Swapping our sailing gloves for walking shoes we climb up this green wonder in the middle of the ocean, more easily discovered by foot than by boat!
More flowers and green stuff on our "Pictures" page as usual. And even movies in the "Films" page!
Sailed 17 miles but walked more than 100km !
2646 miles since the start
It’s a Monday morning, a “go back to school” Monday even – so we stay in bed, hèhèhè! Still recovering from the lack of sleep during the crossing. As we wake up the town has not grown bigger around us, there is absolutely nothing to do in this end of the world. We get on the first (and only) bus towards Machico. At the anchorage some boats are rocking and rolling. If that is the famous (and reputed only) anchorage of the island… well we’ll stay at the pontoon for another while. Back to touristic worries, we find a walking map and a big supermarket before going back to the boat in the same bus.
Machico, quite typical view on Madeira
Great colours at the Eastern point of Madeira
If there is one thing to save in Quinta do Lorde: the breath-taking walk at the end of the São Laurenco point. Dry volcanic hills shining in the sunset...
06 September – to the Desertas Islands, on a catamaran
Today our friend Philippe invites us onboard of his big 45 feet catamaran “Aumadatroi” – with the thinly veiled intention to try and convince us that two (big) hulls are better than one (small). We set the course towards the Desertas Islands, about ten miles in the South-East. On the way there, we enjoy a good 15 to 25 knots wind from the stern – just about enough to take a reef in the huge 90m2 main sail (that’s bigger than our flat in Rotterdam!). Actually the boat rocks more than expected. The movements are more frequent, kind of jerky – very different from a mono-hull.
Camille and Philippe discuss and compare...
In the shade at last
Once we get there, we’re relieved to find one of the two buoys available. Through the limpid bright blue water we can see big rocks and no sand – certainly not the most welcoming ground of an anchor. Good lunch, then all overboard! There are lots of beautiful unknown fishes here. The island being a reserve they have no reason to fear humans and come to us, curious to see what is hiding behind those glass masks. Having a great time playnig with the waterproof camera :o) we also snorkel our way in a small cave at the bottom of this huge cliff. Really, we are no longer on the continent!
Everything is quiet here, while the wind is raging just outside
We walk the short visitors’ trail afterwards. The 400m high cliff towering above us is impressive...
Yet time flies and we have to go. The wind is announced from the North-East, 20/25 knots and everything is calm in the anchorage. Only 300m further wind gusts blowing down the cliff make eddies in the water… mmm… Philippe gets out of the bay thanks to his “Dupond & Dupont” (for such is the new name of his twin engines). 110 horse power. The wind is strong, 25 – 30 knots, and going up: 34, 35, 37… 42 knots! The crew is a bit tensed, yet the 16 tons beast is making her way, 5 knots, sailing at 50° from the wind. A good 15 minutes later we are far enough from the island for the local effects of the cliff to disappear. We will hear later, once back to the harbour, that this is a well-known phenomenon: “of course, when there is 15 knots in Madeira, there is 40 knots in the Desertas”. In the end, we make our way back home sailing close to the wind with the help of the engine to keep the angle to the wind minimum. For diner we swap again and cook some Breton crepes onboard of Saltimbanque to thank Philippe for the trip. Conclusion: although we still like our small light easy-to-maneuver boat, we recognize a big beast goes better in big weather!
07 September – walking
Madeira’s landscape counts with many specific features, amongst which the “levadas”. They are irrigation canals cut on the side of the mountains (and sometimes through the mountains!) to bring water from the ever-rainy summits to the fields on the lower level. 2000 km of those tiny winding artificial rivers run throughout the island, now partially replaced by modern plastic pipes, but still widely used as walking trails.
The bus drops us outside of the Caniçal tunnel, at the starting point of the “levada do Canical”, which we follow to the Northern shore. Wow, it’s steep here! And green! Doesn’t look like the volcanic eastern point of the island, and also to Porto Santo.
Wine mainly :o)
In Porto da Cruz we have a swim in a little seawater swimming pool built on the shore just next to the water. The swell is too powerful beating the steep rocky cliff, just forget getting close to the water anywhere outside the artificially protected areas.
