20 June 2012

Fanal - In the heart of the Laurissilva forest

I've read somewhere that the early Madeira discoverers found an island covered in a dense, enchanted and pristine subtropical forest. Quite similar to the one existing in the continental Europe, before the last glaciation age, some 20000 years ago, wiped it out of the map. The forest that we, nowadays, know by the name of "Laurissilva". By our present standards, this was, probably, a natural paradise.
But... being us what we are... things wouldn't last too long. As soon as the first settlers arrived on the island they started the deforestation of the South coast with the objective of cleaning the ground for agricultural purposes. However, doing it with saw and axe was to much of a trouble, so they opted instead for the use of matches. And they torched the island.
According to the historians, the fires were so big and vast that several years later the island was still burning and, as a consequence, a large part of her natural heritage was lost forever.
Thankfully, most of that nonsense intervention was made along the South coast, where the climate was gentler and the land was attractive for farming. The vast majority of the North coast, however, with its harsh weather and abrupt orography, was spared from a similar fate.
So, presently, the surviving ancient Laurissilva forest in Madeira occupies an area that goes from Santana to Porto Moniz, passing thru the high peaks of the Central Massif and Paúl da Serra until the large valleys of Ribeira do Seixal and Ribeira da Janela. Amidst these two, hanging at the Northwest edge of the plateau formation called Paúl da Serra, lies the forest park known as "Fanal". My brother's visit to Madeira was the catalyst I needed to explore that remote corner of the island. Suspended between land and sea and between past and present, the Fanal is a time travel within your spirit and in your senses. And surprised both of us.
It truly is the heart of the Laurissilva forest.
The entrance to the Fanal park, as seen from the wooden stairway leading to the forest house.
Picture made with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 and Panasonic Lumix G Vario 1:3.5-5.6/14-42mm Asph. lens.
Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop CS3.

Rock formation on the NW part of the park and facing the Ribeira Funda valley.
Picture made with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 and Panasonic Lumix G Vario 1:3.5-5.6/14-42mm Asph. lens.
Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop CS3.
Under the canopy of an ancient tree, aiming the lens to the distant horizon.
Picture made with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 and Panasonic Lumix G Vario 1:3.5-5.6/14-42mm Asph. lens.
Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop CS3.
The secular and primeval vegetation of Fanal gives the park a otherworldly atmosphere.
Picture made with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 and Panasonic Lumix G Vario 1:3.5-5.6/14-42mm Asph. lens.
Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop CS3.
Besides birds and bugs, the sole permanent occupants of the place are cool cows.
Picture made with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 and Panasonic Lumix G Vario 1:3.5-5.6/14-42mm Asph. lens.
Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop CS3.
My brother Rui approaching a vertiginous cliff, from where we had a magnificent vista over the Ribeira Funda valley.
Picture made with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 and Panasonic Lumix G Vario 1:3.5-5.6/14-42mm Asph. lens.
Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop CS3.
The grassy Fanal plateau, from a nearby hill. On the top of the picture you can see a artificial pond, used for livestock watering.
Picture made with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 and Panasonic Lumix G Vario 1:3.5-5.6/14-42mm Asph. lens.
Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop CS3.