Knock On Wood

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February 11th 2019
Published: February 11th 2019
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Cabo GiraoCabo GiraoCabo Girao viewed from Camara De Lobos
In Portugeuse, Madiera means "wood". The first settlers named it so, on account of the island that they saw covered in trees. On the approach to airport, the plane had descended through the clouds towards Ponta De Sao Lourenco at the very eastern tip island. It seems the first settlers did not approach from this direction. Trees? No trees here! We had been up early to catch a public bus at the SAM terminus in the centre of Funchal. It was all quiet. There were only a few tourists similar to ourselves, all heading to walk something other than a levada. The Service 113 bus was there, but no sign of the driver. He eventually appeared from the office before the departure time of 9 am. There was no difficulty in explaining to the driver the destination required. He already knew and had the tickets printed out almost before we asked. "You coming back? Want a return?" We opted for a 3.35 Euros signle each. i ahd some plans on the way back, that would require a stop off. A football match? How did you guess?

Bus travel in Madeira is best described as interesting. It is certainly not for the faint hearted. Once you head off the main dual carriageway roads, that whisk you through tunnels and teh sides of mountains, it is the land of twists and turns. The roads are narrow. There are some very sheer drops into the ocean below and the bus drivers proceed at speeds that suggest they have a high degree of confidence in their own ability. If they can throw a 50 seater bus around with such ease, it makes you wonder what they could achieve in a rally car. We climbed high out of the eastern end of Funchal. No quarter was given to oncming vehicles, except perhaps to the occasional bus coming in the other direction. A quick burst of horn on the approach to a bend and then it is plough on regardless. A number of hire car drivers were probably rethinking the merits of their idea to have independent wheels, when confonted with our antique bus hurtling towards them. The bus itself was an unusual creature. A very narrow aisle was flanked by 2 seats on the near side and 3 seats behind the driver side. They must have been built for small people. The numbers boarding steadily increased as we made our way towards the airport area - mostly locals - but also quite a few tourists heading out to walk. This varient of the 113 actually headed into the airport, although most passengers seeking this destination had opted for the 5 Euros express bus. The actual road at this point heads beneath the extension of the runway, which adds a whole new perspective on what you landed upon a few days previously. We pulled into a Bus Station at Machico, through another tunnel and on to Canical. This would be the final town before we alighted a turning circle, which would be the start of the walk.

Walking is big business in Madeira. The majority walk on the levada - the drainage channels that weave all over the island taking water for irrigation and consumption from the rainier north to the populated south. The walk at Ponta De Sao Lourenco is somewhat different. The land here has no trees. The only vegetation is a sparse grass and a few hardy plants, that cling to the rocky soil. The wind swoops in here from the sea. It was a fairly pleasant day, but clearly the wind is often stronger. The Madeiran "winter" had prompted most on the trail to be fully kitted out in walking waterproofs, although this is the driest place. The scenery is quite dramatic. The wind and the sea have carved a strange, rugged landscape. The cliffs show seams of reddish coloured rocks. it was kind of a cross between the north coast of northern Ireland and somewhere in western Australia. The sea to the south was fairly calm. A few small coves had rocky beaches. A fish farm was moored out in the bay. The contrast on the north side was extreme. Waves crashed in, driven by the winds. You would not be going for a swim here. We walked on, following the defined path. A steel rope was in place at the very steep points, in order to ensure that you did not detour too close to the edge of the cliffs. It was technically about 4 kilometres to the end of the peninsula, but time was against us. We settled for a coffee at a cafe in the middle of nowhere. The entrepreneurs were getting their reward for getting their supplies to this place beyond the roads and also creaming in a nice earner charging walkers 1 Euro for the use of their conveniences. We set off back to ensure we made teh bus terminus by the allotted time to get bcak to Canical. The opposite direction was now very busy with those who had not got up quite so early and the sun was shining. the pleasnat weather had prompted some to set off in less that satifactory footwear. I would suggest sturdy walking shoes at the very least.

It only took a few minutes for the bus to return to Canical. This used to be a whaling town, but now seemed to function as the main port for Madeira and a fishing centre. The edge of town was very industrial, leading down to the port facility. Containers lined the docks and a few ships awaited the end of the weekend to be laded or unloaded. A cluster of ocean going trawlers were marrooned in the adjacent yard - presumably being repaired or repainted over the winter season. A glistening white statue of 2 fishermen in a boat occupied the centre of a traffic island. The town centre was a clutch of bars and restaurants. Seafood was clearly on the menu. We wandered in the small church. There were few on the streets, although bizarrely evry dog in Canical seemed to be out for a walk - on their own. They looked too well fed for strays, so walk yourself must the order of the day for the local canines. We walked on the pier that adjoined the port - I am always drawn to water and boats - and stopped for a toastie and a coffee in a very acceptable bakery place just near the church. The local benches were a clue to the former whaling past - each one in the shape of a whale - and the main town attraction of the Whaling Museum was well signposted. It was on our route to the next destination and was quite a substantial building. We had little time to fully explore, so opted against the 10 Euros entry price and continued up the hill in the direction of the Campo De Futbol. A healthy crowd was already in attendance at the home of CF Canical. It was a quarter final of the Taca De Madeira, but the current action was a youth game with local rivals Santana. It was free entry and I was surprised to see that even at this level, the presence of local plod was deemed a requirement. They were not exactly going to be needed, unless the unruly parents got stuck in to each other. Alas the quarter final main event was delayed due to the conclusion of this youth match, which would have dire consequences for me when CF Canical and the visitors fought out a 2-2 draw. CD 1st Maio Funchal were the outsiders of the two, but sneaked an early lead against the run of play. They had a few experienced campaigners, which is a polite way of saying they were carrying a few pounds and were less than mobile. There were a lot of free kicks, as the old guard in the visitor numbers tried to show the youngsters in the CF Canical ranks who was in charge. As I said, it ended all square and we had to depart before Canical finally prevailed in a penalty shoot out. The bus in Madeira waits for no man.

