Madeira Revisited 4. A very different landscape on Friday. We were at the far eastern tail of the island, on the Sâo Lourenço peninsula, dry and arid and very windy. The usual pattern: a there and back walk, botanists behind, better walkers in front, me taking pictures of flowers and views, and many walkers of many nationalities. Lots of up and down, but not as much as the day before.
Unfortunately I was beaten after an hour or so. By the wind. Not having had full sensation in my feet for a couple of years now, passing over a high and very exposed spot, unbalanced by camera and binoculars round my neck, and wearing a wide brimmed sunhat, I was actually terrified that I would be blown over by a gusts of the (pleasantly warm) wind onto the hard stony ground. Very reluctantly I had to turn back and reach a more sheltered spot, where I sat for a while.
After a bit, I moved further towards the car park, and found an almost suitable boulder on which to sit. For a long while. I confess that I did get a little bored, but amused myself taking more photos. And a video.
I was on a mini peninsula at the side of a bay, the Baia d’Abra. The other side of the bay was a long way off, and it was impossible to make individual people out. But I suspected that some people sitting down way across above the multi-coloured cliff were a few of my companions, so I took a photo on maximum zoom, and enlarged it as much as I could in my camera. (I really was quite bored by now! There was nowhere to lie down and have a snooze, nor was it warm enough.) I could indeed identify people from our party. I assumed they were sitting to have their lunch (which I took to as a cue to have my own) but I learned later they had been birdwatching and had seen, among other things, canary and rock sparrow. Oh well, I had watched grasshoppers … and a rather elegant wooden tourist boat, the Bonita da Madeira, following the coastline of the bay. Together once more, we went back along the south coast towards Funchal, and stopped at Ponta da Garajau, for liquid refreshment and what was intended to be a further walk down a cliff path to find a particular plant. However, the authorities had roped it off as too dangerous. This did not stop our leader venturing just a few metres into it to collect this insect from a cactus. He then passed it to a volunteer who agreed to crush it in her palm. This was the cochineal insect, much prized as a very expensive trading item centuries ago, and which set me off singing to myself an extract from a madrigal by Thomas Weelkes (1575-1623), Thule, the period of cosmography. This includes the line, ‘The Andalusian merchant, that returns laden with cochineal and China dishes,…’.
Another delicious meal in a downtown Funchal restaurant, and the obligatory exercise afterwards (taxis were available for those who wished) ended the day.