"You have to go to the western most point in Madeira" said Jack, a British expat who lived on the island for over a decade. It was an idle Wednesday afternoon, and we were talking politics over a glass of poncha, a rum based cocktail which was said to help fishermen go out during the night and hunt for the local specialty, the espada. Keen to find out more about the secrets of the island, I eagerly deviated the conversation from the hash political situation in the UK, to colorful sunsets and mesmerizing landscapes. After a couple glasses of poncha, Jack was ready to draw me a treasure map, where I could find all Madeira's hidden gems, best lookout points and most impressive forested trails. Before I knew it, Jack paints the most vivid description of Ponta do Pargo, where 90 degrees upright cliffs rise up from the wild waves of the ocean. "Have you ever wanted to experience the most beautiful sunset over the Atlantic Ocean? This is your chance" he said. He continues "Ponta do Pargo is Madeira's most western point, and not only you can see the marvelous sun goes down, but you will feel as if you reached the end of the world. In a sense, this is it, as there is nothing but ocean until you hit the Americas. The vastness of our world, right?". I finished my drink and smiled. The very next day, I found myself renting a car and heading over to Western Madeira.
The roads in Madeira proved to be quite challenging. Winding motorways, narrow lanes and deep, long tunnels traversing the mountains. From Caniço, where I was based, I took the espresso towards Funchal, passed through Ponto do Sol and Calheta. After half an hour, I left the motorway behind in exchange for miniature hilly roads which forced me to practice my clutch skills and keep the car in second or third gear at most.
The drive itself felt like a roller coaster ride, ticket included in the rental and petrol price. Despite the odd scary moment when I wasn't sure if I might end up trailing of the cliffs, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey. There were myriad parts where I was the only person driving on the lonely roads. That's when I put my window down and drove 20 km per hour so I can soak in my surroundings. Mostly, I would find myself driving through long paths dotted with white and purple alliums. Some roads were cutting through lush forests of eucalyptus, which forced me to slow down even further and breath in the fresh mint-like smell. It felt exotic, my mind couldn't even comprehend how such place can be on a small island, just off-shores Europe.
In less than two hours I was in a car park, in Ponta do Pargo. There were no other soul around, but a heavy silence. I got off my car and reluctantly made my way towards a red and white lighthouse, standing majestically on top of the cliffs.
A few steps, and the landscape Jack painted for me the previous night, finally revealed itself. Staggering cliffs, rising upright from the ocean. Vastness best describes this place. The clouds floated heavily above me, with no sun ray in sight. Everything about the place screamed deep. Deep silence, deep ocean, deep clouds. I felt as if I reached the end of the world. Standing on Madeira's vertiginous cliffs and overlooking the hungry waves hitting the shores with such appetite, made me dizzy. But there is no way to escape the vertigo in Ponta do Pargo. I could step back from the edge of the cliff, but any way I looked, the burdensome landscape wass there to hunt me.
I took a moment to acclimatize with everything. I sat down and allowed myself to unclench my muscles and relax. I even closed my eyes for a minute just to hear the waves, the wind, the silence. When I reopened my eyes, I looked at the horizon, where ocean met the sky. An amalgam of blue and grey, painted an unusual picture of emotions, full of natural forces beyond human capability.
I must have spent an hour, taking notes, looking around, being astounded. Eventually, I stood up and headed back to the car. It was more difficult than I could imagine leaving Ponta do Pargo behind. I was reluctant to snap back to reality and allow for my newly formed dreams and emotions to stay behind and get carried away by the winds and the waves. For the spiritual soul, Ponta do Pargo is where yin and yang meet: the empty vastness marries the inner peace.
Two hours later, I got back to Caniço. Upon return, I immediately sought to descent by the beach and spend the rest of the afternoon getting lost in my thoughts. Not sure why I needed the blue comfort, whether I was madly in love with the ocean or was I suffering withdrawals from Madeira's most beautiful spot. Either way, I was hooked.