Messing about in Madeira

andromeda of plymouth
Susan and Andrew Wilson
Sat 12 Jun 2010 07:44
Madeira isn’t, to my knowledge (though I recognise things change very
quickly these days), known as a Formula One Grand Prix circuit, but
clearly the bus driver on the number No. 113 to Funchal was thinking
otherwise. The roads were narrow, twisting and very steep yet he threw the
bus around the corners with all the aplomb of a pro and was clearly in the
mind set of the huge container ships we’ve encountered so far which
appears to be “We stop for no-one!!”Well the occasional passenger, as
that’s what he’s employed for. The journey saw us sliding from one side of
the seat to the other very regularly and hanging on for some very expertly
executed turns - but we made it in one piece but anxiously looking for a
drink in downtown Funchal. We did, however, have to get the No. 113 back
to the marina later on – hhmmmmm.
Having spent a couple of days recovering from the trip and repairing
breakages and taking the Aries apart, we decided to take the bus to
Funchal for a mooch around. We were glad we took the advice of Ju and Sue
and head for Quinta do Lorde Marina instead of Funchal as it looked very
full and a little tired. Interestingly the bus route takes you under the
airport runway, a good portion of which is built on concrete pillars
between two headlands – quite an impressive feat of engineering. The town
itself is full of hustle and bustle and we enjoyed the afternoon wandering
around – Susan found some curtain material and it was orange, so was very
On Tuesday we decided to hire a car for a few days to see the rest of the
island and the scenery was quite majestic – very steep sided and very
green and verdant valleys are linked by either very narrow and steep roads
or via tunnels, of which there are miles and miles. Houses cling to the
side of the valleys sometimes giving the impression of just being stuck on
and with no obvious means of access. Many of the tunnels themselves are
linked by high bridges and while it does make it easier to get around the
island you are left with the feeling that it has taken away something of
what makes Madeira special. After a while you get very tired of the
tunnels and long for the steep winding roads, which may seem a little odd.
We took a day to circumnavigate the island – at one point on the north
west tip of the island we came across a road sign indicating that Funchal
was 98 miles away which, on an island only 35 miles long and 13 miles
wide, says something about the distances involved when driving on the
older roads as they follow the steep sided valleys from one end of the
island to the other. Still it was very worthwhile and the flowers were
The island has much to explore and if you are into strenuous mountainous
walks up steep sided valleys and amidst the clouds and mist, then this is
the place for you. Getting around by car takes some getting used to on the
old roads and requires considerable concentration around the endless
hairpin bends, of course dodging the buses on their way as well. It is a
very green island and although some of the original forest remains, the
sides of the mountains are covered with terraces growing bananas and
grapes and all sorts of other exotic fruit and veg. It’s also well served
by the airlines and the airport runway is something else. Certainly hiring
a car to get around for a few days was a good plan.
The following day (Wednesday) saw rain and very low cloud so not much
opportunity for sight-seeing around the island nor visiting the mountains
– you can only look at cloud for so long before being driven to think
there must be more to life. As most of the roads involve significant
height and were mostly in the clouds and rain, we pottered around the boat
and went into Machico for some supplies.
Rain again greeted us on Thursday but we headed off to cross the central
part of the island. Here much of the road awaits repair following the
disastrous storm in February and it’s still possible to see where the road
has been washed away, bridges brought down, houses damaged and the odd
crumpled car that bear testament to the ferocity of the water coming off
the mountains. Indeed there are many roads closed on the northern side of
the island where parts had been washed away.
Returning towards Funchal we took a ride on one of the cable cars – a
first for Susan who was a little nervous, but survived ok, then we visited
the botanical gardens. These are terraced on the side of the hills and
were very extensive. Just as we thought we had seen everything we turned a
corner and there was another level to explore. They are all laid out
really well and contain many fine specimens of plants and flowers from all
around the world. In the grounds there are also aviaries of exotic birds,
with peacocks and peahens roaming the grounds. We had never seen a white
peacock before today. Finally the sun came out and we had a nice run back
to the marina.
Today (Friday) we have had a busy time, this morning spent tidying up and
stowing things again and making sure we are ship shape for in the morning.
After lunch, and as the sun really came out, we caught the shuttle bus to
Monchico and had a lovely final afternoon there. We walked down to the
sea and paddle off the only sandy beach we have seen. The water was
lovely and we only wished we had had our cossies on.
We are really pleased to have visited Madeira and look forward to
returning in September and hope the photos do it justice – our next
planned stop is the island of Porto Santo, some 30 nautical miles to the
northeast of the main island and the lovely Catia has even reserved our
berth there and provided a plan of the marina showing us just where it is
– that is what you call service. Thank you so much Catia. From there we
plan to head for the Azores; unfortunately this is likely to be a beat
with the wind on the nose, so will be a demanding trip of about 5 days.
More in due course...........

Andrew & Susan
S/V Andromeda

Will be posting photos later as connection a bit slow and unresponsive at
the moment.