Archive for levadas

Madeira part 4: Why, why, why, Ventura?

Posted in Fun, Photographs, the Madeira archipelago, Walking with tags , , , on July 2, 2011 by maidofmettle

The title isn’t very pertinent to anything except the fact that the cabaret on the P&O cruise ship across the harbour was very loud indeed when I was writing some of this. I’m sure you can guess the tune.

I had finally run out of nearly all my fruit and vegetable stocks from Las Palmas after being in Funchal for a couple of weeks, except for potatos, onions and lemons. So though I’d managed to eat very well over 3 weeks it was definitely time to investigate the market.

It’s a big tourist attraction, and it’s certainly photogenic..

..but I was a bit disappointed by the actual shopping experience. There are three issues really – price, quality, and attitude.

The prices are noticeably more than at the Mercado Central in Las Palmas, but having seen the terracing here I could well believe that food costs might be a bit more. And for most fruit and vegetables it’s still fairly reasonable if you shop around.

That also helps for quality, but it generally didn’t seem great. Probably inevitable to some extent with small-scale producers who can’t afford to just dump the imperfect produce, but it’s tricky when you’re trying to find vegetables that will last for one or two weeks – otherwise I’d be a lot less fussy.

But some of the soft fruits are extremely expensive indeed, and the vendors in some areas really go for a hard sell on those without marking the price. It would probably be quite easy to find yourself spending an awful lot more than you expected to. I escaped that, but definitely at a cost of some patience. I can see why they do it though – probably a large proportion of the people passing through are from catered cruise ships or hotels without any intention of buying much, who one might imagine could afford to try some expensive local fruits.

The following day brought yet another occasion or two – firstly a traditional bread fair, with lots of stalls selling different types, with plenty of crusty loaves and sweet varieties as well as the ubiquitous bolo do caco.

I bought this pao de rolao for lunch, though my portuguese didn’t meet the challenge of finding out how it’s made.

I decided to go up again for dinner to try some of the traditional dishes on offer.

The plate on the left is a sande de figado – a liver sandwich, garnished with onions and surprisingly good. The bowl is caldo verde – literally green soup, it’s a broth made using onions, potatoes, kale or cabbage, and usually a lot of garlic. This version had some chorizo in it as well, which made a lovely contrast to the more delicate flavour of the soup.

After that there was a fine display of traditional dancing by several groups in a procession around the square. Somewhat chaotic, but they were clearly having a good time, and made it even more fun to watch.

After that it was time for another set of fireworks..

..spectacular once again.

And after that I wandered back up to the square with the bread festival to hear the end of a performance by a fado group from Coimbra. I’d heard the Madeirense aren’t actually that keen on fado, finding it a bit melancholy, but that didn’t seem in evidence this evening, especially not when they were all singing along at the end.

I’d found out very much by chance – glancing in the events section of a free magazine – that there was also a cherry festival in the village of Jardim da Serra that weekend, so that’s where I went on Sunday. It didn’t actually mention when anything was happening, but my doubts on that score were firmly dismissed by the huge crowd of locals who piled onto the bus in Estreito de Camara de Lobos, the next village down.

Jardim da Serra translates roughly as ‘Garden in the mountains’, and it’s a beautiful area. Lower down there are scores of banana plantations, but from Estreito uphill the dark green of banana plants is replaced by the vivid bright green of vineyards.

It wasn’t obvious from the bus where the cherry trees fit in, but they certainly must be around somewhere.

Not that that was the only food on offer, though I’d have hated to be manning a barbecue on a day as hot as this.

For a small village it was really buzzing, with a main stage, a long street with stalls either side and occasional impromptu outbursts of folk music (usually accordion, drum and singing).

Later in the afternoon there was a big parade, with a marked theme

for nearly every float

though I did like the constantly pouring bottle of poncha (we’ll get to that in another entry) in the background of this one

and this mobile vineyard

The last bus back to Funchal was fairly early (though it was relatively late by the time it had escaped through the parked cars on the road out), so it was thankfully a much shorter day than the previous one.

I may have asked this question before, but does this place ever stop? In the centre of Funchal people were starting to gear up for the classic car rally starting in a few days time..

I was keeping an eye on weather forecasts regularly at this point, but it looked like the next day definitely wouldn’t make sense to go, so I headed out for another walk instead, to a part of the island I hadn’t been to before.

The bus drove through the huge Ribeira Brava valley and dropped me off at the Boca da Encumeada. The north coast was enveloped in a sea of cloud..

but the high peaks to the east were very clear.

