A walk of epic proportions....

Trip Start Apr 02, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Portugal  , Madeira Islands,
Sunday, March 29, 2009

We were to arise early on Sunday morning, but as the clocks had gone forward an hour and we were still exhausted from the previous day's diving, two sleepy-eyed heads only surfaced at around 10am! 

. . . .

The day was to be spent walking the island's green pastures, so a hearty picnic was packed up and taken in an oversized basket (I hurried to look busy as Wally heaved it out to the car, in fear of being lumbered with responsibility for the rest of the day!).  We drove out to the far east of the island, past the impressive airport which I hadn't realised had been built on enormous concrete stilts over the sea, effectively reclaiming land to satisfy the needs of ever-growing air transport, until the road withered away and we were forced to abandon the car in favour of our bipedal attribute.

I had not known the extent to which we were about to walk.  I'm glad I didn't, as I would have run screaming to the nearest sun lounger and chained myself to it.  Saying that, I was in for a real treat, and as we ascended the volcanic rock, the jagged skyline ripped the soft green turf in front, giving way to red rock and crashing blue seas below.  The scenery became increasingly dramatic and ragged and as we circumferenced the bay, passing hardcore rock climbers complete with poles, the view of the island stretched behind us.  The sea on the southern side of the island lapped gentley at the silver-shingled shore; the sea on the northern side lashed the rocky coast, so ferocious that it had eaten the land down to a skinny pass which we had crossed, almost cutting off the far eastern rocks on which we stood for the Atlantic ahead to claim.  

We gave up shortly before we reached the most eastern point, succumbing to bathroom needs and sheer breathlessness and knowing that we had to return the same way we had come.  By the time we had reached the car, we had walked what in theory seemed a measly 5.5km, but had taken a mammoth 3 hours over undulating and rocky ground.  We slurped the coca-cola taken from our picnic basket noisily, unquenched until the last drop and only satisfied for the interim.

We decided to hunt out a quiet, idyllic spot for our picnic, despite being famished (I'm tempted to say literally here) and having spent the last 3 hours traversing idyllic spots, but I wearily allowed myself to be led.  We drove up to what really WAS an idyllic mountain town (that was lucky), with a 180-degree view of quaint cloud-enveloped churches on the facing hill tops, and finally unpacked the picnic of boiled octupii (remember them?!), salad, boiled eggs and freshly-baked buns from the panedaria that morning, munching silently as we replenished energy levels.  We were joined by a local, who was friendly and conversed with Patricia in Portuguese.  He sheepishly, but gratefully, took a beer from us as he shared stories of his children and life in the village, even offering us a bed for the night if we should need it (Ed and I would have taken him up on his kind offer, had it have been possible).  Meanwhile, I snapped away, smiling politely when required.

We departed from the village, happier and healthier (I must have been glowing by this point), and to my incredulity, Ed and his parents were adamant on doing another walk!!  We drove to a cute and wet town, Ribero Frio, 890m up in the volcanic hills and above the cloud line, where a wet walk through the dripping canopy ensued.  The walk was lined by a 'lavada' - a skinny canal that transported rainwater from the uninhabitable heights to the urban dwellings below.  The view from the mirador was breath-taking and one I would highly recommend - similar, in my opinion, to the hilly lush mountains that surround Macchu Picchu.  However, we were finally wet and tired, and gratefully warmed up in a little cafe at the walk's start on our retuirn, wearied by the wind, sea air and day's effect on our legs.  Ed and I sampled a little 'Poncha' - a potent local apperitif, made from lemon and Madeira honey and distilled by sugar cane.  It was reminiscent of taking an English hot toddy to stave off imminent flu!

Dinner was, in its usual fashion with Patricia helming the kitchen, fine, fresh food and Wally cracked out the barbeque - the first of the season for Ed and I!  I tried 'choripan' - hot chorizo sausage in toasted baguette and our weary bodies were rewarded with steak flown over from Uruguay and cooked to perfection on the hot grill.  We toasted with red wine to the fine food, weather, scenery and quality of life Madeira has to offer and again collapsed into bed, feeling somewhat more rounded and satisfied by the achievement of the day.

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