We had a superb week of exploring with friends last week. Nick and Maddy ( Dan’s Bro, and girlfriend) and John and Jenny came to join us for a holiday! They took an apartment at Ponta del Sol, west along the coast from Funchal for the week. We stayed there too, which made a change from the boat for a while. It was a lovely apartment, with garden which we ate out in every night (and excitingly coming from the boat: hot and cold running water and a washing machine! )
We were very busy: lots of swimming in the sea and walking in the mountains. Maddy had read about a natural lava rock swimming pool on the north coast which we found. It was great fun. It was a built pool encompassing the black lava rocks, we caught it just right with the tide, so crashing waves breeched the walls and came in like the best wave machine ever.
We had 2 hire cars between the 6 of us so buzzed round the island exploring in them; up over the top of the mountains on the top west plateau, round the coast, back to the east peninsula, where we walked out to the point. The roads were extreme. Lots of hairpins and little tracks zig zagging around the island, popping in and out of tunnels and round ravines. Most of the circumference of the island now has a very the impressive infrastructure of a duel carriageway around it, but there is lots of great roads off that too. There is a rally held here every year.
We did lots of walking. We did a 7 hour route from Pico do Arieiro, the second highest mountain on the island to the highest, Pico Ruivo and further along the ridge to Encumeada. This route went continually up and down over the main ridge in the middle of the island, steep exposed terrain. The cloud came and went in puffs and we glimpsed dramatic views down to either side. Very varied vegetation and terrain throughout the walk, though all steep.
We also did a few Lavada walks. These are old irrigation channels with paths beside . They channel water for all the many thousands of terrace garden patches (quite a few of which are still in use) the channels run along imperceptibly loosing hight to keep the water flowing, so once up at them, they are nice flat walks. Dan found a tiny paragraph in a guide book which alluded to a particularly exposed one, with great drops off to one side and frequent long tunnels which you needed head torches for, so we set off for that one. It was heart in the mouth stuff at points, where the path had broken away and there were pipe replacement sections for the water channel. Very dramatic.
We had great snorkelling, and found lots of jumping in spots. Got some good underwater film which we will work on editing.
We ate very well, taking turns cooking in the apartment. Portugal in general and Madeira in particular has such wonderful ingredients: vegetables, fruit and fish, not to mention the wine! On our high walk, Maddy found some wild oregano which we picked for our meals and we found wild fig trees lower down in the valleys too. Bananas seem to be a main crop, but there are also terraces of potatoes, marrow, vines, tomatoes, carrots, lettuces, corn… The fish markets are very exciting places too, full of Beautiful, big, fast looking tuna, long black and pantomime-esk esacbard fish, sardines, octopus, squid etc… And there seems to be a lot of meat too, all very inexpensive. We have been eating well!
We had an afternoon out out Hestur with everyone too. It was a great breeze, but to rough to anchor for a swim.
The island has all weather conditions on the same day. If it is raining on the north it will be sunny and hot on the south or vice versa. It is an astonishingly varied place for its tiny size of 30 x 20 miles across.
It was a really great week, so lovely to see everyone and we packed in so much. They left on Monday evening after another full day of swimming and sight seeing. We drove the north road round to Santa Cruz where we had another swim in the sea and something to eat before they caught the plane.
It was very strange and quiet once they had left and after the busy week we had had.
We are still in the Marina in Funchal where we had left the boat for the week while we weren’t aboard. We have been having strong south westerlys for the past couple of days and there are more strong winds forecasted. The marina is tiny and old right in the center of Funchal. Very friendly and attractive place and pretty cheap.
We have been enjoying Funchal over the past few days. We also went for another Lavada walk and today think we may go and have a look at some of the museums, I have also found a swimming beach in the east of Funchal which maybe we will visit today.