Imagine an island planted in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, 900 km from mainland Portugal and about 600 km off the coast of Morocco. An island where the mountain sometimes kisses the clear blue sea, an island where there are whispering waterfalls, trails, pathways and almost 1500 km of levadas (irrigation channels), a cultural heritage built with the Herculean effort of successive generations who never resigned themselves to embrace the word insulation, an island where there is still a preserved endemic Laurissilva forest, World Natural Heritage by UNESCO, for all of us.
This island exists and has a name: Madeira.
Madeira is a land of unique beauty and countless charms and challenges, no doubt. But experiencing in loco and actively all the dazzle or, at least, the most spectacular scenery on this island is only the privilege of very few.
MIUT – Madeira Island Ultra Trail will provide an exciting challenge, across the island, from sea-to-sea, in the Northwest-Southeast direction, starting in Porto Moniz, at sea level, with passages by the highest points of the island, then again to sea level, in Machico. A journey that will transport the participants imagination to other times in which the soul of Madeira was not overcome by the vicissitudes of the orography of the island.
The first phase of MIUT (night) unfolds in the Western mountainous massif, between Porto Moniz and Encumeada and is characterized by being an authentic constant up and down, with two highly challenging climbs (Fanal and Estanquinhos) and a particularly technical descent to Chão da Ribeira, demanding close attention. Shortly after the start and after a first ascent and descent, the passage over the bridge of the mouth of the ribeira da Janela (the longest creek in Madeira) promises to be quite exciting, because there are many spectators and companions present there, making a party and giving encouragement to the athletes for the long ascent towards the area of Fanal, a Reserve of Rest and Silence, integrating the area of the Natural Park of Madeira, and an idyllic place with a grove of centennial Tils, some of which already existed prior to the discovery of the island. Once this was the path used by the people of this county to go to the mountains for firewood. The arrival at Estanquinhos marks the end of this daredevil first phase and invites the participant for a long descent to São Vicente, before the ascent to Encumeada, in which the participants will also trek inside the lush Laurissilva forest, in an area surrounding the forest park of Chão dos Louros – an area which belongs to the European Network of Sites of Community Importance – Natura 2000.
The second phase (Encumeada-Areeiro), already in the central mountainous massif, starts with an incursion to Curral da Freiras, once place of refuge for the nuns who ran as fast as they could to escape the attacks of the Corsairs, and where begins the ascent to the highest peaks of the island (Ruivo and Areeiro) with long and stressful climbs, mitigated and compensated, in part, by the stunning views of the valleys, crests and plateaus, and of the network of streams and brooks that feed the creeks, or the view of a sea of clouds which may eventually collapse on top of the course. The route between the peaks of Ruivo and Areeiro will remain a brand image of the event, not only for its hardness and intrinsic beauty but also, for example, for being the only known location in the world where nesting occurs for Zino's petrel (Pterodroma madeira), an endemic species of the island and considered the most endangered seabird of Europe.
From Pico do Areeiro, we enter the third and final stage of the competition, in the Eastern massif, mostly descending but with some climbs in between. The passage near the Poço da Neve, an heritage site built on the perimeter of the ecological park of Funchal, where ice was kept and then loaded into leather bags, on the back of brave men who trekked downhill to Funchal, carries us to the thought of other times, not too far away... After Ribeiro Frio, a mandatory tourist stop over, begins perhaps the last big climb, worthy of that name, which will take participants to Poiso. From here, the route becomes more rolling and, after passing through Portela, which has a superb view from the lookout that exists there, the participants commit themselves to the Funduras mountain, with its beautiful single tracks embellished by large tree ferns. The technical descent to Boca do Risco will reveal for sure, for those who still pass there in broad daylight, unforgettable views of the immensity of the limpid sea of the North, pinching the base of the towering cliffs that fall literally right under our feet. The final stretch, in the levada do Caniçal, should provide some relaxation and muscle relaxation, as well as allowing participants to admire the beautiful valley where the city of Machico grows, the final stopping place of this trip.
If today MIUT is already an event where the memories of the past make us dream of the future, the next edition will be again a living testimony of a set of exciting challenges and opportunities not to be missed!