Then we hop in the next bus to Funchal with the view to checking out the marina there. We also want to get a permit to go camping on the mountain. At the tourist office they send us to another office called “Loja do Cidadão”. We are stunned entering the big underground complex, which appears to gather all the tortures once invented by the Administration. Social Security, pensions, passports and civil services – everything that involves picking up a ticket and queuing for hours in the loud crowd can be found here… well, lucky us, the kiosk 19 of forest services seems free. Cautious approach to the clerk sitting alone behind his desk. “a permit?” he asks “for one night? Noooo, no necessitas… you walk, you stay, you talk with the guard, you walk, you stay… you don’t need a permit!”. Ok. That was easy. We run out of the “house that makes you mad” and go back to the harbour: tonight we have Ster-Vraz coming to share our pumpkin pie.
8 September – Baia d’Abra (3 miles)
It’s a lost morning, trying to visit the Whale Museum in Caniçal (closed for renovation). We leave the (expensive) pontoon to go for the anchorage a Baia d’Abra in the East of the harbour. Boats can anchor there just below the high cliffs and actually the ground made of sand is ideal.
The Sea of Tranquillity
Life at the anchorage is not too harsh: lunch in the shade on the deck, reading, working on the website, swimming, reading, swimming again, shower on the deck – even a last swim first thing in the morning for Laure.
Now, we’ve waited enough, let’s get started and hit the main city (gate to the rest of the island). Quiet ride to Funchal. We moor in the heart of the capital in the famously overcrowded marina. Are we early in the season? Or are we smaller than average? Anyways there are many spaces available at the quay, especially with dangling ropes. The fee is much lower than everywhere else on the island (15 euros for < 10m) and if you can put up with some cockroaches in the showers, it’s a good stay! (Note: we saw cockroaches in Quinta too… difficult to avoid in warm countries).
We find a new sheet for our genoa as well and rent a car for the next day. The best deal we found is asking on the harbour at the small hut called “Sea the Best”, or the office next door to the Marina. 32 euros, delivered on the pontoon. At night we eat out for the first time in Madeira. Typical fishdishes: grilled scabbard and limpets – yummy!
Grilled limpets – very tasty !
10th and 11th September – driving around the island
Our rental car is waiting for us on the pontoon in the morning, with an empty fuel-tank, the guy says. We have to get it back empty as well...ok, well noted. Here we go, settling in this weird locomotion vehicle, eager to explore the island. (we start by the commercial areas in the suburbs, looking for some items in the DYI shops)
First the Southern shore:
• Camara de Lobos is where the Portuguese discoverer Zarco first landed. It was also Churchill’s favorite holiday location – there is no ignoring this fact displayed on all the paintings, signs ans post cards. Too many tourists... we take two pictures of the fish drying on the small harbour’s boats and ride away...
That’s picture number 2
• ... seeking peace on the highest cliff in Europe, the Cabo Girão (falling 580m steep into the water). Wrong again! Small souvenirs vendors are waiting between the construction trucks. They are remodeling the place into some futuristic platform with a glass-floor where you can walk on the void. Gloops.
Falling 585m into the sea
• In Ribeira Brava blue-queued lizardstry to steal our picnic. They attack in groups and have very selective tastes: crazy about bread, they will lap up some melon now and then – but they won’t touch a piece of ham or cheese.
• The famous ex-marina-to-be Lugar de Baixo is not yet open indeed. Berths are in place and equipped, but a strom opened up two holes in the breakwaters, proving to the engineers that this was maybe not the right place to build a harbour in the end.
• So you have to sail a bit further West to find another marina in Calheta. Located just outside a small touristic town. Good that we have no boat to park today – we can drive away...
• In Paùl do Mar we see at last a more typical village. Men sitting in terrace play cards or domino’s, supported by a bigger group of enthusiastic spectators. Women talk in smaller groups too, or do the laundry in the backyards and narrow streets. One of them kindly points us to the start of a walking trail leading to Prazeres. 1,8km … easy… but 500m uphill! That’s a 30% slope in average, or the equivalent of a 200 floors buildings (mental calculation is good when you walk: deters the brains’ attention from signals sent by aching muscles). Once at the top we remember that the car is parked down there – and go down again.
