Madeira around Funchal

After the tour with HitTheRoadTours on our first day in Funchal, we decided we weren’t going to do much – a relaxing week in prospect. So we walked around Funchal and I took lots more pictures of doors which weren’t there (or I missed) the last time we visited. We also went up to Monte in the cable car and looked around the gardens at the top – so having covered a good 5 miles around the gardens, it wasn’t relaxing at all.

We stayed at Albergaria Dias – a small family run hotel in Funchal old town. We were able to walk through the hotel garden, out the back door and straight into the old town, full of restaurants and bars. Senor Dias and his family are excellent hosts and we really enjoyed staying there.

Our journey up on the cable car gave us the opportunity to see the haphazard nature of the devastation caused by the fire here. How one property can be totally razed to the ground leaving a nearby one intact is beyond me.

It’s quite amazing how the north side of the island can be cloudy and rainy, yet all the bad weather falters at the top of the mountains and leaves Funchal alone – no wonder over 100,000 of Madeira’s 268,000 population live in the Capital. The tuc-tuc seems quite a popular way of sightseeing here – we haven’t used one, maybe next time.

The two guys playing cards just near to where the cable car leaves from looked as though they were enjoying themselves but I’m not sure about the other two in the centre of Funchal. Just after I’d taken that photo, the guy in the flat cap got up and walked off.

Strolling through Funchal one morning, we heard some good jazz standards being played and we sought it out. Juan Caldarado and his band were keeping a good number of people entertained – excellent stuff. Just nearby we came across a lovely market stall in a square. The quality and diversity of the produce in Madeira is amazing. Thiago from HitTheRoadTours was telling me that the climate and soil quality give them the opportunity to produce 4 crops of potatoes a year. Useless fact or interesting – you decide!

The doors are coming……..

Madeira with HitTheRoad Tours

Madeira with HitTheRoad Tours

I’d seen reviews of this Company on Trip Advisor and FB and thought it might be a good idea to do a tour with them up to the western side of Madeira. So I arranged to get picked up bright and early and I was the first of 5 to be picked up. Thiago, the main man, said we had another 2 pick ups and we headed off to the Lido area to pick up a Canadian couple called Sara(h) and Michael. We waited, and waited a bit more, then waited a bit more but no sign of them, so Thiago set off for the second couple, Ian and Erika, who live in Berlin. No problems there, so we rang to see what had happened to the first couple and as there was no news, we set off. Thiago gave us some good history and facts about Madeira and told us the itinerary for the day which sounded good. The weather was fine and we were upbeat. Heading west in lovely sunshine, we passed through Camara De Lobos and Ribeira Brava before ending up at the sunniest point in Madeira, Ponta Do Sol. Thiago then rang to see where the other couple were and found out that they had been taken by mistake by another tour operator. We walked around Ponta Do Sol for a while to let him pick them up and then set on our way.

I’m not sure whether the roads we travelled on next are on the map, and whether they can be called roads is also questionable. However I have to say that pointing upwards at 45° around hairpin bends 3″ from a precipice is one of nature’s great laxatives. Really exciting too. It was sad to see the devastation left by the fire that raged through Madeira – the eucalyptus trees were as dry as tinder and it’s not difficult to understand how the fire took hold in the first place. Also, when we got to the plateau, the winds were raging and we were actually in the clouds in pouring rain – a stark contrast to Funchal. This meant that we couldn’t see anything that Thiago wanted to show us until we got to a public picnic area where we saw a static barbecue and seating area, shortly before the vegetation changed on the way down into Porto Moniz where we had lunch. On the north side, the weather is considerably cooler and changeable than the south. The waves were crashing into the rocks and there were no boats out at all. There were some interesting rock formations and we were taken to a couple of outdoor pools, adjacent to the sea, where people go to swim in complete calm whilst the sea crashes around them. The road we travelled on was not the old coast road, this has been closed for some time owing to rock falls and the fact that it is largely single track with sheer drops at the side. We moved on to Seixal and Sao Vicente and finally headed southwards through a tunnel which took us back to the southern side and as we got through the tunnel it was like somebody switched the lights on and the sun came out. Just in time for a Poncha said Thiago. They’re supposed to be made freshly in front of you so if it comes straight out of a bottle, forget it. The lady who made ours took great care and it tasted wonderful – kick like a mule. We all headed for Funchal happy people. On the way we stopped off at a glass viewing platform over 500m in the air for panoramic views of Funchal. Thanks for a great day Thiago – see you next time.