Main Page     All Journeys    Travel Tips

MADEIRA  24/2-10/3 1997 and DIARY  1

  Photos                Map  Plan

 


 

 Diary 1 2 3

When choosing a vacation destination, there are three main rules: Find an exciting place, find a good travel companion and bring enough money! I chose Madeira, which has a fantastic climate for flowers and tourists, my mother, and water porridge for three months. The result was: AMAZING. Since I did not keep a diary myself, the following is nicked from my mother's PC, with some additions.

24.02 1997. After a flight over Amsterdam, London, Brest, Northern Spain, and finally across the Atlantic, we landed in Madeira at 14 local time in 25C warm and full sun.
Luggage delivery and passport checks were an easy act, and soon as were in the buses, on our way through the densely built suburbs of Funchal. Through the fairly large city, one does not build in height, and out to Appartment Vittoria, where the entrance was adorned with beautiful flower basins.

After the accommodation, we went for a walk in the Lido neighbourhood, where we had a wonderful lunch, at an exquisite beach restaurant.
Wandered for a few hours along the boardwalk, along: flowering hibiscus, poinsettias, land runners, and, as something unknown, hedges of flowering paradise trees, the great big blue mass anocolo, agave, cactus and many small banana "plantations" where there were large green bunches on the banana plants. In the trees there were many singing canaries, we also saw some sunsets.

The traffic was pretty intense, the sidewalks narrow, so it was with care. At one point we followed one of the countless little dogs. It had an instinct for when the sidewalk got too narrow, so it just switched roadside. We probably followed it and arrived safely.

At 18, there was an information meeting with welcome drinks and the usual plates, which I, who was sitting behind the tables on a sofa, could not hear much of, and city and place names went completely grassy.
When the company was about to have dinner, to get to know each other better, we had left.
We went to a mall to do breakfast shoping.
Later in the evening we returned to the centre and shared an extremely delicious pizza.

25.2. The day started at the rental car office, where a small red adorable car was prepared. From home we were provided with reasonable road maps, and the night before, Bihrmann had organized the day route.
Of the signage as such was excellent, however, they did not think about here could come an audience, who did not speak or read Portuguese; but we managed.

It is impossible to refer to many hundreds of stops we made during the days, for there was not far between the beautiful experiences. Magnificent views of the sea, up the steep hillsides, or even more impressive; down over the lush terraces that lay deep in the gorges. The many waterfalls, rippling rock sides and much more, so it must come in handy along the way.

The first regular stop was in the town of Ribeira Brava, where we visited a church from the 16th century where there was no possibility to light wax candles. The "sooting oil lamps" did not have oil in the containers, but small electric bulbs.
It was strange there was not the oil ooze in the church room, we was almost in doubt, was it at all a Catholic church at all?


As we wandered around the charming little fishing village, we came to an ethnological museum that should be visited. The museum was very modern decorated, showed everything about the farmers' way of life, viticulture, tillage, harvesting, strangling, weaving and so much else. A video ran with an excellent enlightening program. That the museum was new, was evident in the whole set up.

It was very hot, and not suited for my luggage brought home from home, and I had to be purchased a suntop. But - in Madeira it was winter, and summer and spring collections had not arrived at all yet, so it ended up with a cut, very short-sleeved blouse, two numbers too small.
After visiting a very beautiful smaller botanical garden, we sat down to have cappuccino in the square.
The first postcards were purchased for return.

Ribeira Brava is actually below sea level, so a very powerful pier has been built. At a small river outlet, a ramp was built so we could get down to the beach, where it was incredibly rocky.
From home, I had been told that stone collection in Madeira was impossible, but there was something wrong. There were many beautiful stones, all, of course of volcanic origin. I had to give up bringing home what my heart desires. Instead, they were gathered in a pile and photographed.

We headed for the mountains, stopping in the small mountain village of Serra da Agua, where I photographed a little black-clad lady happily taking some money.
Later we reached the Encumeada pass, which is at an altitude of 1020 meters. From here, there is one of the few places from which you can see both the north and south coast.

