Atlantic spotted dolphin, cable car, Cabo Girao, Cory's shearwater, Funchal, last Hapsburg, Monte, Monte Palace Tropical Gardens, Naturetrek, pastel de nata, Reid's hotel, VMT Madeira catamaran
Madeira Revisited 6. Free day. I definitely wanted to go up to Monte on the cable car, and I definitely wanted to go out on a cetacean watching boat trip, as I had enjoyed both so much in November 2016. Naturetrek, the wildlife travel company I was with, had reserved a place for me on a boat trip they recommended, in a fast RIB (rigid inflatable boat), and that sounded fun. (I had been on a catamaran on my previous visit.)
When I got down to a later breakfast than usual, everyone had been and gone, bar our leader and his assistant. Most were planning to visit the Monte Palace tropical gardens which I had so enjoyed before, and then go on to the Botanical Gardens afterwards, and one had even a further garden in mind for after that. I was planning to take things more leisurely.
In due course I walked down to the seafront,
and made my way gently to the cable car base. At the bottom was a small exhibition showing how the local embroidery was made. I was pleased because I knew that one of my companions, who had been disappointed that the embroidery factory was to be shut on this (Sun)day, would have seen it on her own way up to Monte.
I was not disappointed in the cable car ride.
It was pleasing to see the regrowth after the disastrous arson that had taken place two years previously. Four people had died, and last time I was there a young man was awaiting trial. I learnt this time that he is now serving ten years’ imprisonment.
Once up at Monte, I wandered around and had a look at the church, and examined this statue in its forecourt of Charles/Karl/Carlo Hapsburg, the last reigning (until 1918) Austro-Hungarian Emperor, nephew of the assassinated Franz Ferdinand of Austria. He died in Madeira in 1922. And I noticed that the toboggans weren’t running. (One ride on them in a lifetime is enough.)I then went to the café hoping to have a pastel de nata (custard tart), but had to settle for a large portion of just the custard itself. It was good! At the same time I watched the cable cars, and tried to see the mechanism by which the pods switched to another speed. Even once back in the cable car I failed miserably to do so, though I could feel the change of gear. The ride down was just as enjoyable, and there were no blue shirt reflections to mess up my pictures this time. The ride is so quiet you can hear birds!
I walked along the sea front towards the boat companies’ outlets.
I had 90 minutes to spare before my boat was due to leave, but something told me to go to check in and pay well in advance. I’m glad I did. They had been wanting to reach me to tell me that they had had to cancel, because they had had a big party cancellation themselves. They suggested an RIB with another company, but said that even that was not certain to happen, so when they than suggested the catamaran trip I had done 18 months previously, I seized upon it. More hanging around, but I spun my lunch out, saw and greeted four of my companions returning from a different boat trip, and in due course it was my turn.
After a while we headed for where a pod of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins was said to be hanging out, and for 15 minutes we were entertained by at least 20 of these small cetaceans, surrounding the boat near and far, some of them bow-riding.
Later on, we made for where a (Bryde’s) whale was thought to be (there is communication between the boats throughout these trips) but despite our hanging around beyond the time needed to return to the harbour on time, it did not surface. But I much enjoyed watching the sea birds, and I was told that these were mainly Cory’s shearwater.
As we made out way past Cabo Girâo, where we had been the previous day, we saw another kind of bird up in the sky, taking advantage of the thermals. Some of them accompanied us, or we them, back along the coast, and two landed on a beach. This final picture is of the celebrated Reid’s Hotel in Funchal. Four of our number had splashed 155 euros a head on dinner there one night!As I would have been late meeting up with people I had arranged to eat with, I spent 7 euros on a taxi back up to the hotel, feeling guilty as I did so, but made up for a it later after a delicious meal, when once more, I trekked back up on foot with my friends.