We went on a one week guided holiday, all on the flat, alongside levadas around Madeira, an island at 17 deg west longitude and 33 deg north latitude.
2 days walking, 1 day
free, 1 day island boat trip+walk, 2 days walking
20 - 27 Sept ....Walking Grade = 1 boot (i.e. least walking difficulty)
The walks suited us just fine and we coped well with the high altitudes and temperatures. This holiday did not involve any scary narrow ledge type paths carved into the faces of near vertical cliffs, characteristic of the more difficult rated walking holidays. (Message from the leader: Please don't over-estimate your capabilities - it creates problems for others if you can't cope.)
Saturday, arrived Funchal airport. Very quiet airport - no delays whatsoever, Baggage ready and straight to awaiting minibus to take us to the hotel - about 20 minutes drive along coast - past site of old Cable and Wireless satellite earth station site. Luxury 5 star hotel high up overlooking Funchal town on coast. Nice swimming pool and good views. Pity about street lights however.
Sunday: Walk: 13km. Minibus to take us to wild open plateau at about 1000m towards South West end of Madeira. Amazing views to the South East (top left picture above). Beautiful new roads everywhere, paid for by taxes sent to the EU and thence to road contractors. Parked Natura minibus on stony ground off road. Short walk decent down amongst heather and tree heather bushes to find Levada do Paul - which is a concrete water channel with a path at the side. Walked though heather and laural trees to waterfall for lunch. Really good pic-nics provided. After lunch returned along Levada do Lageado and another Levada with views over sea - if not up in the clouds. Some burned out forest here.
Monday. 16km. Visited Camacha and basket shop. Long Levada walk
through national park. Many flowers.
Tuesday: Day off. Sightseeing in Funchal. Shopping. Post cards. Get stamps at Post Office. Botanic gardens and geologic records. Bubble lift up hill, wooden sledges part way down. Fish market.
Wednesday: 9km. Boat trip to Porto Santo Island. Up at 6am for breakfast. Minibus at 7 am down to harbour to large cruise ship style ferry departing to island of Porto Santo and 8am. 2 1/2 hour boat trip. At Porto Santo new minibus and driver plus Jorge our guide for the day. First drive up to within 100m of the top of the largest mountain. The walk on the level (mainly) around the hill and back to the bus. Sounds quick but it took us 2 hours with stops to admire the views of other islands, hills, birds, plants, trees, shrubs and geology. Jorge Rosa (geologist) and expert in the geology of Madeira and Porto Santo island, from Natura-Travel, was most informative and enthusiastic on all of these subjects.
Bus trip to another mountain top for barbeque lunch - roast beef, rolls and salad. Then off again to short walk around spectacular cliffs towards west end of Porto Santo. Very interesting rock formations and amazing fossilised trees.
Visit to the Porto Santo Christopher Columbus and then to vast golden sandy beach for swim and drinks at the bar before returning to boat for trip back to Madeira. Late back at 9.30pm for meal at hotel but impressive views of Funchal with all the twinkling lights - visible at depressed elevation angles from the hotel's position on the hill side.
Thursday: Easy walking at lower level about 500m altitude along south east of the island- Levada Pico de Fiacho. Very wide path, good for a vehicle. Past many homes and villages. Lots of cultivated terraces and farm back-yards. Bananas. Noted that Eucalyptus trees were weeds that had been allowed onto the island and were using up water rather than attracting it - laurels are much preferred. It seems hard to kill of the Eucalyptus - it just keeps coming back even if you burn it off. Fish soup lunch at coastal port of Canical, with fishing boats. Visited viewpoint with highest vertical cliff - see picture above looking straight down - scary.
Friday: Minibus to Porto Moniz the far north west corner of the island. The road we used was a much upgraded version of an older road which made its way all along the northern cliffs. The new road has many tunnels and is significantly safer than the old road. Walked around the top of a hill through dense bushes and ancient laurel forest trees, modern brown cows - hopefully genetic A2 milk variety. Lunch at roadside bar. Good vegetable-bean soup but rather harsh local wine. Down to visitors centre by the seaside with water park - super swim in warm sea water pool with waves etc - large aquarium area also in the making with deep sea water pool for sea creatures to be viewed by tourists. This is good day trip attraction for cruise ship passengers stopping at Funchal. Shops with souvenirs. Back up the mountain for a further walk along a big levada feeding the hydro electric power station. Fabulous views.
Saturday morning: Departure from Madeira, all trouble free. Good trip, highly recommend it, good value for money. It would be possible to find cheaper low cost hotel and book the minibus, driver and guide independently.
Island based Portuguese Madeira Explorers company, doing similar walking holidays.
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