There is a restaurant, where we had an excellent lunch with espadha fish and tuna as well as a portion of ice cream. As we sat waiting for the order, a crowd of clouds came rolling into one of the valleys from the south.
Bihrmann sprinted up the viewpoint to catch sight of both island sides before the clouds closed. He reached it, but when we reached the few hundred meters by car after the meal, all the views were only fine white clouds.

At the vantage point was a road sign pointing towards Grutas De Sao Vicente. It had to be verified, but we drove a long way opposite our agreed route, with nothing happening, so we postponed it to another day. The journey continued as planned.
We passed Lombo do Muro and saw a very nice waterfall. Was after many turns up on the high bog Paul da Serra. The moss is completely different from anything else in Madeira.
Here are wide expanses, long stretches with straight roads and good views down to ravines.

After passing through the laurel forests, it was strange to come to the high bog, which is fully grown with grass and a lot of juniper-like plants, but it is so heavily grazed by sheep and cows, that the grass is only millimetres high.
The entrance and exit were marked with cattle grating, as the cattle go completely free, without shepherds.
There are many cattle on the island, but the hillsides are so steep that the cows cannot walk and graze freely without injuring their legs. Therefore, it is only on the high bog that they can walk freely.
Everywhere else, they are on stable all year round in small cow-huts. It was a very special way to have cows. Some had horns, like Scottish Highland cattle, others were small like Jersey cattle. The colours of the cows were very different, just like the Icelandic ones.
They lay peacefully in the shade of the juniper bushes and chewed mutton, some standing in the middle of the road, or cocoons on the road testifying that they had just been.
The sheep, on the other hand, did not see much, but their beans were everywhere.
Every one shoulder was gnawed all the way down.
According to the beans, there had to be thousands of sheep, but we only saw them 2 - 3 at a time. Skinny, the wool in flakes, didn't look like they were ever cut.
The sheep were small, each mother receiving only one lamb, which followed her closely.

There were some buzzards patrolling the high marsh, some small birds, such as buckthorns and rock tails.
Vegetation one was extremely sparse except where there was a ravine with streams that cut into the depths.
It was quite special to wander in the thick blanket of humus.
We then passed Bica da Cana. Was out looking at a watering hole where it was teeming with daphnia.
It was so with fauna and flora.
Either the moss plants were gnawing or it wasn't spring yet, so they had arrived. It is uncertain.
The soil was where it was not covered in humus, is completely red by volcanic rocks and dust, but after all, it was green grass shades that lit up the most.

Onward the journey went. Through forest, very large trees, like the Australian eucalyptus.
Stopped in the small town of Santa to buy a cup of coffee. We also got to look at footwear and sunscreens in a small business. Got bought a pair of non-slip shoes for me as leather soles and worn grass are incompatible.
In the small villages there is always a small cafe and attached to it, or conversely a small business.
Mostly a colonial trade, but here in Santa, it was a shoe and clothing store. After the shopping, we got our usual cup of coffee.
Not much coffee gets in the cup, most of it is boiling milk, this light brown drink adds a lot of sugar, the taste approaches cappuccino.

We came to a sign pointing towards Miraduora and turned around to investigate what it might have led to.
It was a magnificent view down the gorges of Porto Moniz.
The great swells of the Atlantic were very high, even though we were at a great distance from the coastline.
We had driven 87 kilometres, had Porto Moniz lying down at the foot of the mountains, but chose to save that city for another day.

We turned around and started the journey home over Paul da Serra, Canhas, chose another road down the coast road, ended in Ponta do Sol, followed the coast road through Ribeira Brava, Camara de Lobos, and finally reached the Lido in Funchal at about. 20, after driving a total of 171 km.
We had driven through tunnels, over mountain passes, watched the clouds enter the valleys, one waterfall after another.

Drove back and forth over the high bog with its wind farm, been by the sea to collect rocks.
Walked along a Levada a short distance.
The last thing was not something that fascinated us, so we gave it up quickly, here at highland the levada was quite monotonous.

