The Epic Hike above the Clouds



Dear Diary

Actually, I had planned to start my hike at 9 a.m. early in the morning. Unfortunately, a luxurious family breakfast at our favorite Funchal bakery delayed things a bit and I don’t reach the top of Pico Arieiro with its weather station and tourist cafes until a little after ten – giving the impression that this mountain has simply been overrun. Not only cars are parked halfway down the valley in the most unlikely places on the roadside. Whole busloads of people are released here from the air-conditioned travel forts into the wilderness.

At least I’m happy that the clouds are slowly clearing. During the drive into the mountains fog appeared, which then turned out to be the cloud line, which I break through shortly before the top of the 1818 meter high Pico Arieiro and can marvel at the view over the clouds. It is the third highest point on the island. My route leads to the highest point.




The view above the clouds makes you forget the crowds. Immediately after the start on Pico Arieiro, the spectacular descent follows narrow stairs and only the attached ropes separate the flip-flops tourist from a death in the depths. It’s a battle for the best photo spots and the Instagram accounts also need to be filled. This is difficult because everyone stands in the way of their motive. In the meantime, I still have to compete with the senior group “Pinguine” on the way ahead of us. I imagined it differently.

At least I can lose the first tourists after the first curves. But it goes almost vertically down the steep walls on stairs. This is painful for the knees and the mind, which is already rebelling against having to climb the whole thing again later. Once up to Pico Ruivo and then back again to Pico Ariero and back to the start.






The descent is hard on the knees. On the rock face on the other side, the entrance to a tunnel awaits: “tunel do pico do gato”. So it goes through the Katzenberg. I read somewhere before that it should be a good idea to bring a headlamp. I find that it really makes sense. You can’t see much, but the worst thing to fear is stepping in a puddle. There are no stones in the dark and in the distance you can see the exit.

The other side offers another moment to catch your breath, the sight is so impressive. Vertical cliffs rise majestically and a path with a railing has been carved into them. The mountains bear witness to the amount of precipitation that must have fallen here. In the distance you can see waterfalls tumbling down and everything is green.






It goes through more tunnels until I reach a saddle point, from which it only goes steadily uphill again. It is unusual to have paved paths or paths with railings in front of you from time to time. Nevertheless, one does not get the impression that the route would be less adventurous. At any time it goes directly into the depths on any page.

Shortly before the top of Pico Ruivo I reach a heavily populated mountain hut. Several paths come together here, so there is a great demand for a break and a drink at this point. It’s another half hour to the top, from where you have a view of the whole island.




It’s going back the same way I came. Most of the other hikers descend at Pico Ruivo to the nearest hiker’s car park to be taken back to their hotels by their shuttle buses. Only a few brave heroes, like me, take on the arduous tour again to climb 500 meters down and 500 meters up again.

Since only a few do that, you get to know each other quickly on the way back. Here the young, athletic German students, there the older Portuguese couple. It’s a mental battle to climb all the steps back up to Pico Arieiro. Today is the only day of the week with good weather – and it lasts. There is no pressure to get back to where you started with rest and breaks for pictures.



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