Being a perfectionist and a collector (both terrible features), I like to see things through – once I undertake a given task or a project, I’m determined to finish it in 100%. Here, on Madeira, one of those little quests of mine is to walk all the hiking trails listed by the website I always use to consult the trips. I mark every finished trail on my map of the island and each new line drawn on it gives my a sort of perverted joy only weirdos like me would understand.
Needless to say, the more lines marked on the map at the end of the day, the merrier. I try to combine the trails, then, and since some walking paths start in the very same spot the other finish, there are days when I manage to combine two or three levadas in one go. Once – and this is what I want to tell you about today – once I decided to combine six.
I walked along six different veredas and levadas from Balcões next to Ribeiro Frio basically all the way to Ponta de São Lourenço, doing something around 46 kilometers in one day, but what’s more interesting than the numbers, is the change in my attitude that I noticed while walking. See, usually, when you go for a walk in the mountains, it’s just for a short – and usually tiring enough – distance, you’re done in a few hours and you don’t really get the sense of being on the move, of traveling. Something else, as I discovered, happens when you walk long distances.
During my first 20 kilometers I was really taking it easy and slow; after each levada I would have a 10 minute break, eat something, recharge a bit. Then, during the next twenty and some, I got so fascinated by the walk itself that I completely forgot about hunger and tiredness. I found it absolutely captivating, this process of being on the move only by the power of my own two legs. The possibility to travel (yes, “travel”, because it was no longer just a short hike) independently from anything and anyone, with such a direct contact with the passing landscape, it felt absolutely fantastic. I didn’t even want to stop to catch a breath (and naturally I was tired, I did have pain in my legs), because I was too curious about what I’d see behind the next stream, next curve, next hilltop. The landscape kept on changing, and it really makes you feel good about yourself when in one moment you see a distant city (be it Machico) kilometers ahead of you, then you’re walking right next to it, and then a few moments later you leave that “distant” city behind you. Then there will be other towns ahead (be it Caniço) and you can leave those behind as well – you just have to keep on walking, and yes, you can. Apparently, we’re all stronger than we think.
You have every right to feel sceptical about it (after all, getting unbelievably tired doesn’t always correspond with our idea of having fun) but I really want to recommend such a long distance walk to anyone. The day I told you about was most likely my best hiking day on Madeira. In the evening I opened my map and drew a very long line in the eastern side of the island (I smiled at my work, for I knew it was all very good). Then I got “pensativo” for a while, opened my little black notebook and added a new line to my To Do List: “Walk Caminho Português de Santiago”.
Maciej Śpiewakowski. Polish volunteer at AAUMa, passionate about journalism, photography, music and travels.
Erasmus+ is a programme of the European Commission embracing the fields of education, training, youth and sports during the period 2014-2020. One of the major aspects is the cooperation between the different fields where the programme acts, hence contributing for a diverse and rich Europe.
Amongst the several goals of the programme, the following are prioritised: the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, including the headline education target; the aims of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020), including the corresponding benchmarks; the sustainable development of Partner Countries in the field of higher education; the overall goals of the renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018); the objective of developing the European dimension in sport, in particular grassroots sport, in line with the EU work plan for sport and the promotion of European values in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union.
In order to achieve these goals, the Erasmus+ has several action policies. The Key Action 1 (KA1) is directed towards the mobility of people; Key Action 2 (KA2) for the cooperation for innovation and the interchange of good experiences; and Key Action 3, which is for the support of reformation policies.
Since 1991 the University of Madeira Students’ Union has developed a wide incentive policy for voluntary work. In 2013 the Students’ Union started the process to receive, send and coordinate Erasmus+ projects of the European Voluntary Service, in order to have a larger influence in the volunteering field. The Union received its first volunteer withing the ambit of a KA1 project in 2014. Many efforts have been done to allow young people from Madeira to take part in several initiatives in Europe, as well as propose several projects allowing young people from several countries to work in the projects of the Students’ Union of the University of Madeira. The main goal of the voluntary work is the contribution of the volunteers to the communities and places they will be staying, being their work not rewarded with payment.
We believe that the European Voluntary Service is a mechanism full of experiences, allowing the approved candidates to have the privilege of taking part in these projects and benefit the places and communities where these volunteers will be staying.
Since 2013, the University of Madeira Students’ Union has received volunteers that have collaborated in several activities and initiatives. Besides being able to enjoy a wonderful experience which will contribute to their personal and professional growth, they are able to contribute in a unique way to the community in which they are inserted and to join dozens of volunteers from the University of Madeira.