Good that we’re up – now let’s go down again
• The Western end of the island is called Ponta do Pargo. A lighthouse stands there, and then nothing else – only the blue ocean. We stay quiet for one minute, reflecting… but not for two minutes: we still have some way to go today!
• After another while on winding mountain roads we reach the only camping of the island, east from Porto Moniz. A cold light rain starts falling while we build up our “extreme weather” tent (successfully tested some years ago under English showers in the Lake District). The sunset on the city offers us one of the most beautiful scenes we’ve enjoyed so far. A firework of waves breaking on the dark rocks shiny in the golden sun. we have to be starving to get away from the show. Tuna steak / grilled corn cakes and red meat with Madeira sauce of course :o)
• The next day starts with a quick breakfast on the beach, trying out the typical “bolo de mel de cana” (tastes like Christmas cake a bit). Then we drive deeper into the mountain, to the start of the 25 fountains trail, near Rabaçal. This famous (and popular!) walk runs along a levada through a dense forest of endemic bay trees. It’s like walking on a narrow sidewalk between a wall and a busy street – except there is less noise, but more risk of vertigo. The name of the game is to smoothly jump from the trail to the rocks to overtake slower groups of tourists, or give way to those coming in the opposite direction. That’s the perfect occasion for a short ethnologic study of the nationalities one can expect to meet here: we count a majority of “Danke schön”, with “Merci” and “Thank you” ranking in second position. Fewer “Obrigado”, a couple of “Dank u wel” – and not one single “Gracias”, not to mention “cheychey” . At the end of the trail there is a nice waterfall gathering more than 25 streams – hence the name. Pictures time, then turn around and to the next trail, another waterfall called Pico Risco. Pictures again. As our legs are not aching yet, we get starting on the third trail going down to Calheta. It starts with a tunnal, more than one kilometer long, completely dark and humid. Thanks to our headlights we can see our feet a bit, but nothing further than one meter in front of us. Brrrr… we’re not claustrophobic, but we were bloody happy to see the sun and colours again at the end of the tunnel! On the way back to the main road we hear beats and loud techno music in the middle of the forest. A group of young people, lost in clouds of smoke (smelling both the barbecue and the unmistakable scents of the best places in Amsterdam), are dancing on the road. “Welcome, people!” they tell us, smiling. That’s the “back to nature” version of a rave-party, apparently.
Green and humid, that’s Madeira !
• Back to the Northern shore we drive on through winding roads and tunnels until Faial. After Ponte Delgada we see small villages nicely decorated for the local saint’s feast. They hang to the mountainside amongst green fields of sugarcane and vine. We hang to the mountainside too, very focused on the road… until it stops! Closed for work. Deviation signs lead to a smaller path. 27% steep for about 400m! Teeth clutched, hands shut tight on the wheel, don’t breeze, go go go small car! Sigh of relief on the top. Yet our relief is short-lived: the gauge light goes on. Of course the rental guy told us “back empty”, but he also specified “back to Funchal”… which is 30 km away, on the other side of this mountain there… The next 10 km uphill seem very long. Once at the top, hop, neutral gear, freewheel all the way down to the harbour, 1400m downslope! There’s a victory smile on our lips as we hand the keys back. A well-optimized two days! The story doesn’t tell whether the guy made it all the way up the harbour exit, or if he ran out of gas before...
From the top of the island you can see water all around
12th and 13th September – “local colour” days
We are considering asking for a rebate on our mooring fee, on the basis of our participation to the local animation offered to the tourists. Saltimbanque is moored just next to the day-trip booking cabins, below the favorite promenade of pedestrians lazily strolling along the jetty. And we don’t spare ourselves to entertain them: the laundry dries in the wind, harmoniously spread on the sides and mast, while we are proving ourselves true “saltimbanques” by painting on the wall, just above the waiting quay where big catamarans pick up their load of half-naked-lobster-red-and-glued-to-their-camera tourists twice a day. To complete our decoration, we make our own Madeira flag.
Every artist deserves a bit of rest though. Our breaks are spent looking at green stuff: the flowers of the Botanical Garden, and the fruits and veggies we buy in the Market (all coming from the island itself – nice to be able to buy everything local!)
