Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca

Friday 11 August 2023

6 to 13 December 2004 - Sue and Martin's First Trip to Madeira

This was a first visit to Madeira, where we were invited to join Alan and Christine's celebration of their 25th wedding anniversary. I have subsequently visited Madeira five further times, recorded here apart from a 2005 trip that needs to be transcribed in the same manner as this one. 

Probably of limited interest, this is one of my 'For the Record' postings, and cataloging of a record of digital images that has enabled me to discard a bulky scrapbook. The images are a mixture of pictures taken with an old film camera and with our original Olympus digital camera. The diarist's name is in brackets. Click on any image for a slideshow.

Monday (Martin)
TCX 680 - Thomas Cook's Boeing 757-200 to Madeira, left Manchester on time in good weather and arrived at Funchal airport half an hour early at 1:30. Delta was waiting for us and chatted non-stop whilst wildly transporting us on the short journey to the Royal Orchid Hotel at Caniço de Baixo, near where Alan and Christine have their apartment. We dropped off some neighbours on the way. Our room is excellent, with a view (above) out to sea to distant rocks.

The weather is warm. We unpacked (we are here in one place for a whole week!) and then strolled up the hill to Caniço, where the supermarket relinquished some milk and tea bags and other provisions. The room we have has a small kitchen - like the apartment we had in Prague - quite well equipped so we can cater for our needs here very well.

After a lazy afternoon we met Alan and Christine in the bar at 6pm. Nice that it was still light - we get an extra 2 hours compared with the UK. We were soon joined by Richard and Christine, and Barrie and Carol, both husbands being former colleagues of Alan.

We adjourned to eat outside a nearby budget restaurant. Espada (a fish with soft flesh) for me and Sue; steak for most of the others. Lots of red wine, coffee and brandy. Very good value at €25 per couple. (With a beer kitty left over!)
Later than of late to bed - around 11:00 pm.

Tuesday (Sue)
Enjoyed time after breakfast doing some cross stitch, and Martin doing Lakes planning. It was mostly cloudy. I ploughed a few lengths of the indoor pool - nice except for the tunnel in the middle, only really wide enough for one swimmer. At 10:30, a short meeting in the Chimney Room with Georg and a glass of Madeira. Some useful comments about the hotel and the local area, and a 'Gold Card' to collect afterwards.

We planned to go to Funchal to explore, and caught the 12:10 bus along with Richard and Christine. Alan and Chris got on after the centre of Caniço. The journey took 35 to 40 minutes and stuck to the local roads rather than the motorway.

We decided to have lunch together and after getting off the bus near the electricity museum we walked through the town, stopping to look at the market. On the lower floor, flowers, wicker, birds in cages, and the fish section - long black scabbard, and huge chunks of tuna. On the upper floor, veg and fruit, including huge avocado and custard apples.

Apparently the black scabbard is a local fish only found in these waters. It lives deep - 1000 metres + deep. So they fish it by dropping cables with fishing lines attached. Each cable has 100 lines, and they can tell by the weight when to haul the cable back up.

The six of us found a quiet square for lunch - omelettes /  hamburger / sandwiches - quite tasty. Then we all went our own ways. Sue and I visited the old town before spending an hour or so in the Electricity Museum, before returning to the old town for an early meal. The museum was quite interesting although some exhibits didn't work as well as they should do. Very few people there, but it's a newish museum.

Then back to Gaviao Novo restaurant - we were dragged in by a woman standing outside. Sue had grilled sardines; I had swordfish. We had to be careful not to be ripped off.

After that it was dark, so we returned for an hour's wander around the town to admire the Christmas lights. They were very impressive.

Then we caught the 8pm bus back to Caniço de Baixo, where we rendezvoused with the other six in an open air bar half way between Chris and Alan's apartment and our hotel. It was quite cool but I was fine in open sandals and a sweatshirt. Alan had a pullover - he said it was the first time he had used it.

Wednesday (Martin)
After another nice breakfast we embarked on a 6½ hour circular walk from the Royal Orchid Hotel. Much of it was on roads, but Sue and I enjoyed it (only the two of us went) as it is a Bank Holiday here and the roads were very quiet.
9:25 - leave hotel
10:00 - Caniço
11:00 - Point 582 trig point
11:30 - supermarket near Camacha
11:45 to 12:15 - wicker factory
12:15 to 12:25 - cobbled street
12:25 to 13:10 - Levada dos Tournos (through two tunnels to a viewpoint)
13:10 to 13:30 - path down to Levada do Caniço
13:30 to 14:30 - Levada do Caniço
14:30 to 15:55 - return by road to Royal Orchid via café (20 mins) and Caniço.
[Ascent - 695 metres, descent - 695 metres, Time - 6:30.

Whilst most of the way to Camacha was along minor roads, there were also steep pathways by way of shortcuts.

A short diversion took us to point 582, where Sue climbed the 'Trig Point' but the views were limited due to trees.

It was a lovely sunny day - 20-25°C, and we did get lots of excellent views to the southern coast of the island. We passed lots of colourful flowers.

