Madeira Revisited 2. Wednesday 6th June. On my previous visit we had covered a lot of ground, and it was inevitable that this time I would repeat some places. But this was no problem, as the nature and extent of the visits were very different. On this and four of the following five days (the fifth was free) our focus was nature, and since there seemed sadly not to be many butterflies or a great variety of birds, it was plants and their flowers which were the main interest, so it was a good thing that our principal guide, Martin, was a superb botanist. That said, I had not a hope of retaining the English names – where there were such – let alone the Latin ones which tripped off his tongue, so I just enjoyed myself taking hundreds – literally – of photos, from which to choose a few for here, of the plants and the views. (Many of the species had ‘maderensis’, Madeiran, in their names.)Each morning the minibuses picked us up at 9 a.m. for the day’s touring. I had indeed been to our first stop, the Pico do Arieiro, pretty well due north of Funchal, halfway between north and south coasts. As it is 1818 metres, nearly 6000 feet, high, the third highest peak on the island, I was pleased the buses took us all the way there, and also that, as before, while we had driven through cloud, we were well above it by now, and indeed this time it cleared while we were there. Previously, we had hung around the top by the radar station and the café/shop centre, admiring the wonderful views. This time we walked among them along a ridge for an hour or so, learning about the plants.
Our next stop, nearby, was also familiar, Ribeiro Frio, but this time, whereas it had been cold and misty before, the sun was out for most of the time, but not too hot, ideal for walking.
Indeed, on the previous occasion I had noticed that there were ‘levada’ walks from that place, known for its trout farms, and I was pleased to have the opportunity this time to follow them up. We did two, one before our picnic lunch and one after. The first took us to a viewpoint at Balcóes. I took all these following photos within ten minutes of each other and from the same spot!
After lunch, a little way from Balcóes,I struck out on my own, as did most people, leaving the very keen botanists with Martin, along a broad levada walk, again from Ribeiro Frio. Levadas are watercourses built from the 15th to the 20th centuries to transfer water from the much wetter north of the island to the dry south. They now also provide walking paths, some narrow, crumbling and dangerous, some very broad, with only imperceptible inclines.
A soft drink at the end at a café back in Ribeiro Frio was well-deserved, and provided us with entertainment from Madeiran chaffinches like this one (which has ‘maderensis’ in its Latin name). After a rest at out hotel, we walked down to town for a meal in one of the dozens of restaurants in the Rua de Santa Maria, where you take your liberty in your hands if you haven’t already a booking (we had) or at least a target firmly in mind!