The walk went alongside another section of the Levada do Norte, which is huge at this point, easily the biggest I’ve walked alongside. It takes water from both the northern and southern sides of the high plain Paul da Serra to a hydroelectric plant, and then on to the south coast where I’d been the day before to irrigate the vineyards, banana plantations and cherry trees – at over 50km excluding tributaries it’s the longest levada on Madeira.

One route I’d hoped might be open (online research was inconclusive) was closed off, but luckily the one that was definitely meant to be open was.

Though standing at the start of a long tunnel, I suddenly remembered that my torch batteries had seemed very weak the last time I was using it while getting thrown around in the dark just south of Madeira..

Still, I figured the backlight on my phone or camera would probably do at a push, and there was always crawling or wading in the levada as last-resort options. Not that there wasn’t quite a bit of trepidation on entering. I’d wondered if the feeling would get worse half way, but it didn’t seem to. Luckily, the battery just about lasted, on the way there at least, and 10 minutes or so later I came back out into the light again.

The path carried on through a very lush area, full of trees,


and ferns

Big as the levada is, it’s clearly designed to be able to cope with an excess of water in periods of heavy rain (the north coast gets over 2m annually, compared to about 0.8m in southern England), with overflows where water cascades down the cliff

and in several other places along the channel

I stopped at the start of the next tunnel, as continuing would have meant being underground as much as in the open for the hour or so further along possible, which I don’t think would have appealed even with a very bright torch!

And it was next to an impressive waterfall

The area below it was a beautiful place to eat lunch and relax for a few hours – shade, sun, and the rush of cold air from the tunnel all available in turn, and the roar and spectacle of the falling water constant.

Back at the Boca da Encumeada I spent a while talking with a Swedish couple also on an exciting-sounding expedition – they were nearing the end of walking from one end of Madeira to the other in a week’s holiday, camping each night. Very cool, though I still liked the idea of going back to my bunk.

Which I was lucky to be able to do, as I nearly missed my bus – I’d set an alarm for 5 minutes before I expected it but unknowingly the following day, and I was just realising this a couple of minutes after it should have gone off when the bus appeared. Luckily the driver stopped a little way downhill and let me catch up.

Any delay this caused was soon put into insignificance by an orange contraption half across the road and a man waving his arms around excitedly and speaking rather loudly.

The machine was broken, and the bus driver didn’t think the bus would get through the remaining gap without damage (I’m wondering if he wasn’t Madeirense, as this seems a highly unusual attitude for native bus drivers), which led to an apparent impasse. There was at least good entertainment from a Madeiran lady on the bus who sounded as though she was denouncing the workmen at some length, although none of them were around to hear.

After a while of stalemate and a coach behind us reversing back up the hill another coach appeared, triggering another conference between the two drivers and the foreman with a lot more arm-waving. The end result seemed to be that we would risk it. There definitely wasn’t much room to spare, but we made it…

After that excitement we had to change to a different bus in Ribeira Brava, which merely sounded like it was either about to explode or try and take off – not good for continuing the conversations we’d started while stopped!

Madeira part 3: ups and downs

Posted in Fun, Photographs, the Madeira archipelago, Unfortunate events, Walking with tags , on June 28, 2011 by maidofmettle

Terreiro da Luta is on a large hill overlooking Funchal from the north, above the village of Monte, with two claims to fame (at least locally).

It was originally known as the place where a fifteenth century shepherdess is believed to have discovered a statue of the Virgin which is now kept on the altar in the church of Nossa Senhora (Our Lady) de Monte.

(as an aside – there’s a religious festival where pilgrims ascend the steps to the church on their knees – ouch!)

Lots of people rushed to the church to pray when the harbour and city of Funchal were attacked by German submarines during the First World War. After the second incident a ceremony was held the parish priest vowed to ‘build a monument in thanks and as a plea for peace, if God, through the intercession of Our Lady, would restore peace to Madeira’.

Terreiro da Luta was chosen as the location, as the statue had originally been found there. Three hundred people took part in transporting the materials up – it’s 300m uphill over a couple of kilometres just from Monte. It must have been quite a feat looking at the finished statue on it’s supporting tower..

..and what must be the world’s largest and heaviest rosary around the base, made using an anchor chain from one of the French ships (escort to a British cable-laying vessel) torpedoed in the harbour in the first attack.

The views down over Funchal are quite impressive too, if a bit hazy. There used to be a cog railway climbing from sea level in Funchal 1000m to a levada above here, but it shut down a long time ago, though some people now hope to restore the section between Monte and Terreiro da Luta.

I’d never known until that day what the phrase ‘stations of the cross’ referred to, but now I think I do – a cross for every key event from the pronunciation of Jesus’ death sentence to sometime after the resurrection, along the path between Monte and Terreiro da Luta – I imagine religious processions stop at each one of these (probably a welcome break on the way up!).