In the latter part of the week, we would see quite a lot of the island.
Cabo GiraoCabo GiraoCabo Girao

..... a long way down
Funchal is a world on its own and very different form the land over the mountains - both in weather and pace of life. The easiest way of seeing as much as possible in the shortest time was to join a minibus tour. I am not normally keen on being herded around, but the public bus schedules outside Funchal made it a bit hit and miss to see places. We paid our money and sat back in comfort. The first stop was at Cabo Girao, which are up there in being the highest sea cliffs in Europe. A small glass platform - built in 2012 - allows you to look down all 590 metres to the sea. If you don't like heights, it is perhaps not your idea of fun. It reminded me of the Cliffs of Moher on the western edge of Ireland, which I read are nowhere near as high. We moved on to Ribeira Brava - a tourst town a few miles west. It had a pleasant church and town centre without being anything to write home about. the Other half invested in a fridge magnet at half the price of a Funchal version. I spotted probably the most interesting football ground on the way in, where Uniao madeira play in a steep valley. There was technically a chance to visit for a Taca De Madeira game, but the walk back to town in the drak in search of a bus to Funchal did not look a good proposition. I had seen the locals drive by this stage. a lot of this area is covered in small banana plantations.We went for walk among the plants, in which I probably learned more about bananas than I had imagined. who knew that the bananas we eat are all the female of the plant? Afterwards, we climbed and climbed away from the coast. The sun by the sea gave way to mist and drizzle and at the highest points, it was chucking it down. 20 miles away in Funchal, the sun would be shining. There was no view - just dense low cloud. It reminded me of being on the North Yorkshire Moors, except the unfenced domestic stock were not sheep but cows just aimlessly wandering around in the road. The vegetation was predominantly gorse bushes beyond the tree line.We descended the other side of the mountains into Porto Moniz, another former whaling port that now has a sole focus on tourism. The rain had stopped, but it was decidedly breezy. The main attraction here in the summer were the natural sea bathing pools. They remained unoccupied today. For some reason, a helipad had been constructed just along the promenade. it too was redundant. We had an included lunch at a restaurant called Orca, which was better than we could have imagined and watched the waves crashing in. We returned to Funchal along the coast road to Sao Vicente. The tunnels made it a swift route, but it was possible to see where the old weaving road had disappeared into the sea in parts.

On our last full day, we headed to Camara De Lobos on the public bus. It was only about 10 kilometres, but just beyond the extent of the usual town services. the fare was 2.20 Euros and the bus was full by the time we ended the Lido area. It seemed that it was a popular excursion with both locals and tourists. Churchill used to paint here in the days when it was a popular fishing cove. The brightly cooloured boats were still lined up on the shore, but the quaintness has probably disppeared. There was quite a lot of development and it seemed to be in the middle of the change from fishing village to tourist trap, but somebody had forgotten have a general tidy up. The pier was littered with rubbish. We climbed to a vantage point, where we could look out towards Cabo Girao. The full height was evident from here. A bush fire on the horizon was in full blaze. We could see the flames jumping even from 5 miles away. I could also see the object of the afternoon on the far side of town. The floodlights of the Estadio De Camara De lobos peeked out above the building roofs. We had a snack and following the invaluable app, set off to walk. A fairly substantial piece of high ground was fortunately cut out with a shortcut through a tunnel. The Estadio was a fairly impressive municipal space just beyond the school, which was only built in 2009. Alas there was little around it in the immediate area, but we settled for a cheap drink in a burger place nearby. The stadium was tucked neatly in the valley and surrounded by banana plantations on the terraces. One of the floodlight pylons was a third the size of the others and wedged on the terrace in amongst the bananas. An athletics track ruined any possible atmosphere, as the locals unfurled a Forca CSD Camara De Lobos banner on the copious barriers in the seats. There were plenty of vacant seats and barriers. The capacity of 2,500 was not tested. I detailed the Other Half to do a crowd head count and she diligently counted all 167 of those in attendance (excluding the police contigient). The game was a classic "game of 2 halves". I confidently predicted no way back for AD Porto Da Cruz, after the keeper effectively helped a header into his own net to give league leaders Camara the 2-0 lead on half time. How wrong can you be? Porto da Cruz stormed back with 3 second half goals to sieze a semi-final place.

Appendix 1

Taca De Madeira Quarter Finals

CF Cancial 2 CD 1 Maio Funchal 2

CF Canical Win On Pens 5-4

Date: Saturday 2 February 2019 @ 1630 Hours

Venue: Campo De Futbol, Canical, Madeira, Portugal

Attendance : Est 250

Appendix 2

Taca De Madeira Quarter Finals

CSD Camara De Lobos 2 AD Porto Da Cruz 3

Date: Sunday 3 February 2019 @ 1600 Hours

Venue: Estadio De Camara De Lobos, Camara De Lobos, Madeira, Portugal

Attendance : 167

Additional photos below
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Cabo GiraoCabo Girao
Cabo Girao

......looking towards Funchal

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