It was interesting during the evening to see the rescued farmers, men as wives come wandering along the road with today's harvest of green fodder.
Carried in a large bundle over one shoulder while holding the large elegant sail in the other hand.
Although we had driven part of the route, it was unrecognizable on the way back. The light, the clouds, the sun's hike and much more made the terrain completely foreign.

The town of Canhas, located shortly before the coastal town of Ponta do Sol, was apparently the "north coast".
The houses were very large, richly decorated and with huge landscaping.
As we rolled down to the sea, we had the most amazing sunset. There were many clouds in the valleys, none on the road. We climbed stents into the lava fields.


Bihrmann kicked a small rock down a ravine, it rolled many hundreds of meters, before it became so small that we could not follow them anymore, but later it displaced a few sheep that were in the shade under the juniper bushes.
We saw aquifer cliffs. Old carved dripping tunnels, some dimly lit, others not at all. Some short and straight, others long and curvy. The newer tunnels were plastered with cement and fairly waterproof.
Pretty good with extraction and a wealth of artificial light.

There were echoes in the valleys, except for a place where Bihrmann tried. There was only one tiny lamb that was bouncing back. The silence of the mountains and the high bog was amazing.
A small bird could sit and sing over the other side of the valley, but, it was as if it was close by. The cliff sides were incredibly varied with lava, moss, ferns, succulents and thistles, even the dandelion was in bloom.
In the forests flourished large eucalyptus trees and mimosas. So many huge cones, hanging for hundreds on the very large firs.

In the evening there is a dinner party. Bihrmann is served Espada fiah with toasted banana and I get steak with parmesan at the Spanish restaurant, which is part of Appartment Vittoria.

26.2. Today's excursion started at 9am. Kl. At 9.20 the sun came over the mountain. We drove through large eucalyptus forests. Somewhere the forest was burnt off. It was strange to see the big trees. About 4 meters up the trunk, they were black, but otherwise the rest of the upside was fully intact. Of course, the subsoil was completely burnt down, but it looked as if great care was taken not to catch fires, because there were many resting places where large barbecue areas were built. Apparently a "cold fire", deliberately made to avoid a hot during the dry summer.

The one goal of the day was the Valley of the Nuns. We stopped countless times along the road, to admire the view down into the magnificent ravines. It is almost best to describe the tour, by quoting from the Politikens tour goes to Madeira. "One leaves Funchal on Rua Dr. Pita, turns television on Caminho de S. Martinho and th. On the S. Martinho cemetery.

Pass the driveway to Pico dos Barcelos and Radio Madeira's broadcast tower. When you follow the sign from now on, you soon enter the right and only way to the goal. The road is still going upwards and soon some large eucalyptus forests will pass.
About midway up is a small inn, and here you are specialists in the cherry brandy Ginja.
After that, the road goes in many curves and along deep gorges, and after some time driving, you turn off to the right towards Eira do Serrado, 1,026 meters above sea level. which is reached after a few more kilometres.

From the parking lot, you have to walk the last few hundred meters to get to the viewpoint.
There is a handrail of natural wood along the trail, and there is also around the magnificent view place, which is like a balcony on the hillside, from here you have a magnificent view of small 500 meters down the village of Curral das Freiras (Valley of the Nuns), and you get a strong impression that you are at the top of an old crater estuary.

It is believed to be the main crater or one of the main craters from the giant volcano that Madeira once was.
The opening down to the earth's red-hot interior has been filled with volcanic ash and mud for millennia.
At this fulfilment, the village is today at an altitude of 690 metres.
In the background you can see Madeira's highest peaks: Pico Arriero (1810 m), Pico Ruivo (186l m) and Pico das Torrinhas (1823 m), seen from east to west.

Notice near the parking lot, the broken cliff wall where you can consider the layering of several millennia.
Drive back to the main road and continue towards against Curral das Freiras.
Twice the road passes through long, primitively carved tunnels without illumination before leading into Curral das Freiras, which lies approximately one hundred meters higher than the mountain river that runs through the valley.

