The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Friday, 2 December 2011

Day 4 in Madeira

Friday 18 November

This was the day on which I discovered that I have absolutely no head for walking along a 15” wide parapet with a sheer drop of a few hundred feet off to the side, and without even the skinniest of railings. For ‘no head for’ you can read ‘sheer terror ensued’.

The day didn’t start with sheer terror. Per the plan that had been hatched over beer, wine and food the night before, the morning saw us journey up to Monte where after a look around the church, off we went to the Tropical Gardens. It seems that there are lots of gardens in Madeira, and although we didn’t visit any of the others by way of comparison I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Tropical Gardens – they were most definitely my cup of tea.


After a bit of a wander around, Sue was feeling all hot and bothered, so she opted for a shower…


Before we knew it, a coffee shop was before us and no time was wasted in declaring it to be coffee time. Today coffee was augmented by cake and a glass of local wine. Appropriate, we felt, given that we had just learned that we had places in next year’s TGO Challenge.


With coffee, cake and wine consumed, off we headed to pick up Levada dos Tornos. Here are two snippets of what Paddy says about this walk:

- “…in the case of the hugely popular Levada dos Tornos, you could end up stuck at the end of a long ‘crocodile’ of walkers”

- “The levada has a narrow parapet and some exposed fenced stretches.”

What we found didn’t bear out either of these statements. We did meet a small handful of other people, but a number of the exposed stretches most definitely didn’t have fences.

Even the most nervous of the party managed to get past the dodgy unfenced sections. I did it by throwing a hissy fit, bawling a bit and making Mick come back and help me. Martin did it on his hands and knees. Once again, Mick and Sue turned pirouettes above the drops and didn’t bat an eyelid at the exposure. Fortunately the exposed sections (which probably weren’t more than 10 yards long each) were finally behind us and I managed to make an effort to smile again:


Whilst Martin posed to show off his muddy knees:


And at the first suitable spot we decided to calm our nerves with a spot of lunch. It wasn’t a bad spot for lunch either, sitting in the sunshine looking down over Funchal:


Skipping forward a few miles (for the avoidance of doubt, we didn’t actually skip to get there) a significant feature of this walk is a tunnel, which can be avoided by going over the top. What’s the fun of omitting the tunnel though? Even Mick was game for it, even though he had locked his head-torch in the hotel safe that day. What this photo doesn’t show is the bits of ceiling protruding downwards, the bits of wall protruding outwards and the flooded bits of path, nor does it show how dark it was in there.


We all made it through without incident, and some while later we managed (on the second attempt) to identify the place where we needed to leave the levada and into Camacha we walked.

The day was marching rapidly towards sunset by the time we located the bus stop and started trying to decipher the timetable. The conclusion reached by Sue and I was that there should be a bus in about 15 minutes time. About five minutes later a taxi pulled up, having obviously clocked the likely fares. Twenty minutes later we were back in the hotel. It may have cost us a few euro more than the two buses would have cost, but worth every cent for the time saved. After all, it was almost beer o’clock, following which there was wine and too much food to be consumed, whilst we contemplated what to do the following day.


  1. The hissy fit, the bawling, demands for help and muddy knees, I understand it all. (Bet your language isn't as colourful as mine!)

  2. We wouldn't be much good if it was just you and me in an exposed situation, would we?!

  3. We could take a rope? Perhaps? And a J-cloth for my knees.
    Congratulations have to go to Mick, who, like Barry before him, locked his torch in a safe on a day when he was told there was a 500 metre tunnel. Barry fell in. Mick (boringly) survived.

  4. ...and earplugs so I don't offend anyone...