I staggered up the final few steps to the summit, clambered on to an obelisk marking the spot – and for a few moments I was the highest person on the holiday island of Madeira.
The panoramic views took away what little breath I had left. On one side I could see rainforests leading down steep canyons to the island’s wild north coast, and, on the other, dry valleys disappearing through the clouds to south coast resorts such as Funchal.
With its little concrete seats, crazy paving and dainty safety railings, the summit of Pico Ruivo must be one of the world’s most extraordinary picnic sites. I sat down to eat my sandwiches and gazed at jagged volcanic peaks and plunging rock faces in all directions.