This was the ultimate goal. Hiking Pico to Pico (famous hike from Pico Aireiro to Pico Ruivo) towards the end of my stay in Madeira. I wanted to do as many hikes as possible beforehand, as I have heard this one is pretty challenging. This hike takes you from the second-highest mountain in Madeira – Pico Aireiro to the highest one – Pico Ruivo.
But as the time went by and I read more and more about this hike, I kind of warmed up to the idea of doing an easier ascent to Pico Ruivo only. From Achada do Teixeira . This was supposed to be a less challenging and equally beautiful way to summit the highest peak of Madeira.
Pico Ruivo is the highest mountain in Madeira, standing at 1,862 m. There are few ways to reach the top. The most popular option is to take the PR1.2 trail. You need to drive to Achada do Teixeira and walk up 3km and only 300m of ascent. easy-peasy.
I stayed few days in Santana, intending to do a couple of hikes and eventually hike to Pico Ruivo. It was much easier and cheaper to access Achada do Teixeira from there.
Then the weather changed, and I experienced one of the worst storms. The plan has obviously changed. For a few days after the storm, it was recommended not to hike any mountain trails due to bad conditions and landslides.
So I didn’t. And returned to Funchal disappointed.
From that point, I tried to find other ways to get back to Achada to do the hike. Yet, with no results. The only results I found were not very feasible. It was either costly due to Achada being on the other side of the island or given the curfew – I would not be able to return on time.
So I gave up. A little. I have seen a lot of beautiful Madeira, had great epic hikes and was hardly disappointed with my stay.
It could also be a great reason to come back.
Yet, two days before I was meant to leave, I made a quick decision. I just could not go without seeing at least one of the famous peaks!
The highest peaks of Madeira are often covered in clouds. Sometimes this provides impressive views, and some other times, you will end up seeing nothing apart from thick fog.
In order to get to Pico Aireiro, you can take a taxi from Funchal. The road actually takes you all the way there and it is not as expensive as a taxi to Achada do Teixeira.
I decided to do that and take a taxi after the sunrise. This would give me the option to check the visibility on the Madeira Webcam and see if it’s worth paying money for the trip.
Of course, you could take a hike to Pico Ruivo from there and return from Achada, but the road to Achada do Teixeira closed few days prior. So I would have to hike there and then come back the same way – a very strenuous hike.
So I decided to take Uber to Aireiro, hike to the nearest viewpoint, take some photos and return.
And that was what I did.
I checked the webcam in the morning for visibility – the weather was glorious! I ordered Uber with the thought that I will be returning the same way.
But on the way there, Cristiano Ronaldo told me ….
Hold on, who???
Yes, my Uber’s driver first name was Cristiano. And on his Uber console, I noticed the nickname – Uber Ronaldo. There you go 🙂
So Cristino told me that if I decided to walk all the way to Pico Ruivo, I could actually walk down the closed road to the point where it re-opens again for traffic. He gave me his number and said that if I decide to go this way – he will pick me up. It was 9 am.
I got to the Pico Aireiro, which stands at 1,818 m, and I was stunned by the views! Just to go there to see it – worth every penny! I was lucky to have clear weather, and I could admire spectacular views over the mountains and whole of Madeira. No clouds!!!
I could see the viewpoint from where I was, so I decided to walk there. Armed with a dawn jacket (freezing!), I started to walk. Down. And down.
On many treks in Madeira, you will walk on human-made stone stairs. I believe those were built for security reason or to make steep ascent and descent actually possible to hike. But this is only my guess.
So I kept walking, and the views were astonishing.
As I kept walking down, I knew I would have to return the same way, so I decided to go just to the next viewpoint, Ninho da Manta, and make my way back.
The trek was pretty busy. Given the great weather and fantastic visibility, there were plenty of hikers. Some planning to go there and back. Some halfway, maybe to the first tunnel and back.
As I got to the viewpoint, I decided to walk a little bit more. It was just so beautiful I could not stop. But I continued to step down. Knowing that return will be excruciating. But hey, I had plenty of time.
So I walked.
I spoke to few hikers. Met a Polish couple saying that they walked a bit further and then turned around to give themselves enough time to walk back up.
But then, I met a group of Estonian hikers who told me they go all the way to Ruivo and planning to go down to Achada. The light bulb lit in my head.
I remembered my conversation with Christiano.
I could do the Pico to Pico!
