View Madeira in a larger map
Madeira is a beautiful Portuguese island sitting on the Atlantic Ocean west of Morocco. We stopped in this island in its capital city, Funchal, in the way from Florida to Barcelona, after one week floating in the Atlantic Ocean without seeing any land. Yes, it was during the Atlantic Ocean crossing like the Titanic. We only had several hours there due to the embarkation schedule, but we managed to do a lot of things.
The first fun things we saw was Madeira traditional dance and costume, especially the hats. Yes, look at the hats! Don’t you love it too? It’s pointy in the end. I’m not sure about the functionality aspect of it. I mean, it doesn’t look like it can protect you much from the sun, but it certainly can make you look festive. I wished I could get one, but with only 60 L backpack space, I really couldn’t fit stuff that I don’t need.
To save the time, we started our Madeira journey by taking a cable car ride, up the hill. In the first photo above, you can see that the city was built in the hill. The idea was, climbing up with a cable car, then sliding down the hill.
When I say sliding down the hill, I actually mean sliding down. Not walking down, or riding a car down. How? This was what they called â€œwicker toboggan sled rideâ€ here. Basically, you are going down the hill with a sled made of wicker, guided by two Madeiran that stand behind you on the sled. They will pretty much do the whole stirring for you. You are going down through regular roads and alleys with cars passing by and crossing your way. A good thing that the cars always give you the right of way because it’s not easy to stop the sled once it’s sliding down. The path was not straight either, there are a lot of turns, where your guides will pushing or pulling while running to make the sled go the right way. No stopping nor slowing down. We had so much fun on the wicker sled, and where else could be ride something like this on a regular streets. Unfortunately the guides rejected to climb up the hill because we were to heavy. I guess this is not the normal mean of transportation here in Madeira!
After the super fun ride, the reality struck us we were not in the bottom of the hill yet. In fact, it looked like we were no where but surrounded with souvenir stores and expensive taxis. That was what most of the people did after the ride: shopping and then going to other sites with taxi. Not us! Remember we always loved to keep everything as cheap as possible. So we decided to continue the journey by walking through small winding alleys and houses. We didn’t have a map, but because we were on the hill facing the sea, sometimes we could see far down and predicted the way to the town centre.
This walk turned out to be much more rewarding than if we took the taxi ride because of the fun stuffs we encounter in these alleys. We found a charming building dated 1909 with cactus plants 2-3 stories high.
We found a graffiti with my name. Oh please, don’t look at me like that, it was not me who did it!
Phew, we could see our ship, we were on the right track.
We knew we were closed to downtown when we found a condom dispenser on the road.
We finally found the downtown, and apparently they had their annual flower festival on that day!
We saw at least 3 pretty flower girls with very tame doves that didn’t seem want to leave their hands. Wait, they were yellow, could not be doves!
It was time to go back to the ship, but before going back, we managed to spend a little time in a nice park overlooking the city, the hills, and the sea. If you remember the photo of Madeira I post in the Welcome article, it was from this place as well. We could see the ship from this park, so we were sure the ship did not leave without us.
That’s it from our Madeira adventure. We sailed for another couple of nights to reach our next destination: Cadiz in Spain (look it up in the map above).
When: 25 April 2009
Note: Madeira, strictly speaking, could refers to the Madeira archipelago where the Madeira island is a part of it. Madeira island is by far the largest island in Madeira archipelago.