Madeira–The Central Highlands and the east coast

Today we joined another minibus tour with ‘Pride of Madeira’ to explore the Central Highlands and the east coast of the island.

Our first stop was at Camacha, a pretty village just 10 miles from Funchal. We had been climbing steadily and were now at a height of 2300ft and in the heart of willow country. Camacha is the centre of the wickerwork industry and inevitably our stop was at the wickerwork factory. In the basement it is possible to see people at work crafting baskets, trays etc. Today only one person was at work. She looked rather bored but cheered up and actually gave me a smile when I dropped some coins into her basket and asked if I could take a photo.

01 Wicker worker

Nearby was the Parish Church. It was built in 1997 and dedicated to St Lawrence. Its modern architectural design reminded me of the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Liverpool.

02 Cathedral

03 Church interior

We now headed up into the mountains, passing a ‘fly factory’. The Mediterranean fruit fly (Medfly) is a major pest of citrus stone fruits and figs and the insecticidal based control methods are causing problems. The factory breeds sterile males which mate with the females but no eggs are produced. However the factory on Madeira is too small to produce sufficient males to have an impact.

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As we travelled we passed through several areas of dead trees the result of wild fires several years ago. Although volunteers are doing a lot of replanting it will take many years before regeneration is complete.

Our next stop was at Pico do Arieiro. At 5900ft (1818m) Pico do Arieiro is the second highest peak on the island and the highest that can be reached by car. It is often shrouded in mist and we had been advised to bring along a fleece as the temperature can dip to near freezing point. However, today the conditions were perfect. We were above the clouds in the sunshine and the views were spectacular. Mountain peaks thrust through the clouds and the frozen lava created a weird landscape.It was a photographers dream and we were both soon taking photos.

04 Just taking pictures

We climbed to the summit to get the 360 degree view. It was impossible to get it all but I have stitched a couple of images together to try and recreate the effect.

09 Panorama at Pico do Arieiro

99 View from Pico do Arieiro

From the summit of Pico do Arieiro a path leads to Pico Ruivo, the highest point on the island at 1862m. It is a walk that I would love to have attempted but I had to be content with taking a photo of walkers setting out on what is considered Madeira’s most famous mountain path. Was I jealous? You bet I was.

10. Wish I could join you

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We left the mountains and turned left onto the R103 heading for the north coast. We had a short stop at Ribeiro Frio (Cold River) where we visited the trout hatchery.

Continuing north we passed through an agricultural area. Every piece of available land seemed to be used with small terraces perched on steep hillsides. It is impossible to get any machinery up there and all the work has to be done by hand. We saw people on the terraces tending to a wide variety of vegetables. With the temperate climate it is possible to grow several crops each year. It was noticeable that all the workers in the fields were women. Where were all the men? They were probably in the nearest bar playing cards, drinking and discussing the ‘ways of the world’ Along the roadside we passed several women carrying huge bundles on their backs and some balancing loads on their head. Wonderful photo opportunities but we just whizzed by.

We drove through areas of Laurel forest before reaching Faial where we turned left to head for the village of Santana.

20 A framed house

Santana is famous for its A-shaped houses known as Palheiros. The traditional palheiros is a two storey white stucco house with a bright red door, red and blue window frames and shutters and a thatched roof. Not many of them remain as they are expensive to maintain and the ones in the centre of the village are really tourist attractions.

24 Palheiros

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64 Stones with faces

We were fortunate to e able to go inside one of the houses. It was basic and compact, even cosy. An estate agent would probably describe it as bijou.

31 Interoir of a Palheiros

32 Interior of a Palheiros

After a leisurely lunch we drove along the coast road towards the eastern part of the island. We stopped at Portela to see the view along the coast. The Penha d’Aguia dominated the view. The name means Eagle Rock and stems from the fact that eagles used to nest on the cliff face.

38 Eagle rock

On the other side of the rock lies the village of Porto da Cruz. There is a beautiful bay but the main attraction was the sugar cane mill, one of the few working mills remaining on Madeira. The huge machinery is steam driven and we were interested to see that some of it was manufactured in Liverpool. I posed by some of the barrels, hoping for some free samples but was left disappointed.

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We drove on to Ponta de Sao Lourenco, the eastern peninsular. This windswept tip of the island can be very dry and provides some excellent walking. From the edge of the parking area I could look out along the cliffs. It was a fantastic view but lacked ant foreground interest to give it depth.

51 Ponta de Sao Lourenco

Looking over the barrier I spotted some white flowers, rather like a large daisy. Just what I needed. I walked round the edge of the barrier and started to descend the slope. The ground was very dry and it was quite slippery so I had to be careful. I reached the flowers and took my photo.

52 Ponta de Sao Lourenco

It was better but still not what I wanted. I needed a lower viewpoint. I sat down then rolled onto my stomach – perfect. All Jean could see from above was that I had disappeared. She thought that I had fallen and shouted for me to come back, but I was OK.

Another couple from our tour asked Jean if I was in difficulty and offered to come to my rescue. I just ignored them. I was happy. Back on the minibus Jean noticed that my arm was bleeding, probably from when I had crawled through a prickly bush. The tour guide heard what had happened and gave me a very public telling off. He was ex—army and gave me a right rollicking. But, it was worth it. I got my photo.

54 Ponta de Sao Lourenco

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On the way back to Funchal we called in at Canical. Up until 1981 this was still a whaling port but now there id just a museum to remind us. The road back to Funchal passes close to the airport, in fact it runs under the runway which stretches out to sea supported by huge pillars. Landing at Madeira airport used to be notoriously difficult as the runway was very short at just over 1700m. However in September 2000 the runway was extended by 1000m to 2781m and can now accommodate larger aircraft.

It had been a great day out with a chance to see the wide variety of landscapes on the island.

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About crosbyman66

My aim is to create a photo diary of my walks and my travels. I have two main hobbies, walking and photography and these complement each other. I am a senior citizen, what used to be called an old age pensioner, but I don't feel old. Since retirement I have had more time to pursue my hobbies and the opportunity to travel more. My philosophy now is - Do what you can, while you can. My other interests are fine wines and keeping fit. These may not complement each other but keep me happy.
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2 Responses to Madeira–The Central Highlands and the east coast

  1. Marie says:

    You’re as bad as my husband, anything for a good photo! The island seems much bigger then I thought. I will now look it up in my atlas. Thanks again for sharing your photos and the interesting information. Looking forward to following your next adventure.

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