Saturday, 11 April 2009

Madeira - final day - showers, & our second levada walk

I REALLY like a good cup of coffee (I've been spoilt at 'ricci's), so when we found a good cafe, very close to out hotel that served an EXCELLENT cup, we were very happy. They don't serve it like we do, but it's just as good, and very tasty. Needless to say, we went there almost every day.
After out caffeine 'fix', it was time to have a wander into town. We had no real plans today, but I had an idea. The 'Nuns Valley' is supposed to be really beautiful and rugged. I'd noticed that the number 81 bus went there, so for just four Euros each, we got a return ticket and hopped on a 'yellow funfair ride'.
Clinging on tightly as we sped along the terrifyingly narrow and steep mountain roads, our aim was to just stay on the bus and do the return journey. We had boots and a picnic though, just in case. When the bus got to the high village of Curral da Freiras, a local guy suggested we disembark, as the bus came back in 20 minutes. We did, and as we got off, so did another couple.
They were German, and their names were Lutz and Elfi (what a LOVELY name).
Lutz told us they intended to walk to the top of the ridge, and we were welcome to join them.
"What about the bus??", we asked. He told us there was one due at 5:00PM, so we trusted him and set off upwards, chatting and getting to know one another.
This was where we got off the bus. The weather had started cloudy, but now the sun was out, and it was clearing. Time to put on the sun tan lotion!
The views around us were really living up to their 'dramatic' tag, and we were getting more and more excited at the prospect of a good walk.
A lot of the hamlets were just perched in what seemed like unreachable places.
We read that you can't reach a lot of these places by road, as they are not connected to the road system!

This looked a bit like a set of 'Lord of the Rings'.

The sun was full out now, and Sue was ready for the climb.

Here we are, about to set off upwards.

The path was gentle, but we were soon gaining height, leaving the village far below.

As always in Madeira, the flowers were incredibly beautiful. I didn't know where to shoot next.

Houses were built just anywhere.
ALL the building materials had to be brought up here by hand.
The mind boggles!!!!

We continued up the well-laid path.
The walking was easy and steady.
Soon, this was the sort of view we were getting.

That road was blocked. Several rock falls had seen to that!
I think they now have (another) tunnel, so the road is redundant.

After about 40 minutes solid climbing, we reached the top.
This was a visitors centre with a big car park.
Last time I saw this place, I was looking up at a dot on the ridge horizon.
Here I am, perched on the edge, as usual.

'Only' 3,000 feet.

This was the tourists balcony.

If you leaned over the rail (which I did), this is what you saw.
3,000 feet - STRAIGHT DOWN!
DON'T lean back on that fence!

We had a fabulous walk, and ended up at a small cafe in the village for another good coffee, and we also tried (and bought) some of the local liqueurs.
That night, Sue & I went to a place we'd sussed out the previous night. 'La Paella'.
I told the owner I was VERY fussy about Paella, and he said; "You don't like - you don't pay"
That was good enough for me - so in we went.

They first brought us a glass of complimentary Madeira wine, which Sue tried.
Then they broush ush a glashh of Poncha, Shue shays ish GREAT.
This ugly thing had a name, but I can't remember it!
It was billed as 'local lobster', and was alive & moving when brought to our table. I don't think it wanted a mirror! It was about the same price as fresh lobster, so you were looking at around SEVENTY pounds for a serving. I said we'd stick to the paella.
I can honestly say, it lived up to its reputation.
It was STUNNING - no contest, the best one we've ever had.
We enjoyed it SO much, we went back again the following night for another one.

On the way home (we walked - it was a very warm, pleasant evening) I took this picture of one of the stranger plants we saw. The end of the runway at the airport has HUNDREDS of these plants on the bank in front of it.
This was the first time I'd seen one at the roadside though.
I wish I'd made Sue stand at the side of it for scale now, as it was about 5 feet tall.
Then it was back to the hotel room, and a last look at Funchal before turning in.

What can I say? Madeira is FANTASTIC!!! We will return there one day soon. If you're interested in the island, I can really recommend it as a beautiful, interesting and fabulous place.

Below are a couple of short videos.
The 'lobster thing' - it's ALIVE!
Common name: Slipper Lobster.
Scientific name: Scyllarides latus
A sweep of the Curral da Freiras valley.

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