Madeira is famous for its vertiginous walks. Many of these follow levadas (the islands irrigation system) which might at first seem a little tame, until it is realised that these levadas often are notched out of the side of a cliff with hundreds of feet dropping vertically below. The route from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo is no exception, but nevertheless is one of the island's star walks. However, you shouldn't be put off if you suffer vertigo, since the path is cut out of the rock with a wire railing (admittedly it was a bit rickety in 2001) to shield you from the big drops. When the way ahead becomes insurmountable, the path simply tunnels through the obstacle, so torches are essential.
After a coffee in the Pico do Arieiro cafė, we set off not without a little trepidation, since the walk did look scary at this point, but the path was well made. After a short while, we reached "The Buzzard's nest", with tremendous views and stupendous vertical drops, but all quite safe. The next summit is bypassed on the cliffs to the right by a path cut out of the rock, with stone steps and a protective wire fence. On reaching the col, we entered the first tunnel through the Pico do Gato.
There are two ways to get past Pico das Torres - either to the right, or through a series of tunnels (one 200m in length) to the left. Our guide advised the latter route, since the eastern slopes of Pico das Torres had suffered landslips. It was certainly less strenuous. At times, the path went along galleries cut out of the rock, and the stanchions weren't always entirely secure. From here, over Pico Ruivo and to the end of the walk, no more steep drops were encountered. We climbed up to the Pico Ruivo mountain hut, pausing for refreshment, before continuing to the summit itself at 6,106'. By now, the clouds had descended, and there were only occasional glimpses of a view. There followed an easy descent to the car park at Achada do Teixeira. Being on a guided walk meant that we didn't have to return to our starting point to collect our car, but could join a shuttle bus back to Funchal.