Madeira Revisited 5. I don’t know what the weather was like on the southern coast of the island on the Saturday, but for some of our varied experiences elsewhere on the Saturday it was cold and/or damp, though things did get better from time to time. There were several elements to this long day. We were first taken to Cabo Girâo, the highest sea cliff in ‘Europe’. (Being Portuguese, Madeira counts as Europe, though geologically it is part of the African plate.) I had been here before, and ‘thrilled’ once more to standing on a glass platform with nothing below that.
Then we moved on to Encumeada in the middle of the island (1007 metres/3303 feet), where the chill was really felt, especially as some of us had decided that we did not need to carry or wear as much weather protection as previously. We had been warned, so had only ourselves to blame! Anyway, we had a mile-long walk along a levada, the borders of which were not entirely by natural vegetation but included some attractive planting. At the end of our walk was a tunnel, through which the levada continued, and along which we had been intended to walk, but I was glad that that thought had been abandoned – it would have meant uncomfortable bending over for 800 metres. I did venture a very little way into it, and if this photo is viewed on a big enough screen, the light at the end of the tunnel can just be seen.
Back the mile to our minibuses, and we moved on to Sâo Vicente on the north coast. My memory of this place in November 2016 was of a meal taken in a revolving restaurant. This time our stop was for coffee, and then for a very short exploration of the local geology. I nipped off at one point to buy some cherries from a stall, and when I rejoined the group they were all staring at the beach. I could see a tern or to. And I liked these contrasting grey textures. Only on looking more closely did I see that some of the stones were in fact terns, roseate terns I was informed. From here we were taken just a very short distance westwards, and deposited to walk along the old coastal road (closed to traffic) for about a mile.
I really enjoyed this walk. It was easy walking (as had the levada been), the sun was now out, and the plants growing on the vertical cliff wall were spectacular. Two of us were ahead of the others, so we were the first to venture in to this tunnel, which we could see was dripping wet for the first and last several metres. It was fun, once emerged from it, to see the others noticing the ‘hazard’ and then venturing in.
From here we were taken via Seixal to Châo da Ribeira, where there were picnic benches. The sun had gone in again, and it was again a little chilly. We were joined by 5 feral cats and a kitten, all very wary, but won over by gifts of ham and cheese. From here we went for a short walk in the laurisilva, laurel forest, of which Madeira has the one of the few surviving remnants in ‘Europe’. It once flourished around the Mediterranean, but the Ice Ages did for it nearly everywhere there. Our botanist leader was very excited at being in this rich and rare spot. Lunch had been late, and we were running later. We made just one more stop on the way back to the hotel, to see the rare Madeiran saxifrage. Here it is: and here are some of us looking at it. Another lovely dinner in a Funchal restaurant, another fitness session back up to the hotel. Then watching a fireworks display taking place back down in the harbour, an event which the town of Funchal lays on every Saturday evening in June.