Today, flag-making lessons
This is an official document
The cultural moment of the day is our quest of the famous anchorage authorization needed for the Salvagem islands. This small Natural Reserve is located half-way to the Canarias and seems a nice stop on the road. All the guides and marina officials are very serious about the authorization one needs to obtain before getting there. You need to make a request in the Service for the Forests, located in the middle of the Botanical Garden. So we ask for the gate and make our way through the official dusty building, smelling like old wood. We have to pass three doors marked “private” and the lifeless reception secretary, watching fiercely over the stairs. At the end of the corridor, we push an old wooden door. Two secretaries disappear under piles of papers. It takes them less than 30 seconds to nod, smile and MAKE the authorization (see picture) :o)
At the end of the day our neighbor Sya (a 32 feet long Hallerberg Rassy, skipped single-handed by the Dutchman Richard) invites us onboard, along with Ster-Vraz (whom we don’t need to introduce any more do we).
14th and 15th September – backpacking in the mountains (40 km, at 1862m)
Up before dawn. The bus drops our backpacks and us a bit North from Curral das Freiras. Thanks, that’s still 650m up above sea-level that we won’t need to climb. Just another 1200m to go! We get started, first through wineyards and fruit-trees, then in the sweet-smelling shade of a eucalyptus forest. The views are superb – up to 1000m. then we enter the clouds’ kingdom. Ridges and summits pass by, in the sun of the Southern slope or in the windy mist of the Northern slope… the landscape turns gloomy, filled with the ghostly black trunks of burnt trees. There has been a big fire here in August 2010, reducing to nothing any preservation efforts in this endemic bay-trees area.
We finally reach the Pico Ruivo refuge at 1800m. As the guard wants to see our camping authorization, we explain “your colleague from Funchal said we don’t need one, if we talked with you”. Thus we talk, in “Portunish” of course, the friendly old guy doesn’t know a word of English. He seems impressed by our living on a boat, says we’re brave. From someone living alone on the top of a mountain, even in the snowy winters… well everything is a matter of habit I guess. In the end we may camp where we like on the mountain (or rather where we can – a mountain is not exactly flat!)
From the top of the mountains...
...there’s a nice view down !
We leave the bags at the refuge in the afternoon, just the time to talk the loop towards the Pico Arieiro. The light rain becomes more and more invigorating, say! Before turning back to look for a camping spot we climb the last meters to the very top of the island (1862m) – where there is nothing to see. We find the perfect camping spot a couple of kms further around 1650m, as the rain pauses for 10 minutes. That’s just the time we need to build up the tent and hurry under our cosy shelter. Plic plic plic, ploc ploc, such a sweet music the sound of the rain in a warm tent! It will not stop though, all night long. No romantic diner enjoying sunset on the valley so :o(
The Pico Ruivo, 1862m
Yeepee under a shelter !
The next day we walk back down to Encumeada (passing only a “small” pass at 1750m). The warm coffee with milk at the bar is a blessing! Waiting for the one and only bus of 4 pm we find another levada trail to kill the time. Turns out to be very nice, green, full of flowers and short tunnels.
Back to Funchal, we wash and dry everything – not a drop of rain here they say! Ster-Vraz joins us onboard to share our logistical constraints and drown our sorrows in a beer: they still have no dinghy, they broke their new mast light while installing it… as for us we are still waiting for our gas-cooker...
16th September – farniente in Funchal
The day is dedicated to maintenance: of the boat, and of the crew. Starts with sleeping late to recover from our walk, then doing some shopping, cleaning, paintings, sewing a new mosquito-net...
To stretch our legs a bit we walk to the Western side of the city, looking for a beach to swim. We are surprised to find big hotels and holiday resorts all looking like an Hollywood movie set. There is another city in the city up there, where wealthier tourists come back to private swimming-pools and restaurants signaled in English after their day-trips in bus. The plants are beautiful though, the Hilton garden competing Carlton or another multi-star neighbor.