Here is a rural street, a small square and on a terrace a little lower still a small square with the city church.
The trip to the Valley of the Nuns is a powerful natural experience.
The village itself is located on a ledge approximately 100 m higher than the elongated valley floor, which flows through a river that retrieves its water partly from the top of Pico de Ariero and partly from springs on the cliff side.
These springs turn into impressive waterfalls during the winter."

It was an impressive drive to the valley. The book by no means exaggerates. At one stop, we saw something funny. On a rock lay a lot of beach shells. It seemed strange, as we were so high up in the mountains, but we agreed that it was a tourist, who had emptied his pockets until we discovered a basalt gravel pile, where there were huge amounts of different beach shells to be found. Ah, the mystery is cleared up. It is the sea button that have been raised by the volcano.

It was so wonderful to be out in the mountains. The air was so clean and clear that one really sensed it to breathe freely. We could not accept the book's explanation that there was only one way back and forth, so we drove down the valley floor to find further. Well, wi did go further, but not far.
Major construction work on building new roads abruptly stopped our penetration.
Somewhere we "talked" with the road workers.
One showed on my watch that we could get through in 4 what it was, standing in the uncertain, but it was probably 4 years he meant.

It was fun to drive down the valley between the little houses. Somewhere we saw a very large metal container with a flame lit under it and the steam rising under the lid. It was the newly harvested willow twigs that were cooked soft and supple.
We had morning coffee and bought new films, while we watched the bus tourists. Lovely to be on your own, and able to determine the pace yourself.

We first visited Eira do Serrado on the way back. As the book describes, it is a magnificent experience.
When standing at the railing, you can not see the rock wall just below, nor even down to the valley floor.
It simply disappears under you.
It is all in a large forest, made of real chestnut trees, but when it was winter and the chestnut tree is deciduous, there was free view between the ancient stems.
All over the earth lay thousands of "hedgehogs" from fallen fruit. A few nuts had to go home to the collection of junk, I could not bring in my backpack, but had to gather just for a photo.

We had a lunch break at Eira do Serrad island. Now we had lunch for two days at a restaurant and it was simply too much, so the night before, we bought the beautiful white bread, which can easily be torn over in the middle, as the baker has helped with a small cut.
For this, we ate the sweet little thick-skinned Maderian bananas that require no butter at all. The beverages were a large one and a half litre bottle of mineral water. Delicious meal in fresh clean nature.
Since, after testing, there was no other way but to return, so we did.

It didn't matter where on the island we came and drove a road the opposite way, it became new and exciting again, because of the sun's movement, light and shadow effect, angles and changing views, so it didn't really matter
At Riberia Brava there was a viewpoint from which you could see the whole small town, the big pier, the beach where we had collected rocks and much more.

Now we drove up the mountains again. Get to Encoumeda Pass, where we had afternoon coffee and cake at the little known restaurant.
It was a horrible habit with all the coffee breaks, no matter where we arrived, there were new cakes to taste.
When there was no cappuccino, we got coffee with milk, or rather; a small amount of coffee, very boiling milk and one, for me, a huge amount of sugar. Caloric, nutritious and extremely tasty.

At the vantage point of the passport, a younger woman was staying. She sold honey, knitted sweaters and some tasty huge bulges. We provided ourselves with hard candy and began the descent to Grotas da Sao Vicente.
On the way down we saw a man in the woods, picking the big beautiful yellow flowers from the unusually thorny bushes. What the purpose was, we never found out.

We drove and drove, swung, sailed up or down, around corners and finally after an incredibly long time, we were at the finish line. On October 1, 1996, the caves were opened to the public, so no wonder, no one had told us about them.
The guide stood outside and waited a bit, until we were 6 people. 2 Portuguese speakers, 2 Norwegians, who were very familiar with the English, and us.