The basket factory was a tourist trap but was quiet. On the way we passed what looked like a council estate. Very small terraced houses, but most with cars (on HP?) outside.

We sat outside the wicker factory drinking our flask of tea and eating dried bananas in the square where football was first played in Portugal in 1875. They were still playing it today. Then we followed the Sunflower guide book route number 8, towards Levada do Caniço, down to the junction with Levada dos Tornos, which we followed for 25 minutes through two tunnels (torch helpful but not essential - headgear needed to avoid serious bruising) then over vertigo inducing drops to corner with a good waterfall below.

We found other people here, took our photos, and returned to rejoin the steep path down to the Levada do Caniço. Steep and slithery, through the hamlet of Salgados, first on a cobbled path but eventually on slithery rocks, to arrive at 1:30 at the levada. 

The guidebook indicated about 1½ hours to the turn off to Assamada, but it took only around an hour. There were other people using the route, in both directions, including a couple of lads on mountain bikes. Gunshots were also heard at frequent intervals. It was mostly quite easy but there were a couple of sections with steep drops.

Levada do Caniço's short tunnel

It was hot in Assamada. We walked through the village and found a café which sold us two bottles of orange 'BriSol' (fresh orange juice) and two ham sandwiches for €3.20. Some ubiquitous custard cakes were thrown in for free. Four macho looking men in a four-wheel drive arrived. One carried a smart handbag, another sported a finely permed head of hair! It was an easy walk from there along the road back to the Royal Orchid via Caniço. Christine later told us we could have descended directly to the hotels from Assamada.

After a shower (sauna for Sue) we made our way up to Chris and Alan's swish apartment for a couple of hours chat and nibbles, before continuing on up for a nice meal - most of us had pork fillet - at Restaurant Isidro in Caniço. Chris and Alan, and Sue and I, enjoyed the walk back afterwards, but the others were relieved to find Delta at home and ready to oblige for the short journey.

Thursday (Martin)
There was a lovely red sunrise, followed by a good breakfast.

The Western Tour, with Patricia, in a Mercedes minibus, began for all eight of us at 9:30 and ended at 5:15, after which we stayed in our room as Sue was sick.

The route was basically Car Tour 5 in the Sunflower guide. On a cloudy day, our first stop was at Cabo Girao, at 580 metres, apparently the second highest sea cliffs in the world, the others being nearly 700 metres in Japan. It was a long vertical drop, with a small area of terracing at the bottom.

Then we stopped at Ribeira Brava (church with chandeliers, small fort) which has the biggest river on the island, and has been washed away by it. The river was very low today.

After that we headed up to 1000 metres at Encumeada (sea views north and south) just under the cloud. 

Down to Sao Vicente before losing the tourist trail of buses by going up beyond Chao da Ribeira, for lunch at a cold restaurant. The trout was delicious, but we wonder whether it was the chicken that made Sue ill (or was it the seawater she drank this morning during her pre breakfast swim in the sea).

Back through the nice village of Seixal and along the one-way old coast road (replaced by tunnels for non sightseeing traffic) to Porto Moniz, past a big rock with a hole shaped like Africa. There is a lido here in the sun, closed today because of the large Atlantic waves breaking over it. Dramatic waves.

Then up to Santa and onto the plateau. Mist above 1000 metres, so the view from 1600 metres, our highest point, was limited. A shame, we were to do a short levada walk up here near Rabacal, but the weather put people off doing that. The plateau is 8 km by 5 km, and there were once plans to have the airport here (not a good idea due to mist and access).

And so, after a final stop at Encumeada, we headed home in fading light, zipping through the tunnels of the main road past Funchal.

The island's roads have / are being greatly improved using EEC funds and there seem to be new tunnels everywhere.

Today we noticed firecrests, grey wagtails, buzzards, and lots of red hot poker and bird of paradise flowers. 

Friday (Martin)
In sickness, Sue stayed in bed, her attempt at joining me for breakfast lasting only about 10 minutes. She is wiped out by a stomach bug.

In health, I set off in light rain at 10:35 on the sea path east - up the road from the Royal Orchid, first right, then down to the sea. At the end of that path (hotels and a few people with brollies) up a steep road to join a more major road at a pylon, level with the recessed motorway. Small birds with red bibs chattered to me in the drizzle. 10:55.

On up the road. There are reservoirs around here used by people to store levada water, which they may get released to them twice a week for a cost of €1 a month.

Up this metalled road to a corner where Atlântida restaurant sits on the right. Turn right, then left in 50 metres when the church at Assamada comes into view. Up this 'Impasse da Mae de Deus' street which turns into a footpath before reaching the main road up steps (11:15) just to the left of a bus stop. Left past three cafés on the right, new buildings, and unexpected sunshine (the cloud level is 250 metres). Caniço comes into view. 11:25. Mist sits over the sunlit village. Past roadside red hot pokers of the spiky leaved variety, and toilet brush grasses. Past another bar on the right before taking a left turn to Caniço centre - reached first left after passing 'The Village Pub' (11:40 to 11:50.) Pick up provisions in the supermarket then return sweatily to Royal Orchid room 208 (12:10) to find that a cleaner has changed sheets etc (a daily routine) and vacuumed around Sue, who has read about two pages of a TGO magazine in my absence.