Back in Funchal town centre I passed a vast number of sculptures, created in local schools on the theme of a look through Europea art. The concept of creating sculptures based on paintings is a fascinating one to me, and many of them were superbly executed. Now, who can guess whose work this is based on?

The next day I did some wandering in Funchal. The afternoon was very hot, so I spent a while in the relatively cool “Vicentes” photographic museum, based in a old studio where portrait pictures were taken. It has a big of cameras, including back to the 19th century when they really looked like miniature engineering projects. In fact the founder of the studio did build his own camera specifically for it. The rest of the set-up is fascinating as well, from all the rooms and chemicals involved in developing to the painted canvases that were slid along to change the backdrop.

Better yet was a series of three albums of photographs from various sources on the theme of transport on Madeira – from old carrying chairs to horse-drawn sledges (seemingly common into the 20th century) and the arrival of the first cars and aeroplanes (only 16 years apart, though it took some decades more for anything other than a seaplane to be able to land) and up to the present day.

A little later, through this unassuming doorway

found a place that sold incredible sorbets – utterly delicious, made from local fruits with no colouring/flavouring added, and costing 1.25 a go. I can’t actually remember what fruit the one I had was..oops.

I carried on through the Vila Velha (old town), which boasts attractive buildings and a vast array of restaurants

to the Fortress of Sao Tiago, which I tend to think of as the Bright Yellow Fort.

There’s a small stony beach the fishing boats are pulled up with, quite popular with locals for sunbathing and swimming. After a cloudy morning it was a very hot afternoon, as a quick dip was just as welcome as the sorbet. I think the water’s a bit colder than in the Canaries, but still very pleasant for swimming.

The next day turned out to be a very long one indeed. I started by getting up early to get a bus to Corrida, before walking up to the mountain pass above it. It felt quite a long walk up there along the road, but it was through the shade of beautiful woodland so not too much of a problem.

From Boca da Corrida you can see down into the Nun’s Valley we visited last year, and across to the highest peaks in the background.

Unfortunately the walk I’d hoped to go on was closed – I’d tried to check up the previous night but given up on trying to find the clearest bit of the official website after quite a while of searching, which suggested it was probably fine but didn’t seem definite. Thankfully, I was able to find an alternative in my book, doing another walk backwards.

It certainly seemed a good alternative…

..though the going did get quite tricky – it was fine underfoot but involved a lot of pushing my way through vegetation growing alongside and over the path. It did look beautiful though..

I had occasional marks painted on rocks to check I was going the right way, though it did get a bit confusing at times when these seemed to reverse direction. This was resolved when I realised that locally, all footpaths led to Aviceiros, though this seems a bit of an anachronism as the three houses in that hamlet are all in ruins, destroyed by floods, fire or both in the last couple of years.

I was a bit puzzled by these things when I first saw one – in fact I thought the path was blocked, until I figured out this is just the local ‘style’ of getting over a fence.

By this point I was climbing up out of the valleys and towards the top of Chao dos Terreiros, and it’s very large trig point.

It was hot – but I was definitely glad it was a clear day.

The way down to Fontes featured lots of cows.

I quite like sleepy cows, but I’m less keen on wary protective mother cows, especially on a narrow path. Actually, I’m starting to think that I’m not keen on anything bigger or more aggressive than a rabbit on a narrow path. Thankfully several-hundred mile stretches of ocean tend not to feature such things.

So when they were just looking docile I walked carefully past them, but the couple of times when I approached a group and one of them leapt up I let discretion take the better part of valour and found a way around them.

Not that this was without its problems…

The first time just involved a bit of brushing through bushes and then finding a place to drop down onto the path round a bend. The place I initially arrived at had a cow right beneath it, but it was easy enough to go on. I think the German walkers sitting slightly further down the path were somewhat amused. I hope my stirring the cows up didn’t cause them any problems when they carried on, I haven’t heard any news reports of trampled tourists.

The second time it occurred (yep, twice is careless, but it’s quite hard to force yourself to walk quietly for kilometres down a steep slope) just finding the path again was a challenge – it looked like I might end up on the wrong side of a steep valley.

Fortunately I found an alternative route, without getting nearly as scratched as I had on the overgrown path earlier!

Having found the trail again I reached the village I was aiming for to find that the last bus for the day had already left shortly before (remember this isn’t where I’d planned on ending up, and curse those cows!). So I walked down the road through a couple of little hamlets to join the Levada do Norte, running south towards the coast, and featuring some very welcome shade.

