Archive for Funchal

Mozzies, Mud and Mistiness…More of Madeira

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Walking with tags , , , on October 10, 2010 by maidofmettle

The mozzies have come out to play in Funchal. It was getting a bit ridiculous being bitten lots of times in the night, waking up in the middle of the night with both arms itching like mad or the high-pitched squeal of wings around your head so we decided to foil them for the last few nights with mozzie nets…ha ha, that showed them. No more tasty midnight snacks for you 🙂

(Thanks FPH coders for the kind donations for that investment)

Pete hiding from the mozzies

We have continued to keep busy walking and exploring the island. Highlights were the Riberio Frio – Portela walk that took us through the nature reserve area of Madeira. It turns out something like 80% of the island is reserve and this is where all the greenery is. This must be the place where the brochures show pictures of, it is spectacularly green and hilly. Some of the paths are a little scary though. We were glad of the hand rails.

Chris ponders the sheer drop beneath (Riberio Frio- Portela)

Yes this is a tunnel, yes Caroline did go through it…and yes, there was
another way around (Riberio Frio – Portela)

Pete has been getting quite into his walking during our time here and has done a lot more walks than Chris and I. He enjoyed a walk through banana plantations and a farmland valley the other day. Apparently they grow a smaller variety of banana than those you might be most likely to find in Tesco but we have also seen passion fruit growing here. We all tried some of those, along with prickly pears from a local stall. I’m not sure any of us were overwhelmed by either fruit (if cactus can be called a fruit)…crunchy fruit seeds seem to be the order of the day. Next time I think we might strain them first.

Madeira is famous for cake, wine and triangular houses. Santana is the best place to go and see these traditional houses. In fact we haven’t really seen them anywhere else.

Santana house

We hired a car intending to do day’s walk amongst some of the biggest mountains and to make a trip to the sea cliffs of Cabo Girao. Both of these would have been difficult or impossible without it. Cabo Girao is over five hundred metres high (compared to the cliffs of Dover that are around 100m) and again, it’s good that they put a barrier up. We had misty views of Funchal from there. Whilst browsing youtube we found a video of someone who parachuted after riding his motorbike off this cliff. We just looked at the view…that was enough.

Looking down from Cabo Girao

We got up at about 6.30am to get to the summit of Pico do Arreiro in time for sun-rise. We made it in good time round the windy roads with quite a few 1st gear moments up the hills. It was cold but the sunrise was amazing over the clouds below us.

Sunrise at Pico do Arreiro summit

Our intended walk would have taken us from there to Pico Ruivo about 5km away but in the end we only did a small amount of the walk before turning back. The track is officially closed but the fact the path looked good and we had seen other people continuing tempted us into cautiously carrying on with the intention of turning back if it looked unsafe anywhere. After about fifteen or twenty minutes we remembered that we probably wouldn’t be insured to be on the path should anything bad happen so made our way back. We were later to find out that the path was closed due to the forest fires they had a while ago here and doesn’t look set to be repaired until December “when funds permit”. I’m quite glad we did…another couple we met on our second trip up in the car that day had done the same walk as we planned to but were told on their way back from Ruivo by some wardens that they “were very lucky” not to be hurt by wind-blown stones. I do wonder just how unsafe it can be if wardens are allowed on the path but nevermind I’m glad we were sensible eventually!

We saw none of these stones on our short walk but were scared a bit by the drops to either side and the relatively narrow bits of path. The mist sort of helped because you couldn’t see all that much to either side but yet again, we were glad someone had put railings up! Vertigo sufferers look away now…

“Don’t look down…oh no, I can’t see anything anyway…”
(Pico Arreiro)

We spent a lot of the day driving around the island instead which was good. Lots of views, some very tame birds and good weather.

View looking towards Pico Arreiro (near Riberio Frio)

Tame birds at the same view point – they enjoyed our lunch too.

Madeira wine and strange hand-knitted hats near Riberio Frio.
(I suspect Hermione Granger is trying to free house-elves again.)

The second drive up to Pico Arreiro on the way back to the boat
– this time a view 🙂

As I write this, the cabaret across the marina at one of the bars is in full swing and unfortunately, still no one has told the man and what I assume to be his son that they aren’t very good. Oh well, at least it’s getting easier to sleep through this entertainment the longer we stay here

Walkies – Madeira

Posted in Cooking, Fun, Photographs, Sailing, Walking with tags , on October 4, 2010 by maidofmettle

Madeira – on our way to Funchal marina

The view from the boat of Funchal – impressive by day

We have been exploring Madeira from Funchal for the last few days. Not only is Madeira a retirement ground for old Toyota Starlets but also so far we have been impressed by the walking tracks that we have found on the island. Funchal marina itself is home to one of the least swanky toilet and shower blocks that we have experienced so far and what passes for rather dubious entertainment until the early hours. Last night we were treated to some rather loud and out of tune singing by a man and what I assumed to be his son. I suppose going from Quinta do Lorde, which actually was the height of luxury, anything else will be a little bit disappointing but we are thankfully very close to buses here so exploring is much much easier from here.

Anyway, I have been surprised by the variation in the landscape so far. We have seen craggy, clay rock faces, high mountains, areas recovering from forest fires and lush green valleys, Madeira is contrasting to say the least. The walking is equally interesting, many following the path of water channels (or levadas) which were built to direct water down the many large hills. The main advantage of levada walking is that they are generally flat which is great if you don’t like walking uphill. They are exciting in places too as you will often find overhangs to deal with and long, low tunnels with accompanying girl-eating spiders. I was surprised to actually need the torch the guide-book suggested for the tunnels.

Pete and Caroline walking along the levada at Lombo Grande

Negotiating an ‘awkward’ tunnel – note the thin path and water
channel to the right – (Lombo Grande)

Obstacle course (Lombo Grande)

Fabulous mountains and area recovering from forest fires
Eira do Serrado

The area of Eira do Serrado is famed for its nuns, a post-lady and chestnuts. The nuns apparently used to escape up the valley whenever pirates attacked Funchal, the post-lady had an epic walk to deliver post around the valley and the locals use the chestnuts to make delicious food. The only surviving evidence of the nuns are two aptly named restaurants “Nun’s Valley” and “Nun’s Valley Two”…Very original. Our walk (which supposedly follows the ‘easiest’ part of the post-lady’s route ended at Nun’s Valley where we sampled some traditional soups – Chestnut for Pete and bread soup for Chris and I.

What is this? egg..rosemary sprigs…a giant garlic clove!
…yikes something very hot. Mmm soup.

Phoenix from the flames – flowers growing wild here after the fires.

We have been making good use of the buses from Funchal. They appear to have been designed for very very small people which is entertaining when it comes to some of the corners. The roads of Madeira are extremely bendy (not to mention narrow in places with occasional holes where they are repairing after rocks have fallen. You have to hold on tight at times to stop yourself falling in the aisle.

The other day we took a bus up the hill to a botanical garden, small bird park and an orchid garden. I had no idea orchids were so complicated. Here they grow them in bottles for years and years in a small laboratory before they can eventually plant them. Some take over ten years before they even produce the first flowers!


Yes Mr Bond it is an orchid growing laboratory

Hiding amongst the orchids

After a busy day walking yesterday today is a bit of a rest day and with any luck Chris will attempt to make some home made bolo do caco bread. He triumphed the other day with a coffee and walnut cake which actually cooked well in the boat’s oven…an achievement indeed…

Coffee and walnut cake…the food of kings

We will probably stay on the island for a week or so longer before thinking about moving on.