Well, having to stay a little longer in Madeira was no hardship as we really love the island. The computer only needed a new jack in the power socket so our worst fears of a complete breakdown were unfounded!
On our return to Funchal we tied up next to Karma again in the harbour, although the sea was dead flat and we could have anchored off in comfort. With there only being room for 6 or 7 boats against the wall at most though, we didn’t want to take the risk of not being able to get in if the weather turned again.
We went up to Machico one day, the first settlement on Madeira, and nearly got on Portuguese TV. There was a gastronomic festival taking place there and the TV company was covering it later in the day. We did see the rehearsals of local dancers and singers, however, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
A few days later we decided to do a BIG walk. We caught the 8.00 am bus up to Santana on the north-east coast, then took a taxi and began the classic mountain walk from Achada do Teixeira to the Boca da Encumeada. This is a serious walk and both the taxi driver and a fellow walker we met said ‘Ooh, that’s a long way’! The walk is only about 15 kilometres, 9 miles or so, but it is very strenuous with an ascent of 500 metres and a descent of 1000 metres.
We began in bright sunshine and reached the highest mountain on Madeira, (Pico Ruivo, 1862m) in good time, accompanied by tens of mostly German walkers who were walking to the highest point on Madeira and then returning to the car park at Achada do Teixeira. Wimps! After admiring the magnificent views we returned to the path below the summit, marked Boca da Encumeada 11.4 k, and then Pat realised she’d lost the walking book! She must have left it in the taxi! (She’s really getting loopy - she left her walking pole in the bar at Porto de Cruz, she bought and lost - twice - a rechargeable bus ticket in Funchal, and now she had lost the book with the walk)! Luckily, we still had a large scale tourist map with the route marked so on we went, and on and on and on! It was about now that the usual clouds descended onto the tops so all the rest of the splendid scenery we were looking forward to seeing was lost in the mist. We now know how rain forms in clouds as we were among them! It didn’t detract from our enjoyment however, and we walked for over five hours along wonderful paths before the sun began to peep through as we reached the pass above the Curral de Freiras, 5.1 k below. We could have started our descent here, but it is really steep and Mike’s knees are not what they used to be, so we decided to carry on to the Encumeada, only 5.8 kilometres further on, so the sign said. So we went on, and on, and on. About halfway we were overtaken by a couple of young German men who loped past on spring-laden legs, and we watched them disappear ahead as they started the descent to the Encumeada.
We lost sight of them quickly and began the descent ourselves. The 1000 metres of descent on this walk must nearly all come at the end because for over half an hour we toiled down the steepest path we have ever seen. Pat’s knees are not quite as knackered as Mike’s so she didn’t make too bad a job of it. She reached the bottom eventually and stood waiting near the signpost for Mike. She waited - and waited. Where was he? Had he fallen off the mountain? Surely not. She would have heard a scream as he went over wouldn’t she? He eventually appeared round the last corner looking like the silhouette of Orson Welles at the beginning of Citizen Kane, hobbling with two sticks. “Are you all right?” “Do I look as if I’m all right?” “Do you want some painkillers?” Stony silence! “There’s a café just round the corner”. Yet more stony silence!
We reached the café and Pat bought Mike and her a large shandy each. Heaven! “When’s the next bus to Funchal?” to the bar person. “It left at 4.00 pm. There are no more buses to Funchal tonight. You will have to order a taxi!” Bugger! Never mind. A taxi was called, we got down to Ribeira Brava on the coast just in time to catch the Express bus into Funchal (only taking 20 minutes along the motorway and through the tunnels instead of the tedious journey of an hour along the old roads).
So, our day cost €7 for the bus to Santana, €15 for the taxi to the beginning of the walk, €22 for the taxi at the end of the walk and €3 back to Funchal! But we loved it! Mike’s knees recovered (almost) by the next day, and although we didn’t get all the views on the walk, we thoroughly enjoyed it. That’s what we came away for - adventures. (We shouldn’t be allowed out really!)
We hung about Funchal for a few more days and also did another small walk from Machico along an old mule trail over the Pico do Facho to Caniçal, the old whaling village in the easternmost part of the island. There is nothing left of the station now, just a small whaling museum. It wasn’t as upsetting to see the old photos as Pat thought it might be, but it was nice to think that whale preservation is the only interest now. Whaling finished in 1981 after 40 years, in which time 5,885 sperm whales were killed. Tunny fishing and canning is now the main activity.
We finally said a sad goodbye to Funchal on Wednesday 20th August to make our next big passage, to the Canary Islands. It was just as bumpy a ride as from Morocco to Porto Santo but only for two nights this time, and we dropped anchor off Playa Francesca on the northernmost island, Graciosa, at 1715 on 22nd August. Tired as we were, it was amazing and wonderful to see our French friends on Miti already there, along with two German boats, Narwhal and Ballatrix that had been in Rabat. They had stayed in Rabat all this time and had only arrived two days before us after 4 nights at sea. They had been caught in a storm on the journey but had coped all right. We had had winds of between Force 3 and 7 on our journey but no force 8’s, thank goodness!
A BBQ had been arranged for that evening on the beach and of course we were invited. We bet they were pleased we had turned up as we were able to provide another barbecue for cooking and also some sardines which went down well! We managed to last until 9 o’clock then had to retire to our bed! We spent the next couple of days exploring this small holiday island (25 square km) which is almost within touching distance of Lanzarote, our next port of call. We climbed an extinct volcano with the children and were all nearly blown off the top! The wind almost never ceases here, which does get you down a bit but it’s certainly great for our wind powered generator. Thanks again Barbara!
The main little town, Caleta del Sebo, is windswept with sand strewn tracks between small white houses and it and the surrounding beaches are busy all day with trippers from Lanzarote and longer stay holidaymakers. In our opinion it wasn’t as nice as Porto Santo but then we didn’t have to constantly battle with strong winds on our trips into town back there!
We stayed on Graciosa longer than we had anticipated as we had to help celebrate Bastien’s 8th birthday. We finally left for the 26 mile journey to Lanzarote on the 29th August. We wanted to stay in the capital, Arrecife, if possible, as, like Madeira, all the buses go to and from the capital to all over the island. After a 5 hour trip we dropped anchor in the very crowded and scruffy harbour that night but the next morning Mike traipsed the harbour area and further afield to try and find someone to ‘report in’ to. (We were already ‘illegal’ as we hadn’t reported to the harbour master on Graciosa)! After failing to find anyone remotely interested in us, and watching the boat moored next to us coming closer and closer as we swung on the anchor, we left and had an exhilarating sail in force 5 winds downwind to Puerto Calero, a purpose built marina complex 12 miles south. What bliss to have some electricity and all the modern comforts - and we were finally legally in Spain again!
That’s where we are at the moment (31st August). We have booked a hire car for three days from Monday so hope to visit all the main attractions.
This months photos are below as usual. Hope you enjoy them.
See you next month.