Madeira part 2: no eagles and no seals, but a lot of other things

That afternoon I did actually leave my berth, but just for a different one as a local boat needed to go where I was. Also, I suspect the harbourmaster of having a sly sense of humour..

It’s actually a much nicer berth, a lot further away from the noise of the dredger, and a lot less exposed to waves or swell coming into the marina.

That evening I went into town for one of a series of concerts laid on as part of the Festival of the Atlantic.

Oxalys were very good – you can hear some of their music using the player in the top right-hand corner of their website (click here).

Afterwards I wandered through Funchal to admire the city in the dark and take a few photographs

when I happened on another event – I think it was the final selection of ‘Miss Funchal’.

Sometimes I wonder if this place ever stops… It was definitely time for me to wander back and go to bed though.

With it having been dry for quite a while I decided it was finally time to tackle a walk I’d always been tempted by last year, but never managed to do as it’s supposed to be decidedly slippery when wet. This was climbing Penha d’Aguia (Eagle Rock) on the north-east coast.

It’s not actually that high – the top is at just under 600m – but it is steep on all sides, towering above the surrounding villages and valleys as well as the sea. It was hard to get a clear shot showing it this time – rather too close! – so here’s one from last year:

On the way there the bus went under the stilted extension to the airport runway (before this was built it was known as ‘the aircraft carrier’ for the extreme difficulty of landing), which still hasn’t quite lost it’s novelty.

There’s also a boatyard under here, taking advantage of an excellent opportunity to be able to store even very large boats under cover without needing to take their masts down.

Next we went past Machico, the first settlement on Madeira when it was colonised in around 1420. Some local legend attribute the name to an English sailor, Robert Machim, who may have been shipwrecked here with his mistress.

The town – still Madeira’s second largest – is just out of view on the left, but you can see the fine artificial beach and the harbour below the steep hills to the north of the valley.

The north coast wasn’t quite as sunny this time, but the view from Cruz down to Porto da Cruz was still quite impressive..

..as were the views back over the nearby valleys while zig-zagging up the side of Penha d’Aguia

The path was steep..very steep (up the rocks and around to the right).

Now the next line would normally be something like ‘but it was well worth it for this amazing view’. But I’m not going to write that, not to be contrary or innovative, but just because when I was about half-way up the entire rock got completely enveloped in cloud. At least it was cool.. I waited a while at the top to see if it cleared but I didn’t have all that long without having to rush down to get the bus back to Funchal.

At least it didn’t clear again just after I’d left the top – here’s the view back up from near the bottom.

There were still some fine views along the north coast though, just visible under the cloud.

The bus journey back was spent discussing long-distance sailing and invasive plant species affecting England and Sweden with a Swedish botanist. Next year it will surely be time to go back to Brownsea Island and chop down some more rhododendron..

The next day I did some jobs, some wandering in Funchal, and went to another concert in the evening, which I really enjoyed. This one featured the Quinteto Pavao e Victoria – you can see a video clip of it by clicking here.

As it was a Saturday the concert was held early, so I had time to make dinner and then go out again. The weather forecast made it very tempting to take a walk…

Bay of Funchal: thunder, lightning imminent. Shepherds delighted, sheep probably scared.

Rain of fire soon. Visibility good becoming locally poor. Sea state slight to burning.

and the climax was certainly fitting.

On Sunday I did another thing I’d never got around to last year, and made an expedition to the old fishing village of Camara de Lobos. So Mum, has it changed much? I’m guessing the swimming pool is new, and much of the housing up the cliffs of Cabo Girao in the background.

But the harbour itself and the boats may well not have changed a great deal.

There’s a slipway, but a lot of the fishing boats are still just pulled up the stony beach. There’s plenty of activity there still, from painting boats (which seems to be a whole family Sunday picnic occasional), to making repairs and drying fish..

..and also a lot of locals in the bars and public spaces, often playing cards or dominoes. The plaque on the side of that building marks where Winston Churchill famously came to paint watercolours – I wonder if he was distracted by off-duty fishermen? Given the tales about him being very well supplied with Madeira wine by one of the leading merchants I wouldn’t be surprised..

The town centre itself is very pretty

though sadly there’s no longer any chance of seeing the seals (Lobos de mar, or ‘sea wolves’) the town is named after, except in this statue:

Well, and various branding…

Moving swiftly on, Cabo Girao really towers over the western end of the town – it’s a pity it was so cloudy when we visited it last year! The houses on the side and the replica of the Santa Maria (or fully La Santa María de la Inmaculada Concepción) below give some idea of the scale of the cliffs.

The original Santa Maria was bought second-hand by Columbus and renamed to serve as his flagship for his first voyage across the Atlantic, though she didn’t make the return passage having been wrecked off Haiti. This replica was built in Camara de Lobos, and now does regular day trips from Funchal, as well as voyages further afield for events.

From there I took the bus back to the edge of Funchal, and eventually managed to find my way to the Miradouro do Pico dos Barcelos, on a hill in one of the western parishes. This was a bit a struggle at times in the hot sun – it was off the edge of my street map and not really covered on my walking map, but I eventually found it.

You can see pretty much all of Funchal from there, from the Igreja de Sao Martinho above Ponta da Cruz

to the city centre and harbour

and the hilly northern outskirts.

The two-towered church in the foreground of that picture is where I was actually heading for, as it was the first of a series of parades for different saints that are held throughout June. So here is the Igreja do Santo Antonio from a bit closer up:

This is a much more local affair than the ‘Festival of the Atlantic’ – part religious festival and part party. There were lots of stalls selling food and drinks, both around the church and on nearby roads.

I tried a sande de carne de vinho e alhos for dinner. For the princely sum of two euros you get a very tasty sandwich of incredibly tender pork marinated and cooked in wine and garlic – delicious! And for dessert a churra. Presumably the sister snack of the churro, rather than just being deep-fried batter it has a chocolate centre.

The streets were lined with people ready for the parade later:

but unfortunately I didn’t see much of the parade proper as I wanted to make sure I got the last bus (that I knew how to find!) back.

But I did walk up the route where all the groups were queueing up to start (I’d been a bit apprehensive about succeeding in that, but it worked out fine), so saw the impressive costumes that way even if I didn’t get to hear all the music.

You could still see the church very clearly from the bus stop – I had a while to wait around, but luckily my interpretation of the timetable hadn’t failed me and it duly appeared to take me back down to Funchal. I don’t think I’d ever been in a Madeiran bus going downhill in the dark before. It’s an experience.

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