A sketch of a staircase made of hundreds of irregular and too wide terraces demands all of their strength from the thighs.
We know that we won it and that we conquered the 162 meters of Pico do Furado when we came across the cul-de-sac viewpoint at Ponta do Furado.
On this summit once again exposed to the north, interned in the Atlantic like none until then, the gale is infernal. The stability necessary for photography disturbs us and aggravates the fear that, with no plans to do so, we'll crash into the rocky and stony bottom of the foothills of Morro do Furado.
We are dazzled by the insular solitude of the slightly balanced Lighthouse of Ponta de São Lourenço (107m), the humanized threshold of the peninsula. And to the east, with a glimpse of the slender Desertas.
Even eager to advance beyond the roped stronghold, we resisted the gale and dodged tragedy.
A few meters short of Pico do Furado, the vegetal glow of a plant that proliferated from the shade and humidity trapped between two cliffs amazes us.
A Special Reserve Fauna and Flora
With an inhospitable appearance, Ponta de São Lourenço is home to such special forms of life that, in 1982, it was declared a Natural Reserve: the peninsula itself, a partial reserve. Ilhéu da Cevada, total reserve.
All in all, the peninsula is home to 138 species of plants, 31 of which are exclusive to the Madeira Island.
In terms of fauna, it is home to one of the largest colonies of seagulls in the archipelago, Corre-caminhos, Goldfinches, Canaries-da-Terra, Francelhos, Cagarras, Roques-de-Castro, Almas-Negras and specimens of Garajau-Comum, well like some unusual endemic snails.
Offshore, although easier to find on the Desertas islands, you can see Lobos-Marinhos from time to time.
We revert to Casa do Sardinha.
From that providential headquarters, we return to the beginning of the trail.
Discovering Ponta de São Loureço. Now by Sea
A few days later, we completed the walk with a marine exploration of Ponta de São Lourenço. We set sail from the dock at Quinta do Lorde.
We sail along the slopes that precede the peninsula and, past Ponta do Buraco, over the calm waters of Baía d'Abra.
After a stopover at Cais do Sardinha, we head to the base of Ponta do Furado, from where, unlike the viewpoint above, we were able to detect and photograph the geological hole in question.
We continue along the Ilhéu da Cevada, until we reach the strait that separates it from the ocher neighbor of São Lourenço.
Now, from the surface of the sea, we are impressed to double with the fearless crowning of the homonymous lighthouse, inaugurated in 1870 and, as such, the ancient lighthouse of Madeira.
Somehow, Ilhéu do Farol protected us from the currents and capricious waves generated by the meeting of the North and South seas. It did, but not much.
The more we left the shadow of its cliffs and exposed ourselves to the vastness of the ocean, the more the waves and currents made us feel the fragility that Gonçalves Zarco, Tristão Vaz Teixeira and Bartolomeu Perestrelo knew how to tame.
With the wind dramatizing the flow of the boat, a return to the calm waters of the south was imposed. We had discovered the remote end of Ponta de São Lourenço.
In the many trips we took to the big island, we never saw a Madeira like this again.
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