Mystic of Holyhead (successor to Lynn Rival)
Rachel and Paul Chandler
Sun 9 Dec 2012 17:05
Madeira is a beautiful island, hilly and green, loved by walkers.
It rains a lot, especially in December, so we had an excuse for not being too energetic. We needed to relax a bit being tired from tummy bugs in Morocco and seasickness (for Rachel) on the way across to Porto Santo.
The village development at Quinta do Lorde - the marina is beyond the houses, the distant town is Canical
Quinta do Lorde (the lord being Shrewsbury) was the place for us. At the tail (eastern) end of the island, the well-run marina is quiet and the resort village has yet to be occupied. There are a few other visiting cruisers, and a lot of workers getting the hotel and village ready for Christmas visitors, but there was always plenty of room at the cafe-bar during Happy Hour.
Our first outing was by bus to Funchal, the capital. The 90 minute meandering journey is surprisingly comfortable and a great way of seeing some of the villages, countryside and amazing infrastructure. There are road tunnels galore (Rachel thinks someone imported a TBM (tunnel boring machine) and they haven't found out how to turn it off) and the airport runway is a vast platform built on stilts reaching out into the sea. We did a quick recce of the town, visiting the famous indoor market to ogle at the quality and variety of local produce. Funchal is home to much of the tourism on the island, the large hotels, cruise ship berths, museums, etc and very busy so we didn't feel the need to linger.
Catia, the highly regarded operations manager of the marina, suggested we visit the new Whaling Museum in nearby Canical, the centre of Madeiran whaling from WW2 until 1981. Sceptical but intrigued, we found ourselves forking out 10 Euros each to find out what the large, modern building had to offer. It was quite an experience, with lots of whaling boats, some gruesome photos and artifacts from the factory that produced the oils and meal.
Another of Catia's wheezes was that we should walk to the easternmost point of the island. One sunny afternoon we walked up to the end of the road and joined the pathway. We knew we'd found the right place as it had an ice cream van and a sign saying it was a 4 kilometer walk (each way). We passed a few exhausted walkers returning to their bus and were soon enjoying stunning views both to the north and south, finally making it up the steep hill at the end. In all we walked over 10 kilometers up and down mostly good paths getting back to the marina too late for Happy Hour! (Mostly good paths, but I did mention that Madeira is hilly, didn't I?).
Careful now, this bit's rather narrow! The Desertas islands can be seen in the distance
Damn! Forgot our swimmies - we had to be content with this view of the island at the end.
We wanted to see more of the island so on another fine day we hired some wheels. Bicycles are not recommended as neither they nor motorbikes are allowed in the tunnels. So we took a car and drove to the north coast, using the older roads and avoiding the tunnels as far as possible. We were rewarded with beautiful scenery, often green and lush, the slopes usually cultivated, sometimes steeply terraced. They are able to grow a wide range of fruit and vegetables all year round.
We didn't get to try the wine, but here is evidence of viticulture
Some slopes are cultivatable . . . . . . . but there's not even a goat to be seen on this islet
A distant waterfall gives a clue to the productivity
On another sunny day we took to the central hills, which range from wooded and green to scrubby moorland. Fortunately there's a road wending it's way close to the highest peak (Pico Reivo, 1862m). From the car park we were encouraged to walk another 2 kilometers to the top. It's cold and cloudy up there so we couldn't see a great deal. After what seemed like 2 km we came across ice and the pathway started to go downhill again so we'd had enough. Paul thinks we were within 20m of the top but we'll never know.
Almost at the top - the view southwards
Are we nearly there? Is that the summit?
There's little wildlife to be seen, just the sounds of running water and waterfalls. Later in the day we took a short walk along a levada, one of the thousands of miles of water channels that were built to irrigate the island (after the colonizers burnt down all the trees to grow sugar cane).
Never mind the pretty thatched replicas you see in the brochure - a typical hut of olden days