Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Saturday 10 November 2007 - A Grand Day Out

After the usual leisurely start (this is a holiday), we drove up to Ribeiro Frio. It wasn’t too cold so we dropped Dave (Billy No Mates) off so that he could walk down the classic Levada do Furado. It was busy, but he enjoyed chatting to himself without anyone to answer back, and even met a few like-minded souls before continuing on to the Pig Farm at Quatro Estrada.
Meanwhile Alan, Christine and I wound our way north in search of a ‘levada’ that Alan was seeking out. It was in fact a steep cobbled path/roadway, and the reason we didn’t find it is a tribute to Alan’s navigational skills.
So after a coffee en route and a walk round Porto Da Cruz, where a lone swimmer headed off slowly but purposefully across the bay, we enjoyed steak sandwiches at the Engine House. The town was then subjected to the ‘Invasion of the Smart Cars’ – at least 40 of them honked their way past on a test drive, presumably for marketing purposes, but amusingly tracked by a conspicuous Mercedes breakdown van. Do Mercedes own Smart? And does every Smart need a breakdown van?
We managed to extricate ourselves for a trip to Calhau, near Sao Jorge, where the coastal path was a little vertiginous for Chris. So we adjourned up to Portela and enjoyed a coffee before a short walk along the ‘E7’ path, which was much more to Chris’s liking and has fine views across to Porto Da Cruz and Eagle Rock.
A call from Billy No Mates interrupted proceedings so we ambled back and picked him up from outside the (very smelly) Pig Farm, all by now anticipating the excitement of a Saturday night in Canico.

Friday 9 November 2007 - Last of the Summer Wine Go Levada Walking

There they are – Foggy, Compo and Clegg, alias Keith, Dave and Alan, all in step, having fun on the Levada do Norte.
Today we were joined by Keith, whose right leg sometimes goes numb on walks due to the artery having been removed to his heart area. And it’s people like Keith, who does have a head for heights, who can really appreciate the levadas, with their minimal ascents and descents. So it was not until the final 50 metre ascent to Cabo Girau that Keith had a problem – he had completely run out of power due to his diabetes, and Compo bravely nursed him to the relative safety of a 580 metre sheer drop to the sea.
Leaving Foggy and Clegg to their expressos at the tourist trap, Compo and Junior (me – junior! a rare event indeed) set off back to regain the levada at the tunnel that leads through the mountain to a new view and a further 2-3 hour walk to Boa Morte, where we found a taxi to reunite us with the Black Bumble Bee (a Mitsubishi Colt) that is our transport for the week.
And so to another fine meal in the Marie Celeste, pictured below.

A feature of levada walking in November is not so much the scenery, which is good but sometimes a bit samey, but the lovely flowers encountered beside the narrow pathways, such as the Agapanthus shown below.

And we can’t possibly overlook the fact that it is a balmy 21-24C here, just right for t-shirts and shorts, light until 6.30pm and generally sunny, so it’s always a most pleasant change from England in November…
And Clegg’s message for the day: ‘There’s no Substitute for a Good Leader, and We Haven’t Got One!’ Hmmm, Clegg (Alan) was wearing trainers today.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Thursday 8 November 2007 - A Day of Four Halves

1. Levada do Canico
Dave and I drove up to Camacha for a third time to enjoy the levada walk down to Assumada which we have both appreciated several times before. The steep 300 metre decent down ancient cobbled pathways is rewarded by a fine walk high above the valley, with seaward views, beside a channel of busy water. More lovely flowers and the delicate leaves of Mimosa trees featured strongly on this delightful two hour stroll.

2. A Technical Hitch
We lunched on sunny steps near the end of the levada before descending to Assumada’s church, our rendezvous point with Alan, who had been texted with the request to meet at 1.10. Also this morning Kate had been texting from the UK: ‘Are you free next Tuesday?’ Answer ‘Yes’. So when a response ‘Can you wait for a bit’ arrived, I assumed it was from Alan. There was a Long Delay, and I finally called Alan. He was waiting for us and the call had been redirected from his UK mobile. I was unaware that he had a Madeira mobile on which he was waiting for our call. The ‘wait’ message had actually been from Kate and had (on closer scrutiny) read ‘Can you wait for bt’ (I am house sitting for a phone line connection saga that is now into its third month!).
It was nearly 3pm by the time a somewhat baffled Alan arrived, armed with a selection of new numbers for input to my phone!

3. Sao Lourenco Peninsula
After collecting the other car from Camacha (now a very familiar journey on which Alan still contrived to manage a u-turn) we went down to the peninsula. This walk contrasts hugely with levada walking and our late arrival gave us the benefit of the low late afternoon sun, shining through hazy cloud onto the volcanic rock. The guide books claim this to be a difficult walk, but Health, Safety and Ecological considerations have resulted in the installation of walkways and fences that eliminate any danger. That’s fine, the views are excellent, and the adrenaline junkies are free to venture elsewhere. We had a lovely two hour walk, turning back shortly before the Casa do Sardinho.
Quite a few people were enjoying this area, whilst we had met none on the earlier levada walk. And no ‘greeting fopas’ today – yesterday we met a couple who greeted us in a broad Scottish accent….’Are you Dutch?’ asked Dave, then later we met an English couple – Dave studied their accents for some time before risking ‘I take it you are from Birmingham?’. The answer was predictable I suppose – ‘County Durham actually’.