A cup of tea is welcome (for me anyway) after my 1½ hour walk with about 250 metres ascent and descent.

And we laze around for the rest of the day in the room, and Sue has an early night whilst I return to the Atlântida restaurant for Chris and Alan's anniversary meal. Soup (tomato + onion + egg) and mixed grill.

Saturday (Sue)
After 12 hours sleep, I felt a good deal better and even managed to make the tea! A gentle day was needed, so we planned to visit Monte gardens. The 10am express bus didn't materialise, but the local bus around 10:10 satisfactorily had us in Funchal by 10:45. It was a warm morning, with hazy sunshine, and the cable car seemed a good idea to get us up to Monte at 550 metres. The ten minute ride provided views over Funchal and the two cruise liners in the harbour, as well as down into the small gardens and onto the roofs of the tightly packed houses.

The gardens were a delight - ancient wide-trunked olive trees, banks of flowering lavender, numerous statues, tiled friezes of Portuguese history, levadas and waterfalls, pools with koi carp, a large cage of colourful budgies, a Japanese garden, a collection of cycads, and the world's tallest vase. 

All this was contained in a ravine, with a museum at the top, containing two floors of statues by 1960's sculptors in Zimbabwe. Although primitive, they were superbly displayed, and captivating. The café at the bottom supplied a toasted sandwich and free glasses of Madeira wine.

After a bit more exploring, we walked up to Monte's centre, a square with a few cafés and shady trees, then climbed up to the church, famous for its small statue of Mary on the altar. It was another peaceful spot and full of flowers. 

Cobbles down which the toboggans fly, loaded with tourists from the cruise liners

From its numerous steps, there were views down to Funchal, and it looked as if low cloud was about to roll in. After a stroll around some hotel gardens, and a look at toboggans and men in white trousers and boaters (we'll leave that until next time when I don't feel so fragile), we got the cable car out of the clouds.

Back in town it was a touch warmer, but we sat inside a tea shop where cake is sold by the kilo and the teapots dribbled horribly, and enjoyed tea whilst editing and browsing through our digital photo collection. There was just time to have a look in the cathedral and wander to the seafront, before meeting Christine and Alan outside the market at 6pm, and the others further along the front soon afterwards. We went to a pizza restaurant after the distractions of the ice rink (next to the Beatles restaurant) and the angels. 

The others stayed to look at the lights whilst we headed back on the 8pm bus, having already seen them and been in town all day.

A bit of TV and reading before bed. 

Sunday (Martin) - Levada do Caniço repeated (Camacha to Assomada)
Alcinda, proprietor of Atlántida restaurant, picked us all up (Chris and Alan from Caniço square) at 9:30 and took us up to Camacha by the new road. The forecast was "rain", and after looking around the wicker shop / factory we ventured outside to be greeted by said rain. Back inside for a coffee, then, but at about 10:45 we set off on the levada walk. All eight of us!

It was slow going down the road as the two Christines were tentative on the steep tarmac. We soon reached the school where the cobbled path leads towards Salgados. I took Barrie and Alan to the right, down to the Levada dos Tournos, where we entertained ourselves in the tunnel that Sue and I had explored on Wednesday. Good fun. We returned and caught up with the other five in leafy Salgados. The Christines were having trouble on the slippery cobbles. Beyond here we met an English couple who went on at great length about difficulties on the levada path. I knew they were exaggerating but it was hard to ignore them. So I jogged off to recce, whilst the others continued down. After a mile or so I met a German who said there were no significant problems. I jogged back. Now, for the first time, I realised the levada does have a downhill gradient. I was definitely jogging uphill. Although going in the other direction (downhill) seems level or even slightly up!

We went slowly. 

Barrie, in child mode all day, slowed things up whilst the Christines hung on to assuage their vertigo.

Barrie today: childlike questions (his style) about everything, stops to read the guidebook, placing obstacles on the path, trying a sing song, falling over due to self-distraction, etc, etc.

There were one or two slightly tricky sections. Christine and Carol used Sue's walking poles - also very useful for them on the descent - to good advantage.

We came to a slightly flooded area where the poles assisted another group. I went last, using stepping stones in the levada - they were unstable and I fell in - knee deep! Fortunately no camera was quick enough to record the event.

And so we reached the short tunnel. I tried an alternative route and found a low loose ceiling, so grit got everywhere. My white trousers were filthy. Christine and Carol were now very tired and it was all they could do to get down to Alcinda's restaurant. So it was a great relief when after the meal Alcinda offered us a lift back to the Royal Orchid. Very much welcomed by some, especially as the weather had become inclement. So, after brief relaxation we returned to the Atlántida for our final night out together - another nice meal at Alcinda's restaurant.

Here are a few final pictures taken at the Royal Orchid Hotel.

Monday (Martin)
A leisurely morning before a smooth journey home after lunch at our local cheap restaurant.