We took a local bus from Funchal to Eira de Serrado. The bus ride itself was an experience in Madeira as the old, jerky buses zigzagged often on very narrow roads with fantastic views. The drivers confidently steered in the endless hairpin beds but it was certainly not an ideal transport for someone with motion sickness.
An elderly local man was sitting by the window, entertaining the passengers – mainly tourists – on the bus. The fact that nobody understood his story didn`t bother him and in a hairpin bend he passionately pointed to the village down below. I glanced out of the window and caught the first glimpse of the tiny village jealously hugged by mountains.
Luckily it wasn`t long before we could get off the old bus near a viewpoint and my nausea was gone as soon as I peered down to the valley.
The morning mist was slowly lifting up and the small group of houses appeared in the deep valley. From the viewpoint we followed the popular Nun`s walk. It is believed that when French pirates looted the island in 1566 the nuns followed this path to the valley where they found refuge. We walked on the well-trodden path downhill and when reached the first building of Curral das Freiras, a café, we were invited in to try some local specialities.
We treated ourselves with home-made chestnut cake and tasted one of the local drinks. Fallen chestnuts carpet the forest floor around Curral das Freiras in the autumns. The chestnuts are collected and used to make many unique, local products like the unforgettable chestnut cake and the sweet chestnut liquor.
Locals live from agriculture and from the growing numbers of visitors, who usually arrive via the famous Nun`s walk.
Along with the Nun`s walk, there are several other trails leading to the village from the mountains bringing serious walkers to this tiny place. The quiet village usually comes to life in the early afternoon when small restaurants offer local food with fine views for the tired walkers. But on the evening bus to Funchal, there are no locals only tired visitors packed with sweet memories.