4. Dinner in the Executive Suite
Tonight we enjoyed steak and trimmings with Alan and Christine in their finely decked apartment. A lovely evening, at the end of which Alan brought out a selection of Madeiran memorabilia that he has been collecting. Fascinating stuff, but included in the old newspaper extracts is a really interesting piece on the anniversary of the Battle of Culloden, from a time when that battle was ‘within living memory’. More of that on a quiet day sometime.
And to finish, especially as this is supposed to be an outdoorsy sort of blog, a message from Alan, who at the age of 65 is bravely embarking on ‘an enhanced enthusiasm for walking’. He has a fine new pair of Brasher Boots which he finds supremely comfy, so his message is ‘Never Underestimate the Value of a Good Pair of Boots’. And so say all of us!

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Wednesday 7 November 2007 - Another Victim

Topwalks Extreme Trips proudly announces that it has another victim to add to the growing list. Readers from the UK should bear in mind that we are now somewhat to the South of your Fair Isle; and here it is H.O.T. hot. Today Dave was expecting one levada route. We drove up to Camacha and set off on the continuation of Levada dos Tornos. Four and a half hours in the Rother guide we are using, that yesterday gave a very conservative timing. But today we endured the Sun and Heat for 5 hours to reach our destination. Dave is pictured there, but it is still 10 km back to Camacha, so plan B (unknown to Dave) kicks in and we complete a two day loop by walking along the Levada da Serra back to Camacha, rather than cheating by using a taxi or bus. On this path the stresses of the day were ameliorated by the chance meeting of a jolly English couple and a long discussion concerning tyres for earth-moving equipment.
Here’s Dave, feeling friskier on Tornos.

And, somewhat fazed by his exertions, Dave still managed to find time to place a deposit on this magnificent structure.

So, Pat, this is your first view of your fourth home – doesn’t it have fantastic potential? Dave’s stamina today, despite his role as a Victim, has surely placed him high on the shortlist for Superhero status! Especially as whilst I’m touring around Canico looking for a Wi-Fi hotspot, he is cooking my tea!

Tuesday 6 November 2007 - Return to the Levadas of Madeira

After a bit of a shock for Dave involving some ‘Chocolate Covered Cornflakes’ – an interesting start to the day – we grabbed Alan from two floors below us and headed up to Camacha. I disappeared for a while into the Café Relogio and the basket factory. The others discovered this only when vetting today’s photos for a suitable blog image! Today’s route took us up to the Levada da Serra, which contours at around 770 metres in a westerly direction through ‘Paradise Valley’ and on for several miles to its abrupt end above Funchal. Here we dropped down a road to about 600 metres, to pick up the Levada dos Tornos for the walk back to Camacha, stopping for lunch en route. Alan, unused to these excursions, had left his lunch at home. What was in his rucksack then?
We continued on to a bar that we failed to walk past. Here some fresh tuna accompanied the now familiar Coral beer. Both the tuna and the beer made Alan much happier. Here it is traditional to leave tips in bars, but there is also a practice of them providing customers with little extras such as nuts or olives or ‘lupin seeds’ – a sort of butterbean, or in this case - fresh tuna. Seems fair enough, but apparently the Brits still rarely leave tips.
Six hours on the trail had made for a good day out, after which we returned via one of the many supermarkets to collect essential supplies (mainly more beer).
The Marie Celeste was then swept out and tidied up, as best we could, whilst we had baths one at a time (one plug for two baths, no shower curtains) before A & C joined us for a pleasant evening with spag bol cooked in a pan with a breakable (it broke) handle, under Hugo’s expertly assembled light fittings (30w bulbs), on his folding (collapsing) chairs.
And then we chose today’s photo – of Dave entering the long tunnel on the Levada dos Tornos. Alan and I walked round because A had no torch, and as Anne and I had discovered on our last visit, the path in this tunnel gets very narrow, so a torch is really quite important.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Monday 5 November 2007 - Mission Accomplished

Well, as you can see from today’s photograph of 'sunshine over Canical', yesterday’s resolution has been achieved by this smug correspondent.
But sadly the wireless connection here is too intermittent to facilitate a timely brag, so I’ll have to seek out a ‘hotter’ spot tomorrow.
Dave and I met Alan and Christine as planned and we all enjoyed a smooth transit to our ‘place in the sun’, where the two of us have the pleasure of occupying Hugo’s huge apartment, which is within earshot of A & C’s second home. It’s a bit like the Marie Celeste here, apart from a resident pigeon, but we are making it more homely and we have fine Atlantic views towards the distant ‘Deserted Isles’.
After an excellent meal – I risked an experiment with ‘Chef’s Octopus’, the others enjoyed pork or Black Scabbard, we adjourned to A & C’s balcony to enjoy a few beers on this balmy evening.
We are nicely stocked up with provisions and looking forward to some exercise tomorrow.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Sunday 4 November 2007 - Fog over Cheshire

Well, yesterday’s weather forecast said today would be sunnier. So we postponed our planned walk to today, when the Yellow Orb would shine brightly. And it probably did, above 500 ft. But where we were it was foggy. Anyway, off we went to Marbury Country Park, where the fog was even thicker. And we walked the 12 km route shown in yesterday’s entry. The autumn colours were wonderful, so far as we could see them through the fog. Even the Anderton Boat Lift was shrouded in mist and appeared inactive. But the ducks, gulls, crows, lapwings, grebes, robins, blackbirds, etc were all chirping away quite happily, free of the stresses of parenthood and still blessed with a plentiful supply of food.


A resolution: I will find somewhere sunnier tomorrow….