This came back out onto the road again from another village, where I stopped in a bar to get some water, before carrying on down for another 40 minutes or so to meet the road running along the south coast where I could get a bus.

The marina of Lugar de Baixo is just about visible below the cliffs in the distance – hopefully this will open next month after being badly damaged by storms twice during construction, fingers crossed for it!

I chatted a little with the lady selling cherries from the bus stop, and found the next bus to Funchal was fortuitously going to be in about 5 minutes – perfect! So I put my hat and sunglasses away and got my wallet out ready.

Or rather, I tried to. I’m sure you can guess which of those actions was causing the problem.

Slightly surprisingly I was fairly calm about this rather than furious with myself. I started walking back uphill, constantly scanning all across the road, to the bar about 3/4 hr away. I was now doubly glad I’d stopped there so the last place I’d seen it wasn’t miles and miles away! I thought finding it at the side of the road or else at that bar was probably my best hope – it was getting on in the evening now and stopping at every bar or shop en route felt like a definite waste of time.

Though when I actually got to the bar, the potential for hopes to be dashed made me wish it was slightly further away.

And indeed the owner there hadn’t had anything handed in, but he did kindly top my water up.

So, back downhill – there were a few other bars on the way, or perhaps I’d just missed it. In fact, there was another bar / general store I was just walking past, but surely anyone handing it in would have checked in both in case the owner was still there? I carried on.

Then, 50 yards later, I turned around. It seemed daft to come back all this way back uphill and not try all the obvious possibilities. And it was very good I did. The lady at the counter said something about the police, and asked me to write my name down.

I presumed she was going to phone and ask if they had any information, so I was delighted when she reappeared with the rogue wallet, and then phoned the police for me to confirm it had been returned. Phew! (on both counts, though especially the former).

So, one celebratory purchase (a jar of Madeiran sugar cane molasses) later, I set off back downhill again, until a couple of minutes later the owner of the other bar drove up and gave me a lift with him nearly all the way to the bottom again. This worked wonderfully well, as the next bus to Funchal once again appeared about 5 minutes later – the perfect amount of time to sit down briefly, buy some cherries and then count my change out.

Back in Funchal it was a nice cool evening.

After a shower I decided it was worth a little walk for a very easy to cook meal – some local steak to go with my the last of my Tenerifean black potatos.

Not that’s that exciting for you (though it was very tasty), but it did shoehorn some pictures into the end of this entry!

Madeira part 1: getting stuff done and a few excursions

Posted in Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Photographs, the Madeira archipelago, Walking with tags , , on June 22, 2011 by maidofmettle

Having had a rather tiring few days and created another rather long jobs list I spent most of the first few days in Funchal resting and sorting things out, with a few little excursions to stretch my legs and enjoy the benefits of being in port a bit more.

Funchal was as lovely and lively as ever..

..and the nearest park is very nice..

and also has great views across the bay of Funchal (you can just see Maid in the bottom right)

Despite that, I felt a bit flat a lot of the time for a few days – probably largely tiredness, but also being repeatedly reminded of fun things I did here with the others last autumn took a little of the shine off being here on my own.

I did get a fair bit done though, from routine cleaning and tidying to re-organising several bits of the boat, and also replacing the main halyard. This is the rope that goes up to the top of the mast and back down again to hoist the mainsail. Looking at it it seems in reasonable condition, but it’s certainly not new and had a fair bit of use and sunshine, and replacing it or substituting for it at sea would be very inconvenient indeed.

And we have been carrying the rope to do the job around since we left England…

So I stitched the new rope to the old one..

so it could go round the wheel at the top and into the mast and down again, and then pulled steadily and gently, keeping my fingers crossed till I’d got the new rope fully through.

I also completed a cockpit cushion project I’d begun in Las Palmas. I’d started working on the cover on the way here using some blue fabric Chris had from somehere-or-other that we’ve been carrying around, and some of the ship’s stock of velcro that escaped Chris & Caroline’s velcrophile phase.

The foam I bought in Las Palmas is very nice and thick, but the cunning bit is the plywood back…

..which means that you have a solid backrest much higher than Maid’s uncomfortably low cockpit sides – far more comfortable, and a very nice complement to the cushions Dave and Taryna gave me.

I had a very nice lunch with Hampus & Lotta on Ingeborg, who I’d last seen in Las Palmas several weeks before, and then they came round for dinner that evening – it was very good to catch up with them..

..before they left for Porto Santo the next morning.

That left the harbour feeling very empty, but happily I got most of the jobs finished the next day, and there was due to be a big firework display that evening. It’s part of the Festival of the Atlantic, but I think it also serves as a way of selecting who’ll provide the fireworks for the even bigger New Year’s Eve extravaganza come next January.