Pico Aireiro is the second highest peak in Madeira. As I was walking down, I knew that to get to Pico Ruivo. I will eventually have to walk up. Duh! But at this point – I didn’t care anymore!
I remembered all those stairs and as I walked down, I thought – if I need to go back up – I might as well go forward.
So I did.
It was the best decision I could have made. There is a reason why Pico Aireiro to Pico Ruivo hike is known to be the best. I was mesmerized.
The views were changing. And so did the weather.
Halfway thru the hike, I noticed clouds starting to appear and hugging the mountains.
I was excited because I have heard that most of the time, once you are at the Pico Ruivo, you are above the clouds, and the view is fantastic as well.
There were few tunnels you had to go thru on the way. This is very typical for Madeira walks.
After the last tunnel, the ascent began. With metal stairs that were attached to the rock so you can go up. Stairs? I would probably say, more like a ladder!
Once few of those ladders were conquered, the landscape has changed.
And clouds became hugging the mountains.
I found myself on the path up, surrounded by strange, twisted dead trees and surrounded by clouds.
I loved it! It felt so surreal! Like I stepped into the mysterious land out of this world!
As I hiked further up the mountain, I started seeing the sun peaking through the clouds. I knew I was nearly there!
Before the final ascent, there is a lovely mountain restaurant, where you can get a drink, food, replenish water and use toilets.
And then you go up – the last slope to the peak.
And in this unexpected way and completely unplanned – I hiked Pico Aireiro to Pico Ruivo trail.
But the adventure didn’t end there.
Once I had a little bit of a rest, I started walking down to Achada. This was the trail I was meant to take initially, and I’m telling you, it would be dead easy compared to what I have just achieved. So I was even more glad I did it this way – I felt truly accomplished.
The weather has truly changed by now, and although I knew I am walking in the mountains, I could not see much – I was in the middle of the cloud.
Eventually, I reached the car park of Achada do Teixeira, where you would typically start this trek. There were roadworks and of course, the road was closed. So I continued walking down.
I was told you need to walk ‘a little bit’.
It was over a 10 km walk down the road. It felt never-ending. I had no idea where I was, and … my internet data has run out. At that exact moment.
So although I could use Google Maps offline – that was it. I called Ronaldo, and even though it was well after 4 pm, he was still willing to come and get me. Yet we could not find each other. I could not send him my location and couldn’t load his. His English wasn’t the best so we couldn’t explain to each other our locations very well.
I kept walking. I presumed I would get somewhere eventually. Better that than being stuck in the mountains or woods for the night.
I had a warm jacket, water and snacks, and a head torch. I would probably survive. There are no wild animals in Madeira’s mountains.
Still, an idea of sleeping under the tree in the mountains was hmm… a bit scary.
Although Ronaldo said he is coming, I decided to walk anyway.
What if he wasn’t coming? What if he doesn’t find me? I can’t be standing here, in the middle of nowhere.
Far on the horizon, I could see Santana village. A civilization. There was hope.
In my head, I was already weighing all the possible options. Find a hotel in Santana and stay the night and then take a bus in the morning? But with no internet and Santana being a village, this could be pretty difficult ….
Then suddenly a car stopped.
The Estonian hikers I spoke to earlier recognized me and asked me if I needed a lift. But they were going to Santana, which was not good for me.
Ronaldo was looking for me. So I hoped. If I go too far, I will lose him…
If they were going to Funchal, it would be great, but Santana? Not much use. No busses from there and I would be stuck in the village.
I had to make a quick decision. Go or no go.
Instead, I borrowed some WiFi from a nice girl called Annie and sent my location to Ronaldo. He was coming; I said bye to the hikers and waited. In the middle of nowhere. And waited. And then some.
And then ha came. Cristiano Ronaldo found me in the middle of nowhere, and I was finally heading to Funchal.
Those who know me know very well know that I don’t just hike the peaks. It is always sprinkled with adventure, often drama. And this was no different, but boy, oh so worth it!
25km and few thrilling moments later, I can say one thing – I hiked Pico Aireiro to Pico Ruivo, and then some.
Time for a new adventure now!
Disclaimer: Don’t do what I did. In any circumstances. Mountains are unpredictable, and the weather can change drastically from one minute to another. I am sharing this adventure with you knowing that this kind of trips should be planned well and never done alone. Madeira is very safe, and hitchhiking is a common occurrence here. I knew that this way or another, I will make it back. This doesn’t mean, however, that my decisions were wise.