Black rocks, green leaves and umbrellas


Madeira is a volcanic island, so no golden beaches (well, there is one), unlike The Canaries which have imported tons of sand from the Sahara to please its visitors. Most beaches, where they exist, appear to be dark shingle or larger rocks, so Madeira attracts visitors who want a bit of sun but who are also keen to explore.

So exploring is what we did. As well as the trip by cable car to Monte we took the east tour, the west tour and the trip to Nuns’ Valley in the central area.

Blooming lovely.

A trees with wonderful poppy-like flowers in December. Sadly I can’t remember its name. Anyone know?

Because of the mountainous terrain Madeira is wetter than The Canaries, with the north receiving more rain and being cooler than the south which is sheltered by the mountains. With temperatures that mostly remain in the mid twenty degrees in summer and around the mid teens to twenties in the winter, and as it rains during much of the year, Madeira avoids scorched landscapes in favour of lush ones. The rain mostly amounts to a few light, passing showers, but December being the wettest month it was common to see people wearing all types of outfits from work gear to casual to dressy, all with a snazzy umbrella tucked under an arm.

The mountains also provide water to the southern part of the island through a system of levadas or channels. Many visitors are attracted to walk the network of paths by these levadas from one part of the island to another.

A colourful fishing village

Camara de Lobos, a village near Funchal where Winston Churchill painted whilst staying in Madeira in 1950.

The diversity of scenery gives the island great appeal. Within a short time you can travel from the shore to six thousand feet up in the mountains, winding your way along narrow roads where hairpin bends and sheer drops are the norm, through changes in vegetation and weather, into the grandeur of the mountains.

Twist and shout

Tortuous roads snaking through the countryside.

Madeira's highest cliff

Standing 580 metres (1900 feet) above sea level on Madeira’s highest cliff where we could stand on a glass platform and peer down through it to the rocks and sea below. If you look very closely you can just make out the land along the shore divided into narrow strips.

On the west tour we lunched in a restaurant at Cachalote, an old whaling station where the rocks were so jagged and forbidding it was difficult to imagine boats venturing anywhere near it.

An old whaling station, Madeira

Difficult to believe whaling ships could come near this shore.

Another village on the north coast huddled in the mist by the Atlantic waters, backed by a sheer rockface.

In the shadow of the cliff

I couldn’t resist taking this through the window of the bus as the situation of the village was so dramatic.

It amazed us to see the narrow strips of land, terraced up mountainsides, on which grapes for Madeira wine, and the produce sold in the Funchal market and elsewhere, were grown.

Peaks in the mist

The mist gave the mountains an eerie, dream-like, or film-like quality.

Farmers can own strips scattered over a wide area, and because of the terrain these have to be worked by hand with no mechanisation, or transportation between them other than legs and feet. This is not unlike the runrig system in use in Scotland hundreds of years ago before modern methods of farming were introduced.

Strip farming

The terraced hillside rose from Vereda da Pousada dos Vinhaticos where we stopped for a comfort break.

Stark mountains

Monochrome mountains

For our east tour we were lucky to have a day of wonderful weather even at six thousand feet up in the mountains. Blue sky contrasted with dark rocks and the only sound was the pipes of the Andes musicians who looked eminently at home amongst the peaks.

Madeira's highest point

View from Pico do Arieiro, the highest point on Madeira, 1810 metres (just short of 6000 feet) above sea level.

The Andes in Madeira

Even the guys from the Andes looked (and sounded) at home here.

Deep in the Nuns’ Valley is a well-hidden village where, at some point in history, nuns from Funchal took refuge from marauding invaders. The only way to reach the village was on foot, but today it is accessed by roads that cling to mountainsides. Then from the village in the shadow of the mountains we snaked upwards, barely managing to pass cement lorries and refuse vehicles, all the time keeping an eye on the sheer drop on one side of the road and the solid rock rising up on the other.

Somewhere the sun doesn't shine

We drove from there up to here and continued higher.

Eventually the road widened and we found ourselves in a parking area at Eira do Serrado.

Eira do Serrado, 1094 metres (nearly 3,600 feet) above sea level. The weather was warm and sunny with very good visibility.

Eira do Serrado, 1094 metres (nearly 3,600 feet) above sea level. The weather was warm and sunny with very good visibility.

The trip was nicely rounded off by a visit to D’Oliveiras wine lodge in Funchal where we tasted three different Madeiras and returned to our hotel in a merry mood.


D’Oliveiras wine lodge in Funchal











About jingsandthings

I am me. What do I like? Colour Shapes Textures Paintings, photographs, sculptures, woven tapestries, wonderful materials. The love of materials probably comes from my father who was a textile buyer, and I grew up hearing the names of mills and manufacturers which sounded magical and enticing. Glass in all its soft and vibrant colours and flowing shapes, even sixties glass which makes its own proud statement. A book I can immerse myself in. Meals with family or friends with lots of chat and laughter (and probably a bottle or two of wine). The occasional trip abroad to experience the sights, sounds, food, conversation, quality of light and warmth of other countries. To revel in differences and be amazed by similarities. I like to create and to experience, to try and to achieve. And then there are words – read, heard, written at my keyboard, or scrawled on sticky notes, or along the edges of dog-eared supermarket receipts excavated from the unexplored nooks of my handbag. What do I dislike? Cold Snow Bad design Fast food Condescension
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8 Responses to Black rocks, green leaves and umbrellas

  1. bebs1 says:

    Wow, that is really a forbidding place but scenic. I read there are a lot of hydrangeas there.

    • It’s not really forbidding — more dramatic. And even in the mountains there was greenery and flowers blooming even in December. There were a few hydrangeas in the hotel garden, but the flowers were mainly over. I wasn’t aware of others although, as it wasn’t really the time of year for them to flower, I probably wouldn’t have noticed them as I was so busy looking at the stuff that was flowering.

  2. Sheila says:

    It sounds like a beautiful adventure! I love the photos of the terraced farmlands and the mountains. It’s all so different from anything around here. Always a good idea to vacation in a place that’s known for its wine too!

    • So agree about the wine! Yes, the terraced hillsides fascinate me. I remember seeing vines growing on terraces in Cyprus, but these were not nearly as small as those on Madeira. I guess you just have to go with the landscape, though you’d think a bit of rationalisation so that people has strips adjacent to or near one another might be productive.

  3. crafteelooks says:

    thanks for the info Date: Sun, 19 Jan 2014 19:47:40 +0000 To:

  4. carolee1945 says:

    Even though your photos appear good sized in WordPress, I appreciate that they are in a format that I can double click and see them even larger on my screen. I really could see wonderful details this way and enjoyed your travelogue immensely!!!

    • So pleased you enjoy my photos. My camera takes good sized photographs which lets me up the resolution so I can use for print projects.I’m also playing around with making my book into an iBook complete with photographs which you can tap and they then show screen size on an iPad.Fun.

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