"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own" Sri Chinmoy
Balcoes Hike - Jan 2022 - Madeira
After several days in Madeira that had seen us out in a boat encountering whales in the Atlantic among other unique experiences, Kokila and I decided to rent a car and head out to do some easy hikes to get a taste of the mountain scenery the island is famed for. The first one - which i chose - was from Ribeiro Frio to Balcoes and I picked it as it was short, relatively flat and led to a viewpoint where you could see the jagged peaks of the interior. We were blessed with a clear sky and brilliant sunshine for this one.
Parking was tricky with the steep gradient and narrow roads but there was plenty of space - then finding the trailhead was straightforward too. Once on the trail we found it level and easy going, with the afternoon sun filtering through the trees and cool mountain air filling our lungs. There were a few others on the trail, it's clearly quite well known, but it was never crowded and it was tranquil right through the cuttings and down steps to the viewpoint.
Once at Balcoes we found ourselves in a small bunch of people but all with plenty of space and all pretty quiet - the views are breathtaking in all directions, a circle of jagged peaks to one side and valleys leading down to the north coast of Madeira with the sea in the hazy distance on the other.
I took a few moments to scramble up the rock pinnacle to a summit of sorts, but in all honesty the view was better from the promontery of the viewpoint itself.
I'm glad someone had the bright idea of building this pier out into thin air to open up the view to every point of the compass - a genius move.
When it was time to head back we took time out to visit the trailside cafe. Kokila grabbed a table and ordered while I walked a steep downhill detour then climbed back up just to burn a few more calories as the hike had been more of an easy stroll. The cafe overlooked a smallholding with goats, chickens and turkeys sharing the space. There was no noise other than the occasional sound of the animals and the breeze in the trees overhead, with maybe one car on the winding mountain road below every few minutes.
If you find yourself in Madeira with limited time or energy, this is a great way to get yourself out there in the mountains with an easy trek and stunning views. The cafe was also the best we visited on the island - Tarte de Nata that was the best I've ever had and coffee that was worth the short trek.