A short sail from Porto Santo, we arrived to the beautiful main island, Madeira. The island is 57km long x 22km wide and the majority of the island is mountainous. Some of the peaks reach over 1500 meters. We arrived to Quinta do Lorde Marina on the SE tip of the island. Although the marina and the resort are very nice, it is rather isolated but with the dependable bus schedule getting to the capital city, Funchal, was no problem.
Funchal has a nice atmosphere with many parks, fountains, tropical flowers and charming walking streets. In old town they have a daily market that is loaded with local vegetables, fruits and flowers plus a fish market. It is certainly a main attraction. This was my second favorite market, first being Siracusa, Sicily.
We took the cable car from old town up the mountain to Monte Palace Tropical Garden. In early August Madeira had a terrible fire and as we rode the cable car you could see the path of the fire which threatened not only this beautiful garden but Funchal. Some houses were lost on the fringes of the city.
We said goodbye to Iris as she returned to Sweden after a month sailing with us. Roland and I continued our exploration of the island and we highly recommend renting a car.
We passed Marina do Lugar de Baixo at Calaheta. This marina that was built 2004. The old fisherman’s said, “Do not build a marina there. It will be destroyed” And they were right. The sea destroyed the original breakwater. The breakwater was rebuilt and reinforced but again nature showed it´s strength. No one on Madeira thinks it will be opened again.
A Levada is a irrigation channel that was brought to Portugal by the Moors. In the 16th century the Portuguese started building the levadas to carry water to the agricultural regions. Some of the more recent channels on Madeira were made in the 1940s. We were amazed at how they managed this in such a steep mountainous terrain. Many are cut into the sides of mountains which sometimes required digging tunnels up to 40 km (25 miles).
We did a 10.2km hike which took 3 hours along a Levada. The aroma from the flowers, pines and the Madeira trees was intoxicating.
Returning to the car mid afternoon we were hungry. There are so many back roads that even the navigator software gets confused. This was typically a advantage as we discovered new places. On this day looking for a restaurant and being on the wrong road we came across a large house, Casa de Cha´ Tea House in a residential area with a sign “Restaurant Open”. We stopped and it was a very positive experience. It is owned by a couple who live in the upper two levels with the restaurant on the first level. We sat out on the balcony with a view over the sea in the distance. It was a wonderful meal and we spent time visiting with the husband and wife who spoke very good english. Just as we were departing the grandkids were returning from school. The husband also does canvas and upholstery covers for boats on the island.
We were impressed by Maderia’s infrastructure, for example the roads are in good shape and efficient at moving traffic, a working bus system which we certainly have not experienced on other islands. We feel Madeira is the nicest place we have visited. A beautiful majestic island, nice climate and very friendly people.