The seafront was thronged with people – all the restaurants had put all their chairs out, and there were people standing all along the promenade and harbour wall.

I’m sure a lot of people could see it from much further away..

and doubtless hear it too. There’ll be another display every Saturday in June (poor dogs..) – I wasn’t sure I’d get to see any more, but certainly wasn’t averse to the idea on those grounds.

With all the urgent-seeming jobs except sorting Horace out completed, and Sunday not being a good day for trying to get hold of his makers again, I went for a walk the next day.

It had a bit of a football theme to begin with – from a bus stop by the street named after the Funchal-born Maritimo, Porto and Portugal forward Artur de Sousa or “Pinga” to Camacha, a village east of Funchal.

Of course, Madeira is probably now more likely to be known as the birthplace of Cristiano Ronaldo than Portuguese football as a whole, but it was in this village square in 1875 that Harry Hinton, the Madeiran-born son of a British expatriate, started what’s regarded as the first organised game of football ever played in Portugal.

Starting the walk I couldn’t help wondering how many spare balls were needed to finish a game with this kind of landscape around..

It was very misty in the valleys at the start but cleared as I went down a steep cobbled path, but it cleared as the morning went on, and it was a beautiful day by the time I reached the small hamlet of Salgados.

The flowers were beautiful as well.

The path eventually descended to the Levada do Canico, and a much flatter path.

Though this tree seemed a bit confused by that, as though it expected the ground level to be a couple of metres higher. Unless it was just trying to look like a giant spider.

Having escaped Shelob, I continued along to Assomada to get a bus back to Funchal.

The next day I started by travelling westward, to the village of Paul do Mar, below some huge cliffs on the south coast of Madeira.

It’s quite pretty, but also notable for it’s very bizarre street names – or rather the lack of them.

There’s a ‘1st street of the church’, a 2nd, a 3rd, etc; about 5 ‘streets of the harbour’. I suppose in some ways it’s probably easier to find a place that way – if you’re approaching from the right direction you’ll know from four streets away that you’re on the right track, but it still seems rather strange.

The path zig-zagged up the cliffs behind the harbour and then up the valley of the Ribeira Seca – ‘dry river’, though it was currently sporting some fine waterfalls.

It was a tough climb, but the views both up and down the valley were well worth it – the next photo looks the other way out to sea.

And in places the cobbled path – not stepped so much as undulating – was absolutely carpeted in flowers.

Reaching the top there was a fantastic view down to Jardim do Mar, the next village along the coast. It looks beautiful, but I think I’d be slightly uneasy about living on the bottom of a landslip that’s also quite exposed to south-westerly winter gales..

I continued uphill to the centre of the village of Prazeres where I planned to get the bus home again. This had some tempting views up to the Paul da Serra – a large mountain plain that I’ve still not visited, largely because it’s rather tricky to get to

Rather than getting the bus from here I changed my mind and continued on along the Levada do Norte to Rapsoeira. This has been recently refurbished, and it definitely looks more modern than most, boasting trash screens to make removing debris easy and actual penstocks to control the flow of water rather than the traditional big stone and collection of rags.

It’s good to see that the old materials are still available for use in case of need though (but hopefully not for solving water distribution disputes..). Also note the rock placed under the penstock to keep it slightly open..

But apart from those minor details the levada is still much the same as those designed over a hundred years ago, though the larger ones now provide water to hydroelectric power stations as well as for irrigation. And the side benefit of nice paths for walking along..

Rapsoeira was beautifully decorated – probably preparing for processions for various saints’ days later in the month.

And so back to Funchal, and another phone call with the makers of the wind vane self steering about getting Horace fixed. One problem ought to be easy to sort out, the other one would need a replacement part which would either cost a fortune or take a long time to get sent to England. It seemed better to try and get one made locally. The Hydrovane staff very kindly emailed me a copy of the drawing for it, so I just had to try and find a machine shop.

Happily, the first man I asked – working on one of the fleet of big game fishing boats – knew of one, and gave me the address. I then spent about another hour on the internet making sure I was definitely going to the right place, which was rather hard work – it was in the industrial park of Cancela, which is actually nearer Canico (not Canical). I wanted to be sure before getting on a bus…

With that all sorted it it was quite easy to get to the industrial park, but harder to find the machine shop. Happily I walked into a garage to ask for directions about a minute before a man from there, who gave me a lift and then sorted out getting the part made.

It was quite a busy place, making and repairing all manner of things..

Not a bad view for an industrial park either.. handy while I was waiting around.

So with that sorted out I was once again able to go when I wanted to. Which didn’t look like it would be all that soon according to the weather forecasts..

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.