The walking system itself in the cave was very low, only I could walk upright all the way. There were kilometres of wandering through the caves. Above us there was a 40 meter cliff. At the bottom of the caves there was a rippling stream.
In some places, stalactites hung down. They were formed under the glowing glow of the lava and, unlike lime stalactites, would never stay longer. Elsewhere, it was the bottom that was interesting.
It looked as if the lava had been in large buckets, and then poured it over the bottom in a thick wavy layer.
The whole system had arisen because the surrounding lava mass had solidified, while in the middle there was a flood of even glowing lava that had penetrated. There were music from invisible speakers, first Gregorian church music, later Vivaldi. The music suited the mood nicely.
The lighting was very nicely set up. At no time did it bother the impressive experience of walking in the interior of the mountain. It was one of the highlights of Madeira, purely experiential.

While we were waiting for the 2 Norwegian tourists, the guide took the opportunity to tell me a little about the cow-huts, which were scattered all over the place, on the small awnings in the terraces, or higher up the mountain where there was no terraces. It is true that in Madeira you have a very large amount of cows, but because the cliff sides are so steep, the cows cannot roam freely, without the risk of mutilation and crash.
That's why the small windowless houses have been built, and here the cows are bound from cradle to grave.
Only on the high bog can they go freely.
In some places where it was reasonably flat, we saw them on short rope in the ditch, but it was only in a special area.

On our way to Sao da Vicente, we were in a city named Rosario. The church looked ridiculous, we stopped, but had to find that this church was also, like most of the island's churches hermetically closed.
While at Rosario's church, we saw a very beautiful rock star. Size, song and behaviour were like those we knew, but the chest was a very beautiful orange colour.

We were in the workshop to get the car repaired, as it was not a Land Rover but a small Peugeot, the bottom couldn't really handle the terribly exciting roads, or rather, tracks it was exposed to. Presumably a handful of escudos, the problem was temporarily resolved.
Later we cleared the rattle sound with cut branches, which we found at the resting places in the forests.

The trip continued to Ponto del Gada, located west of Sao Vicente. Here, too, we saw many flowering white crows, there were also some royal palms. In Ponto del Gada, there was finally a church that was open.
In order to light a wax candle, though - what a disappointment.
The system consisted of a glass box, equipped with electric bulbs, a crack in front for fifty money, and then the electric bulb lit up. Well, a candle was on, though, although I felt incredibly cheated.

We were down by the sea, but it was only basalts one, so we left it quickly again. Then the route changed, we headed for Porto Moniz. We drove along the coast road, which is one-lane, but not one-way. It was definitely not a trip for Sunday drivers.The road from Sao Vicente to Seixal is unique.
One waterfall after another crashes out of the vertical cliffs, across the road, as you drove in the strongest thunderstorm.

Every time, it was really nice, we had to meet someone on the way, but when it was local, they just ran high up the steep cliff, we had a small wall out to the sea, which at this place and time was so fierce in the surf, that the little basalt stones that came with the waves were hurled up over the railing and into the route.
A couple of exterior mirrors were greeted just loud enough to each other, otherwise the fairly dense traffic went smoothly, thanks to a skilled driver.

We found a few trails and were out to photograph and enjoy the waterfalls. There was one in particular that was admirable. We talked up to 16 - 18 falls in the same gap. Everywhere there were vines in the small basalt-built terraces.

We reached Porto Moniz. Stopped and admired the old whaling town and the natural swimming pools in the cliffs.
In Santa, we made for afternoon coffee. Drove across the high marsh to Fonto de Bispo and up the Encoudoma pass, Bica da Cana, Lombo do Mouro, Serra de Aqua, where we soon stopped at a large supermarket, I estimate it was the size of Bilka in Hundred. It was located completely out in nowhere, but had an excellent range of products and a large buy-able audience. Here we foraged for the next day's lunch.
Looked a little at CDr, bought, so far the money went.
That day we had driven 206 km and were home at. 19.20.
In the evening we were at a Chinese restaurant eating pork in sour / sweet sauce and chicken with rice.

The adventures continues in Diary 2

                    

Diary 1 2 3    Map + Plan  Photos