The Laurisilva or the 15,000ha Primary Laurel Forest in the 27,000ha of Parque Natural da Madeira is an outstanding relict of a previously widespread laurel forest, which covered much of Southern Europe 15-40 million years ago. The laurels are ‘vascular plants’ which have specialised tissues for conducting water and minerals throughout the plant and are now confined to Madeira, Azores and the Canary Islands. The wet and humid Laurel Forest in the central mountains of Madeira has a levada system for collecting and channelling water for human consumption and agriculture and is home to 76 vascular plant species and a large number of endemic invertebrates and birds including the Madeiran Laurel Pigeon, Firecrest and Chaffinch.
It was only a short drive from Pico de Arieiro to the Laurel Forest. We parked the car, walked up a short flight of steps and walked up a well constructed path through the forest along the gurgling Levada Velha. The path clung to the mountain side and snaked through several dark and narrow tunnels. It started to drizzle.
Many trees were covered in dripping lichen and Banana Passionfruit (Passiflora mollissima) climbed up, their little pink flowers and unripe, elongated green fruit swaying in the gentle breeze. Clumps of Belladonna Lily with their dark pink flowers brightened the path. Soon we passed a little wayside kiosk selling tea and snacks and ripe Banana Passionfruit they probably gathered in the forest. They were sweet and sour at the same time and had a bitter/tannic finish. Madeiran Fire Finches and Black caps darted about and pigeons cooed in the distance.
A sign indicated the path to the fenced viewing point through a gully. The mist was so thick that visibility was reduced to a few yards. “On a sunny day, the view is magnificent” our guide Sophie said. Endemic Madeiran Chaffinches were everywhere and were bold enough to take food from our hands!
We walked back and took a short cut to the main road. The roadside cafe was packed with walkers sheltering from the rain. We drank strong black coffee and Ponchos – the popular Madeiran cocktail made with rum, cane sugar and either lime or passionfruit juice. “This cafe serves the best steak sandwich in the whole of Madeira” Sophie said. May be next time, I thought and drove to the North Coast village of Santana for lunch at Quinta do Furão.
Our visit was arranged by:
Rita Galvão CEO / Diretora Executiva +351 912304517 www.discoveringmadeira.com www.winetoursmadeira.com