Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Walking with the Gadgette. Volume IV***
  On Friday September 12th, and 19th, I missed out on Gadgie walks to take my wife of 45 years on holiday to the beautiful Atlantic island of Madeira, again. We like it.
The holiday got off to a great start, we loaded on time, fastened belts, listened to the lady, and then   the pilot announced there was a problem with the navigational computer which needed fixing. Fair enough, don't want to end up in the wrong place. An engineer ran up and down steps looking at the underside of the plane and then announced all was well so off we went, an hour late. But we arrived, he knew what he was doing, pointed it in the right direction.

Having written in praise of the beauty of Bohemia, the historic sites of Northumbria and the neolithic tombs of Orkney it is now the turn of Madeira to get a free plug.

Several hundred miles from Africa and four hours flying from Newcastle, Madeira is a gem set in a sometime silver sea. As on the last two visits we stayed at the Pestana Promenade a few miles west of the centre of Funchal, island capital and second largest city in Portugal.
                                                   Pestana Promenade Hotel
                                            Early morning at the pool, not a towel in sight.

The gadgette is not a dedicated walker of hills so mostly our strolls were on fairly level surfaces. Like an elderly couple should, and accompanied by friends John and Evelyn who were in a different hotel, we strolled the promenade west of Funchal, stopping for tea and scones at the Magic Tea Shop. Refreshment over we continued in the same direction, passing the statue of Zarco, discoverer of the island (Although it was known to the Romans), down a slope towards a tunnel cut from the rock at Praia Formosa.
                                                  Is America that way? Zarco looks out.
                                                 Possibly the highest cliffs in Europe,
                                                   if Madeira is in Europe
                                                  Sea cave  near Praia Formosa
                                                                   Yogurt eating lizards                                                                           Inside the tunnel large openings gave a good view of a sea cave.                                                      Exiting the tunnel (how modern!) we continued along a board walk that saved us from ankle breaking pebbles on the beach. I spotted  something on the shingle that appeared to be covered by a blanket and was being watched, nonchalantly, by two policemen. It was a body, badly covered by the blanket so it was possible to see a man's stomach and arm. One of the policemen walked away and returned with a lady wearing a summery dress. She looked at the body, seemed uninterested, muttered something and went away. Maybe she was a doctor, confirming the deceased really was. (Turned out to be a Russian holidaymaker, what a sad way to end your trip) We walked on for a while and then turned for home pausing on the way for a rest and to admire the activities of the local lizards as they went for the remains of a tub of yoghurt.

That night we had little sleep. Not that we were worrying about the body on the beach. The Naval Club were holding a party and their headquarters were nearby. Apparently the yacht race from the Canaries to Madeira had ended that day and awards were being given out. The party continued until 5.30 am.
                                                        Yachts in the offing

As has been mentioned in previous blogs, Madeira is famous for its levadas, irrigation channels built to bring water from the high centre to the lower agricultural area. They are also popular for walks which can be easy as they almost contour, but can be extremely exposed or go through narrow low tunnels. We chose a section of the Levada des Tornos which is easily reached from Funchal. ( Take the bus to Monte or Babosa). It has a rather scary bit on it (See "Walking with the Gadgette") with exposed stretches a good couple of hundred feet above the next bit of ground so I carefully avoided this stretch, not wishing to end up in a divorce court, and we walked for several miles through dappled woodland, admiring a distant Buzzard who was probably out hunting lizards. After about six miles of easy walking we caught a bus back to Funchal.
                                                          Approaching the levada.
                                                           An easy walk
                                                   and very pretty
                                                 Cairns along the way

                                              Tree in the way? Simple solution
A second levada walk from Funchal turned out as a bit of a disaster, a certain member of the party finding the high temperature a bit too much, so we retired to an ice cream shop.

I'm a sucker for questionnaires; as we walked along the promenade one morning we were stopped by three students from the university, studying Travel and Tourism. (Do we need any more?) They asked us about the levadas, did we know of them, did we walk them, what safety precautions did we take and what was the emergency number? 112 I answered, they were surprised but pleased. The gadgette added that I only knew because she had told me last night.

Most evenings about 5pm I entertained myself with a sauna, followed by a steam room followed by the monster back pummelling jacuzzi and a dip in the indoor pool which was warm enough to broil a chicken. Usually the sauna was occupied by Germans, Russians and Boltonians. One afternoon there was a Hungarian who kept saying "Wembley 1953, Hungary 6 England 3, Puskas!" I asked him if Hungary had made it to the World Cup, he muttered something in Hungarian.

One evening we went for a meal in Moynihans Irish pub. (Wherever you go your bound to find an Irish pub).  The other reason for visiting was their pub quiz. As a pub quiz writer myself it was a busman's holiday but we were dreadful, scoring a mere 70 % and coming fifth. We don't know enough about celebrities.

There are several gardens in Funchal open to the public; Monte, the Orchid Garden and The Botanical Gardens. We opted for the latter and caught a bus to the entrance. A word of warning; the buses on Madeira are not for the faint hearted. The streets of Funchal and the rest of the island, are narrow and very steep. The drivers have degrees in negotiating extremely tight bends, missing walls by centimetres and generally causing heart attacks for tourists. The locals are obviously used to it and chatter away without holding on for dear life. As an alternative you can take the cable car to Monte, walk to Babosa and take another cable car to the garden. The gadgette prefers hairy bus journeys to terrifying cars swaying hundreds of feet above the banana trees.
 The gardens are truly beautiful. Plants from all over the world grow in the mild Madeiran climate. There are flowers to admire, patterns laid out to view, cacti to make an Apache feel at home. Here are a few:

You might have noticed the gadgette and I love this little island although on this occasion we did stay around the city.
Back to gadgiedom next week!
Gloria Raven. If you read this rubbish just to let you know:
The Old Bewick you write about is covered in "Troublesome Wind August 2011"
Most of Northumberland's mines were in the south east of the county but there were smaller pits  throughout. Mining near Old Bewick and Edlingham ceased at the back end of the 19th century.
For more information try  which is a mining museum in Ashington and also the county archive is kept there. Another good site for mining is the Durham Mining Museum,   which covers pits all over the north not just County Durham.
Thanks for writing anyway, glad somebody reads it! (Apart from Anonymous and I know who she is)