Sunday, September 23, 2012

Madeira - Wonderful walking

Our final day walking was amazing we drove to Queimadas in the north if the island and again walked along the levada, the forest at the beginning of the walk is some of the oldest in Madeira.

Amanda camouflaged and walking into the woods 

No hiding Mark in the woods
The views were amazing and walk along the wall of the leveda was often less than 1ft wide with over a 100m drop just the other side of the not very substantial hand rail.

Standing tentatively on the edge

Looking out to sea

Off into the mountains
There were also tunnels through the cliffs some of which were over 2/300m long so we needed our torches and you were definitely keen to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Torch in hand and into the darkness

Mark creeping through the tunnel

Wow we can see the end
There were 2 waterfalls on the walk but at the first there were so many people it was a bit spoilt but we walked on about another 2km mainly up hundreds of steps to reach the second which was actually multiple falls and most people did not make it but it was worth the walk.

Water streaming of the mountain
Some of our other favourite photos from this walk

Amanda on bridge in distance

Where's Mark?

Looking out to sea

Friday, September 21, 2012

Exploring Madeira - Levada walking, Botanic Gardens & Ponta Sao Lourenco

The next day we had hoped to walk the 3 highest peaks of Madeira (1800, 1818, 1850) but as we drove to Pico Areeiro the weather started to deteriorate and by the time we parked the car you were unable to even find the start of the path in the cloud.

The cloud on top of the mountain

So headed down the mountain out of the cloud to Ribeiro Frio where we joined a levada walk to Portela which was 10km away although we only did around 9km each way.  The walk was through the enchanted woods which almost looked like they had fairies living in them! The greens of the ferns and mosses went particularly well with Mark’s blue shirt.

Wow look at those colours!

Amanda tentatively looking over the ravine

Mark about to enter the darkness
Stunning view through the trees to the north coast
We had friends following us along the way
With aching legs the next day was more leisurely, firstly with a visit to the Botanic Gardens, Madeira is full of gardens but not being great horticulturalists we picked only one to visit.  The gardens were full of exotic plants even with our very limited knowledge. There were also lovely views over Funchal even with the low lying cloud.

Botatic gardens with Funchal in distance

Botanic Gardens

We also enjoyed the bird park which was part of the gardens.

An aviary full of Macaws 
As we left the gardens the clouds opened and we were glad to be in the car, we spent the remainder of the day driving to a few town/villages in the east of Madeira.  Camacha is popular for its basket weaving with a shop full baskets, bottle holders, bags, etc, thankfully no room on boat so no pressure to buy anything! Porto Cruz is seaside resort but very little there and volcanic beach.  Santana seems to have even less apart although there are a few traditional thatched roof Madeiran houses but by this time too worn out even to take a photo! We then drove out to Ponta Sao Lourenco not far from the marina on the barren east coast of the island, the colour of the cliffs was stunning, really red, shame the photos don't really capture.

Mark looking worn out

Amanda being brave straddling the crevice 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Out & About in Madeira

As neither of us have visited Madeira we were keen to get to see a bit more of the island and as the marina is a bit isolated we hired ourselves a car. After an eventful bus journey to the airport (the marina had told us the wrong bus but helpful bus driver arranged for bus driver to drop us off close so we could walk!) we knew we were going to have an action packed day! Why whenever we have a car do we try to do as much as possible!

First was to drive east and north, the main road ran up through a ravine, mountains  as high as 1000m surrounding us were almost alpine but not quite with the palm trees and exotic plants scattered across the hillside. First stop Sao Vincent, pretty village on north coast but not much to see, 5 minutes walk around and back in the car.

Cobbled street in Sao Vincent
One of the main reasons for driving this way was the north coast road which run west, some of the original old road exists which is on the side of the cliff and provides spectacular views.  It was once a 2 way road but now you are only able to drive west and it does occasional join the new road if you need to get off or where rocks have closed the road.  The views were amazing and driving under a water fall is a first for us!

Road along the cliff edge with the the wave splashing over the sea wall

Car under waterfall
At one particularly exciting part of the drive we struggled to drive through the tunnel in first gear and during the roll back down the tunnel the seatbelt held you in place!

From the top of the tunnel

View along north coast

Looking down the ravine from car on tiny bridge!
After about 10-15 km of this spectacular drive you reach Porto Moniz which is a small tourist resort and whose main attraction seems to be the rock pools which fill up and you can take a dip which did look pretty inviting but again this was only a brief stop.

Rock pools at Porto Moniz - there are people swimming in these
We then started to climb and head south, after about 5km of hairpin bends you reach Paul da Serra which is a mountain top plateau at over 1000 m,  By this time the beautiful sunshine we had on the coast had disappeared and we were sat in the cloud although we were able to see the roaming cows!

The surroundings were so different from the coast, with gorse bushes and ferns, it felt like you could be in the highlands of Scotland or the New Forest

Mark having a look around in the cloud!
Our plan was to walk one of the levadas – the levadas are Madeira’s irrigation system of which there are 1400km around the island, they transport the water from the mountains to the valleys, some of these were built centuries ago which is even more surprising when you see they have built on the side of the mountain hundreds of metres up and often work their way through the mountains with tunnels which can be over 100m long.

