Friday, February 08, 2008

Scrambles amongst the Picos

More mountains
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
In Madeira, it seems to me that you either sit in the sun drinking or you walk. We walked, covering about 45km and climbing a total of over 3,000' - sorry to mix metric and old money, but that's how my mind works - during our week there. This photo is taken from the same vantage point as the one on this post, on the summit of Madeira's highest mountain, Pico Ruivo (6,109' or 1,862m) Rather than look back in wonder at the day, I thought I'd relive it.

It is midday. We have descended from our starting point and traversed a somewhat vertiginous path round the contour to a second peak. Mr B still looks as if he wonders what malign fate has brought him to this place, but in fact has not succumbed to vertigo or decrepitude and is in fact climbing calmly. We have been promised lunch on the top of this peak, but the top is hidden behind a lump of reddish tufa. Mr B and I are quite alone - Adriano is back there somewhere helping the Gasping Lady, and the others went ahead when I stopped for a pee. We are in full sun, with clouds hiding the valley below. Buzzards swirl overhead. I think they may know something.

The trouble is the steps. Steep, red, rough steps of varying height cut in the volcanic rock to make the climb, well, possible. But I think they were not cut with a short-arse in mind, and some of them are 18" high. Each step is a huge effort. I stop after about ten of them and realise that I am panting uncontrollably. However, I don't feel that there is much air going into my lungs. We are at over 6,000' and - as I learn later - there is 16% less oxygen than at sea level. If it was a path over which I could pick my way it wouldn't be so bad, but here we gain height in a relentless and speedy fashion which is ... challenging. I feel a pain in my chest, under where my camera is hanging - I haven't taken any photos for about half an hour. Maybe I am having a heart attack. Mr B points out that there is nowhere suitable to expire here. I shall have to die standing up. I reflect that this would be a worthy and heroic end, much to be preferred to rotting in a home. But I don't die, and we crawl on, not a moment too soon finding the place where we can sit on a rock and eat our pieces and boiled eggs and look at the clouds below - and have our photos taken by a leprechaun in a green semmit.

For the rest of the day I feel invincible. There is a magic in walking all day above the clouds, and at the end I abandon my pack for the final Pico and float up. (That's artistic licence, by the way) A wonderful day.

There are two literary references in this post. Go on - you know you can find them!


  1. Well, the literary references might have gone WAYYYYYYYY over my cabeaza, but your vivid description had me nearly falling onto the floor with hilarity!!!! Words like vertiginous and decrepitude are not very common (here in the US of A, anyway) and although I figured 'em right out, they offered such a lively image!!!! Buzzards...gee, had better write a book! You really took my breath away (laughing BEYOND hilarity, and now clutching my sides in agony) as I read the "short-arse" climb up the stairs....I am so short, my legs were aching as I was wretching about on the floor, tears of delight streaming down my cheeks. Thank God, no one else in the house is awake, 'cept the Scots, and they already think I am WAY beyond nuts!!!!! Okay, so was the leprechaun truly there, or were you hallucinating at this point? And, what, pray tell, is a "semmit"?
    What an amazing climb this must have been! And, I can certainly understand your feeling of invincibility!!!!

  2. Ok, kid, what's a cabeaza? Your turn, I think! I'm not giving away my literary bits yet - there just might be someone out there - but your comment gave me a good snigger. The leprechaun was a real Irishman, whose blarney kept me going for miles, and "semmit" (sometimes pronounced "simmit") is a very Glasgow word for a vest. That's a sleeveless low-necked T shirt as opposed to a waistcoat, BTW.
    Isn't language fun?

  3. Cabeza....Espanol for "head"! Oops...the "a" should NOT have been there...poor typing skills!

    My great-grandmother was an Irisher....she was a stubborn little thing. She passed away when I was 11, and I think I towered over her when I was about 7! She was never overly fond of anyone (me) and she called me Lola. as in, "what little Lola wants, little Lola gets!". It all began when I was about 18 months old and crawled up on the dining room table and played with the silverware! She was, regretfully, never one for blarney. Too serious, I guess!

    Methinks I need to start writing down all these Scottish terms! Language is fun,to be sure. Especially when we supposedly speak the SAME one! hehehe You have no idea how nuts I was driven when I first started knitting. I found patterns for "jumpers". Here, a jumper refers to a style of pullover "dress" that one would wear a blouse, turtleneck, or sweater under. I soon discovered a jumper in the UK is a sweater!

    James Herriot helped me discover bonnets and boots and your BIL taught me about windscreens on cars.

    I love language...always have! And yours, m'dear is so wonderfully colorful! I so enjoy reading your blog!!!!! Keep writing!!! (and I am so grateful for the age of computers, as Goggle can keep me up to snuff on the "barriers"!)

  4. Anonymous9:15 AM

    Enjoyed this and have pointed to it on my blog which has some word fun today! There's probably a fancier way of doing this but as chris knows, I'm a few kilometres behind on this particular techy trail!
    Must go, wash and don my semmit as I'm sat here maukit!