Friday, 27 March 2009

Madeira - day three. Rain stop play!

Day three, and we were excited! THIS was the day we were going to do some PROPER walking in the high mountains of Madeira. The walk is called 'Rabacal and the 25 waterfalls', so you can imagine what it was going to be like, and why we were excited. We sat outside the hotel in the warm morning air, in our shorts (but with warm gear in the rucksacks, just in case). While we waited, I took this picture of one of the national flowers of Madeira, the Bird of Paradise flower. They grow in profusion all over the place, and in most gardens.
The van duly picked us up, and we were away! As we climbed on the twisty mountains roads, it got worse and worse, weather wise. The cloud closed in, the wind howled, and it began to rain quite hard. By the time we got all the way to Rabacal, about an hours drive, conditions were atrocious. So much so, I didn't get even ONE picture. I wish I had now, but I didn't want to get the camera out in those conditions. Anyway, the guide said he wasn't happy to take us, as it would be too dangerous. He then made a decision to go elsewhere. As Madeira has over 20 micro climates, you can always find some sunshine and shelter. We ended up on a 'verdant' levada walk through mainly farmland. Not what we expected, or wanted, but they did their best.
Here, lemons grew at the side of the walk.
Weeeeelll, I NEEDED one or two for the gin tonight!

Bless her, still smiling, despite the disappointment.
(Can you believe there are several people walking IN the levada to avoid a tiny bit of mud!!!)

Sue tells me this is an Agapanthus, a rose by any other name...........

One thing that amused us, and we'd noticed a lot since arriving on the island, was the custom of drying the squash on the roof of the house.

In some places, the walkway was a bit like this - so of course, there were shouts of 'MIND THE GAP'!

More flora. Of the Orchid family, I think.

This was sorrel. We were told if you chew the stem, it tastes JUST like green apples.
I can confirm this is correct, as I chewed quite a lot, it was really refreshing.

The ever-present and beautiful Arum lily.
(I should have moved that twig).

Another of the Orchid family.

The levada twisted through the countryside, and we followed.

This old farmers wife was 'spud bashing'
...while he was muck spreading.

....and this one was taking gourds (or squash) home to dry - probably as seed stock.
(Yes - it IS female)

The old fields were carefully tilled & tended, ready for the crops & harvest.

But, always the new world was close by. This is yet another new road tunnel. Madeira has really improved its road system in the past few years, hugely due to EU grants. I'd LOVE to know what the total spend is going to be/has been so far. It must be telephone numbers!

After the levada walk finished, we were taken to the coast to do another short walk. On the way, we were privileged to see this wonderful sea of cloud.

This was where we were bound, but not before a beer/coffee stop at a cafe hanging on to the cliff side.
You can see the road snaking perilously down the hillside. This is the old road. Now, even this tiny place has a HUGE new tunnel to it.
For GODS sake - DON'T jump up and down!!!

Nice fence! Not what I'd call sturdy though, considering the drop on the other side.

This was Paul do Mar, our final walk for today. Beautiful place, and lovely weather.

Afternoon nap time.

The old church at Paul do Mar.

They were absorbed in Dominoes, of all things.
(This guy wasn't having any luck, judging by the look on his face).

Finally, there was one last surprise. A HUGE twin waterfall at the end of the village. I took photo's, and we boarded the bus back. We were sad not to have done Rabacal, but little did we know, the next few days would make up for it - watch this space!

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