We drove to a place called Rabacal and firstly had to walk about 1.5km down hill on the twisty road to reach the levada, the carpark area was filled with hire cars! Even though it was raining! So out with the waterproofs and into the rain cloud.  We walked a few kilometres along the relatively flat leveda to reach the Risco waterfall.

Glad to be in the dry under the trees walking by the levada - see the big ditch running next to  Amanda

Difficult to capture the water running off waterfall but there is!

Mark drenched but happy at waterfall
After hike back up the hill to the car we continued our drive across the plateau which was pretty exciting as the road stood a few feet off the ground and you could hardly see in front off you.

Where does the road go!
But before we knew it we were on our way back down the mountain in the laurels and the pines.

Sudden change of scenery
By the time we were leaving the coast there was another change of scenery and we were surrounded by banana plants. 

Hundreds of banana plants
Busy day but really nice to see the changing landscapes and weather of the island.

Our sail to Madeira from Porto Santo

Our sail to Madeira was pretty uneventful although we were excited to be heading somewhere new, as we rounded the west point of Porto Santo we could see the clouds over the top of Madeira and the mountains just peaking out above the clouds, at over 1800m at the highest point Madeira is reasonably mountainous.

Our first sight of Madeira through the clouds

We motor sailed to get us round the western point of Porto Santo and then switched off the engine to sail with a light winds from behind but only making about 3 knots, there was an underlying swell which was not too pleasant and we were about to sail for a few hours before the wind dropped away and engine was on to get us the 30 miles to Madeira. 

Approaching the east coast of Madeira
The only possible anchorage in Madeira is at Baia D’Abra at the far east end of the island,  as we approached we could see the 4 other boats anchored all rolling.  With little wind the swell pushing into the anchorage was particularly unpleasant, we made ourselves a quick dinner and decided that we would just try to get to sleep but before we had even done the washing up we decided that we could not do another rolly night and we had about 30 minutes until the marina closed so up came the anchor and we rushed into the Quinta Do Lorde marina, aahhhh how lovely it was to be tied up with no rolling – we would have slept like babies if it had not been for the 3 German guys on the boat next to us have a few too many beers!

Leaving the rolly anchorage

Approaching Quinta Da Lorde Marina - no photos of drink Germans!

It was nice to see the shelter of the sea wall!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Porto Santo

Porto Santo is one of the islands in the Madeira archipelago, it is the only island other than Madeira which is populated, it is approximately 30 miles from Madeira and it only 12km by 7km.  We knew in the right conditions we would be able to anchor off the beach at Porto Santo so it would be a cheap place to rest for a while but we had not expected it to be quite so nice.

Sunset over Porto Santo in our peaceful anchorage
We were able to check in the customs, etc at the marina but with the sun shining and light north easterly winds we could anchor just off the golden beach which stretched for 8km.  The marina were quite happy for us to leave our dingy to go ashore and the main town of Vila Baleira was only about 20 minutes walk, We were surprised by how nice the town was, it is really well maintain, with lovely tropical flowers and cute little cafes, bar and restaurants and still quite busy with tourists which mainly seemed to be Portuguese, possibly from Madeira.

Miles of golden sand in Porto Santo
We were pleased to have a reasonable sized supermarket although shocked that it was really busy probably because it is the only real shop on the island! In some of the smaller places we stop you find a tiny supermarket with limited produced but not here and I was also loving being able to buy local bananas!

We decided that a fun way to see the island would be to rent a scooter! I had never been on a scooter so was very excited, not really what Mark has been used to in the  past with his sports bikes but loads of fun.
Our mean machine
We slowly headed up hill to the east end of the island which provided a fantastic view down to the beach and the anchorage.

Looking west along Porto Santo

Magnum looks so small in the great big Atlantic
We headed around the north of the island, it is very desolate, a few house dotted around and some derelict buildings, not much vegetation mainly rocky and baron.

Baron landscape with just a few trees on the highest peak
The Atlantic looked a beautiful blue breaking against the rocks and we were amazed when we saw someone fishing off the rocks surrounded by the breaking sea.

There is someone fishing in the middle of these rocks!

Look at the colour of the water

After a morning of being rattled to pieces on the scooter we were glad to stop for a short walk up Pico Castelo (2nd highest peak on island) although after a few days sat on the boat without walking very much even this was a bit of a struggle but worth it for the views and also for a shady spot to eat our picnic.

We could see the entire island

A shady spot for a welcome rest
We then rode to the west end of the island, on our way we passed the majority of the hotels on the island, most of which look really nice and right on the beach front. The beach on the far west point overlooking Ilheu de Baixo ou da Cal, it seemed to be the nicest beach on the island and we would have loved a dip but unfortunately we did not have our swimming stuff with us – Mark was tempted to have a skinny dip but bit busy for that!

The final stop of the day was Quita Das Palmeiras which was a small garden and bird park inland and difficult to find.  The greenness was such a contract to the rest of the island but the tropical plants seem to thrive with some water.  Some of the birds are flying free but most look quite happy in their cages and we always enjoy a chat with a parrot or two.

ahh always love a Macaw
With numb bums we were happy to finish our adventure around Porto Santo.