21/12/2017 by Carl Reynolds
A few hundred kilometres off the coast of Morocco, in a tiny archipelago of 5 islands, lies Madeira. Famous to many for its fortified wine; to others as the nursery of Christiano Ronaldo (there’s a museum called CR7); or its network of walkable levadas; or it’s remnant of pre-ice age temperate rain forest (the Laurasilva); or some other tempting thing. We were tempted. One summer day, when we knew that Mrs Ape’s supply work ran out on December 9th, we thought where can we go to swim, walk, eat and meander? My Dad had nearly fallen to his death off a levada twenty or so years ago, but had been caught by a well placed bush and given another couple of decades of life. We had both heard of the levadas, knew the Atlantic would be warm there (a bath like 19C) and we both love Pateis de Nata. And easyjet could take us there and back for £50 each.
The pictures tell much of the story, but here are some tips –
Taxi – get in touch with Terry, a wonderful local, who will take you anywhere you want to in his private taxi…we used him to get from the ferry at the start of our trip and to the airport at the end. But also useful (although we didn’t need him) for connections to otherwise inaccessible levada walks +351 967 618 757
Local transport – get a GIRO card from Avenida de Mar. And stick a load of credits on it. Then you can get Funchal city buses all over the city for 1.25 euros, rather than 1.95.
Out of town buses – lots of buses go all over the island, but they tend to go between 0700 and 1000 in the morning, if you want to make it to a long levada walk…and then get back at the end of your walk.
Levada walks – it is much cheaper to self organise. For example, it cost us 8 euros in bus fares to do a walk in the centre of the island, compared to 25-30 euros each, if we’d gone on a guided trip. And on a guided trip you would not only have to be shunted from hotel to hotel in the morning picking up other walkers, but also have to walk at the speed of the slowest. See here for maps various.
Discovery – meander in the town, choose where to go in the moment, plan the odd visit to something, talk to the locals as many of them have worked in English speaking countries.
Swimming – much of the sea front is private access. There are municipal sea lidos – one is free (Poente). Stay at the Lido end of town if you want to swim in a relatively safe bay (you are off a rock in the middle of the Atlantic!). There are also rock pools various along some levada walks.
Coffee – a Portuguese cappuccino is an aberration. Ask for a Chinesa (like a flat white) or a Garota (a very small flat white). If you must have a cappuccino ask for it Italian style; otherwise you will be eating a lot of whipped cream on top of an instant coffee.
Cake – there are many confeiterias. Our favourite was A Confeiteria at Avenida do Infante Edifício Quinta Vitória 28 Loja AH, 9000-015 Funchal.