Sunday, November 30, 2008

Marching in Madeira

Holiday Diary Part IV - Funchal, Madeira

Nearly there, honest. At least I'm getting it all out in one go.

"Those awfully nice people at Thomson Cruises (for it was they), permitted us thirteen hours at this stop.

Mrs The Millbrooker and I left the older folk to their own devices (some of which are of interest only to the specialist equipment market) and trogged off in Funchal in search of a map which might show us some decent walking. After all Madeira is famed for its levada trails. The tourist information bods weren’t hugely helpful, but we did get a map of sorts. After a quick coffee and wee-wee stop at a convenient cafĂ©, we girded our assorted loin parts and set off more in hope than expectation to locate what appeared to be the nearest levada to have an adventure.
We wended our way steeply upwards. Actually, there wasn’t much wending about it. Madeira is hilly, if nothing else, and the roads pretty much went straight up without the slightest hint of a wend. I have no way of measuring this, but our route up through the housing in central-eastern Funchal seemed to be in the region of 1-in-6 at its gentlest and 1-in-3 for long enough stretches to necessitate a pit stop for water and coffee (and another wee-wee) at a locals’ bar. This is Mrs The Millbrooker on the way having spotted a “new” bird for our “seen that one” list.
It turned out to be a wild canary (very similar to a serin, bird fans):
Without too much ado, we found the start of the levada trail, here’s me looking proud of my map reading skills which got us to this spot, as I point out the levada itself: For anyone wondering, a levada is an irrigation channel. Levadas almost invariably have a pathway alongside. Almost invariably the pathway is also narrow and features precipitous drops. A terrific way for a blind bloke to spend his afternoon. This is one of the mini aqueducts that we had to cross en-route; the drop on either side is about twenty foot. This was one of the easier traversals in that it was mostly flat and straight. After about an hour and a half of levada walking, we veered off the main path, did some scrambling…. ...and found ourselves with this lovely spot all to ourselves for a picnic. Then came the hard bit. A couple of miles worth of severe, uphill, rough hewn steps. They seemed to go on forever…My goodness me, but Mrs The Millbrooker and I were being intrepid. A couple of hours later, though, we settled our newly exercised glutious maximae into some comfy-bum seats for a well earned beer:There was one more adventure to be had for the day. Mrs The Millbrooker and I took the arse-clenchingly expensive cable car back into Funchal town, found a bottle of decent Madeira Wine in a supermarket and called it a day – time for din-dins back aboard with the older folk who had been playing with their own devices with some satisfaction throughout the day. We were feeling very virtuous and glowing from our exercise and adventure. Huzzah for walking boots and white sticks!"

Only Arrecife and Santa Cruz de Tenerife to go....hang in there, dear reader. It's nearly over and I can start the usual old drivel again.

No comments: