Madeira by Lochlann

Short Passage from Porto Santo to Madeira November 2014

After leaving Porto Santo we crossed a small but lumpy sea to get to Machico on the south coast of Madeira Island. I was the most seasick I have been for a very long time as I was drawing down below for the first hour and the swell was very big.
We anchored off Machico, out of the swell, and went ashore after getting the dinghy off the foredeck with some difficulty. With much lifting and groaning we lifted it into the air on a pulley and then it squished me against the mast!
We found a Minimarket and bought some delicious bread called Bolo de Caco, which is made with sweet potato and cooked on a griddle.
Madeira is an amazing island. Like Porto Santo it is volcanic and the mountains are breathtaking. We found Machico’s small fort and had lunch on top of it. Fin then proceeded to steel himself to jump off the walls and over a pond at the base of the fort. He eventually did so and hurt his wrist and back in the process.
Amazing rock formations!


After a few days we left Machico and headed for Funchal, the capital, planning on staying just a few nights. Passing the colossal aeroplane runway that was held up by pillars over the land and the sea, we saw a plane come screaming down to land. I was very happy not to be on that plane.
We chugged into Funchal harbour and tied up alongside where the harbourmaster told us. This was our first visit to a marina since leaving Penzance in the middle of August. Up until this time we had always been at anchor. After getting over the novelty of being able just to step ashore rather than having to row (that’s the sort of row that’s done with oars) we got the unicycles out and went for a walk/cycle.
We found an Internet Zone at the start of the quay, which was another novelty since we could then have access to Internet every day. We also found a large open area where lots of teenagers were skateboarding. They all stopped as we unicyled passed them along the promenade.
We saw the cable car station and a strange building with half an upside-down-cone-shape attached at one end. We tried to run up it to the top but it was very smooth so we kept slipping down to the bottom. With difficulty we managed to get up and got blasted with stinking hot air from a funnel. We fell over quite a few times but it was worth it to be able to slide down at top speed. We theorized that if you climbed into a flowerbed underneath the cable cars you could jump and grab hold of them as they passed overhead, but Mum and Dad wouldn’t let us try! In a road parallel to the prom we got accosted multiple times by waiters of multiple restaurants asking us to eat. Since we went along that street quite a lot over the next few weeks, they stopped asking us after a while.


Walking the Levadas.
Walking the Levadas.

Walking the Levadas.

The next day Dad decided that we all had to go on a walk up the Monte - the 2000ft mountain that overlooks the city - and despite groans and negative comments we started walking up a valley!!!!! Most people take the cable car up and down. We, on the other hand, walk up and walk down. We staggered our way up the side to a small outer section of Funchal. Going up the hill where it was situated we reached an Orchid Garden and dad asked for directions to the start of the levada. The levadas are small man-made waterways that take rainwater from the North side of the island to the South. They go through caves and along cliffs dug out by slaves. They make brilliant walking routes, because they are relatively flat. We walked along it until we came to some wooden steps that led up the hill. We found a waterfall that fell into a very deep pool. Mum took all her clothes off and dived in! I was so hot by then, so I joined her!!!!!! It was SO cold it felt like having a swim in iced drinking water! I wasn’t warm after that. We carried on walking and I got steadily more miserable and hungry. After reaching a bridge mum and dad relented and gave us some chocolate so we had enough energy to get up the last big hill.
On mum’s guidebook it said that when you got to the village you could ‘take an armchair down again’. We had been wondering about this all the way up the hill and when we walked down a street in the village we saw loads of, what looked like, huge baskets leaning against a wall. On closer inspection we found they all had wooden runners attached to the underside. There was a sign saying that it was 25€ for one person to be pushed back down the hill (we thought that the only people who needed them were overweight ones!) As we walked down the hugely steep hill we noticed that the road was worn smooth by the baskets sliding down.
The baskets on the top of the Monte, about to resend.
The basket attendants in white waiting for customers.
That night we discovered that our engine’s gearbox shaft was worn. Over the next couple weeks our days were interspersed between walking on the levadas and fixing the gearbox.
On some of the walks there were lots of waterfalls that cascaded all over the paths. There was one time where you could only avoid getting soaking wet by walking right on the edge of a slippery cliff, or by crouching shin deep in the levada under a small bridge that was only a couple of feet above the water. Fin and I chose the levada option while mum and dad chose to get soaked. Another time a waterfall crashed onto the path while a passageway was carved into the rock behind it to make room for people to walk behind it.
When we got back to the bus stop from one walk we ran down the hill aching painfully so as not to miss the bus back to Funchal. Unfortunately, after waiting at the bus stop for over an hour we found that we had missed it after all. We had to walk even further, to the nearest town and eventually found a taxi., that proved somewhat expensive!
One day, dad left early and got a bus to the north of the island and walked back to Funchal which is on the south. On the way, he walked up the two biggest mountains on Madeira, getting wet twice! That evening we read in the guidebook that this was a two-day walk. Dad is a champion walker!
On another occasion, we saw what we thought was the Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior coming into the harbour. We walked round to have a look and saw instead that it was its sister ship, La Esperanza. It was still rather cool, Mum asked if we could come aboard and have a look, but a security guard said that we must not under any circumstances go inside the fence. Mum found the Esperanza’s Facebook page and asked them through that if we could visit but they were leaving the following day so it didn’t work.
Greanpeace ship Esperanza in Funchal.
When the gearbox had been fixed, we decided to sail back to Machico but the wind headed us with very strong blasts, so we ended up going back to Funchal. Then there was a big gale, so it was just as well that we had returned. Then just as we were about to leave again, we found that the leisure battery was dead. It was the weekend and we had to wait until Monday to get a new battery. 

Walking the Levadas.
Walking the Levadas.

Walking the Levadas.


So many delays, but we finally did leave Madeira for the Canary Isles. We have many happy memories of Madeira, and I am pleased that the engine needed mending so we could explore this beautiful island.

Lochlann

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