In the end we find a small creek where we can spread our towels on concrete blocks. People cautiously step into the water between two waves, there is a green flag and a lifeguard, that’s Funchal-beach! But hey, the water is nice and blue, it’s warm outside – we won’t be more demanding!
Back onboard we cook some unknown fish bought in the morning, whose meat is firm like a cod but tastes more like pollack.
17th September – a little Saturday morning stroll (25km)
Still waiting for the gas-cooker, grrrr… to change our mind we go for a walk. The 7.30 am bus drops us in Ribeiro Frio this time – and yes, it’s cold up there! 850m high. Nice typical levada trail on the mountainside, ending close to the end of the first levada trail we walk actually. Time to leave… (yes, this is a message sent to our gas-cooker, please come!)
Once we reach Portella there is 3 hours to wait before the next bus. Should we walk further to kill some time? A trail seems to go to the next bus stop – we follow it. We get lost a little, walk quickly downhill and get to the road ontime. But no bus! Tired of waiting we make up our mind and walk the last 5 km to the bus terminal of Machico. Our feet are aching a bit in the bus back to Funchal.
Walk along the levada
In the evening Ster-Vraz tell us that they will leave the next day for Calheta (a bit further West on the island) before getting starting to Tenerife on Tuesday after the strong wind has calmed down a bit. We will probably not see each other before end of October now, or November in Cabo Verbe :o( that’s a very good excuse for a last drink on their board – which turns out to be a full diner, made of Madeira wine, snacks and tin-canned chili con carne. Goodbye our friends, may the wind be with you!
18th – 19th September - waiting...
Those who know us know that we don’t like waiting! All the boats morred around us have left already, we have walked up and through the island, it’s time to leave...
If a Portuguese post officer reads those lines and, out of a typically Madeirian generosity, dugs our gas-cooker out of whatever container it’s stuck in since end August – we would be extremely grateful!
Anyways the wind is too strong until Tuesday morning earliest and we always find something to keep us busy onboard...
(if only to check the online tracking tool of the Portuguese Post every 5 minutes)
To be continued...
Killing time : the one is writing about the last stop while the other prepares the flag for the next.
LAST MINUTE: The gaz cooker has just arrived at Quinta do Lorde !!! We will jump in the first morning bus tomorrow to get it, then go and buy a few veggies before preparing the boat. Departure for Graciosa is planned on Wednesday 21st ! Yepeee !
la mamou - 26/09/2011 20:07:17 vivement le prochain article !!
pas rencontré de globi comme les petits copains ??
la daurade coryphène , c'est pour la prochaine fois ???
l'impatience gagne vos lecteurs ....
Kariine - 24/09/2011 19:25:20 Comment dire lààà, ça contraste avec les trois heures de route San Antonio-Houston Texas que je viens de me faire. Et la densité calorique 'sucré-gras-salé' qu'on essaie de me faire ingérer en vaste plaine est malheureusement proportionnellement comparable à vos kilomètres de dénivelé !! Salade et fruits, pleeeeease !! SuDad - 23/09/2011 19:14:54 Mouais, euh moyen, vos commentaires. Et les photos, bah, un peu sur-ex, quoi. Non, franchement, c'est du petit tourisme à la papa, ça, quôaâ. Vous y avez cru, un instant ? Dans ce concert de louanges (plus que mérité), j'ai voulu contraster. Même avec un dictionnaire de superlatifs, on n'arriverait pas à vraiment exprimer l'impression ressentie à vous lire. Sinon, tout votre récit, c'est du bonheur massif. On risque de se répéter, dans notre admiration. Ben, continuez, quoi... mimi - 23/09/2011 16:07:31 génial !vos photos vos textes, j'ai l'impression de voyager avec vous tant les commentaires sont vivants.Je constate qu'en parcourant ceux de Madère il y a de concurrence pédestre. Mum - 21/09/2011 19:30:20 comment pourriez vous faire mieux? textes et photos.Tout cela finira par un livre et une expo! Sylvain - 20/09/2011 23:27:09 Ca m'a bien fait rire le coup du document officiel. Très belles photos. la mamou - 19/09/2011 20:18:31 toujours trop génial !!
je n'ai déjà plus de mots pour exprimer tout le bonheur de vous lire ...