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]

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Day 3 in Madeira

Thursday 17 November

The majority vote for Day 3’s activities was to have a look around Funchal - although not before another three-course breakfast had been consumed. After all, it would be foolhardy to step out for an arduous day of sight-seeing without sufficient fuelling!

I hadn’t really thought that a stroll into town would count as a walk in its own right, but given the distance covered it did amount to a decent circular outing (the circular bit wasn’t entirely intended, but I’ll say nothing about the tunnel incident).

After a visit to the cathedral and the market, we wandered down a randomly picked back-street, in the direction of the fort. At first it looked like any ordinary back-street:


Then we discovered that the street doubled as an art exhibition, where an art project has seen the majority of the doors in that area being painted – and not in the usual sense of a coat of gloss. Martin declared that this one was more than a handful…


The quality varied from professional right down to ‘did a five year old do that?!’, but I only snapped the ones that caught my eye.


This one was my favourite:


Further up the road Mick turned a sudden pirouette and snapped Sue & I walking up the road, without even giving us the chance to adopt the usual grins. It isn’t an interesting photo in its own right, except that a few days later Mick & I were sitting at one of those restaurant tables to the left and half way through lunch Mick (who was seated facing up the road) commented on how many photos he was appearing in, as almost everyone who walked up that road turned at the top and took a photo looking back. It wasn’t until we got home and reviewed the pictures that we discovered that Mick had done the exact same thing himself.


Having reached the fort, we didn’t get to visit it immediately as it had just closed for lunch, but we did stop and read the information sign outside. There were quite a few of these information signs dotted around and in general the translation was excellent. This one held up well until the very last sentence: “The Contemporaneous Art Museum here installed displays its heap mainly through temporary exhibitions.”

It’s heap?!


Having followed the fort’s example, and found a good spot for lunch ourselves, we returned early in the afternoon. Unfortunately my photos of the fort don’t in any way show what it’s really like, but the opinion I formed was that it’s definitely worth a visit.


The art exhibition wasn’t my cup of tea, but that turned out to be secondary to the interest of the building itself. This was one of the modern art exhibits (a backpack complete with all of the backpacking essentials: ice axe, bed roll, skeleton…):


The art exhibitions even led us down into the dungeons:


Back out in daylight we walked past the local chaps variously playing dominoes or cards in the square:


By this time we were on our return leg, but still got distracted by sculptures placed along the sea-front promenade:


Funchal seems to have quite a few gardens and we walked through one as an alternative to a road walk back to the hotel. Here we witnessed a subject of graffiti that I’ve not before seen:


Then we stumbled across the Presidents house and recalled that we’d been told that you could take a stroll around his gardens. The guard gave us the nod and so that’s what we did. It was excellent! Amongst the interesting flowers, plants and border:

IMG_3601 there were also various caged birds, including this golden pheasant:


And these Macaws:


The president had a pretty impressive view of Funchal too:


Finally we did drag ourselves away for the final bit of a walk up the hill to the hotel. It was an excellent day out – so much more than I expected from a stroll into town. To my surprise, we’d walked somewhere in excess of 6 miles.

Having won the hotel quiz (no prize, it was just for fun) it was then an evening of beer, wine and too much food, whilst we decided what to do on Day 4…

Monday 28 November 2011

Day 2 in Madeira

Wednesday 16 November

The previous day we had promised the taxi driver that we would go to the east peninsula of the island, and we were good to our word. Unfortunately, that taxi driver must have had a better offer and the one who had replaced him wanted €80 (€20 more than the previous day’s quote) for the journey. Our bartering left him almost unmoved on his price, so off we headed to try to find some competition on a taxi rank.

We didn’t actually get that far as on the way I popped into a car hire emporium to find out how much it would be to hire a car for the day. €41 was the answer (or cheaper if you were prepared to take the CDW risk), and so a car was hired. Fortunately (for everyone) Martin happened to have his driving licence in his pocket; for a while it looked like I was going to drive which could have been nerve-wracking all round!

So, off to Ponta de Sao Lourenco we went. It was raining when we got there, and although not as heavily as when we’d left Funchal, it was enough to cause waterproofs to be donned. They stayed on for about three minutes, whereupon the rain stopped and the weather gradually improved as the day went on.

Even within that first three minutes it was obvious that this was a walk of a completely different nature from day 1 (well, obviously it was different, because the first walk had been a levada walk, and this one was a peninsula walk); whereas we had only encountered a smattering of other people on the first walk, this was obviously on the tourist trail. The paths were well made and although Paddy talks about steep slopes and cliff edges, there wasn’t anything like the exposure of the previous day and when there was the slightest possibility that wandering a few feet off the path could lead to disaster there was safety fencing in place.

Right at the start of the walk it wasn’t so much as a made-path as an ‘installed staircase’.


As you’d expect, these chaps were everywhere. Most of the time there wasn’t a chance of getting a snap of one as they shot off out of sight, but the day hadn’t warmed up at this point so this chap/ess let me stand right next to him/her as s/he posed for me.


Dotted along the path were a number of little spur paths to viewpoints. We visited all of them, enabling us to admire the fantastic colouring in the coastal rocks:




That last photo was taken on the return leg – it was sunny by then!

At the end of the peninsula are two lumps, the taller of which is 146 metres. We popped up to the top of the second lump before returning to sit at one of the picnic tables in front of the building you can see, to have our lunch. By that time the wind was really picking up and it was a breezy lunch break.


It may have been a touch on the windy side for our return leg, but that wind blew the clouds away. The blue sky set off the colours of the landscape nicely.


Back at the car park we passed again the information sign that told us that the walk was 4.25 miles and would take 2.5 hours. We had taken 3.5 hours and, thanks to the detours to the viewpoints, had covered 5 miles. The time taken made me glad we had hired a car. The taxi drivers had said that they would wait three hours for us. You could certainly do the walk in 3 hours, but that would have missed out the tarrying at viewpoints and the pondering over the geology, and would have made us feel a bit too rushed.

The presence of a hire car also meant that we could explore a bit further, so with the kind agreement of our driver, off we headed to the north side of the island (via an ‘interesting’ and scenic route) to see the ‘traditional houses’ that are dotted around Santana.

Here’s one under blue sky with fluffy clouds.


Across the road was a coffee shop, which we favoured with our custom. It was whilst we were in there that the skies clouded over and the rain started. With lots of other people also wanting to get out of the rain and with our drinks long since drunk, we eventually felt compelled to step back out into the weather (admittedly only Mick & I were reluctant as we had both left our jackets in the car).  My goodness, that rain came down!


That is a colour photo!

Having trotted back to the car, a shorter (and much less interesting and scenic) route was taken back to the main road to Funchal where I’m sure that wine, beer and too much food featured in our evening as we talked about what to do the following day…

Saturday 26 November 2011

Day 1 in Madeira

There were two possible ways we could have chosen which walks to do in Madeira. We could have read the guide books in detail, scratched our heads at length, done comparisons about the alleged merits of each walk and picked accordingly – or we could see what Martin suggested. Martin has been to Madeira more than once before, so when he suggested a circular walk, starting from the door of the hotel and featuring the town levada, we nodded enthusiastically.

The taxi driver who was loitering outside of the hotel didn’t agree with Martin’s choice of walk. Boring, he decried and offered to take us to the east of the island for €60. We promised him we would do that walk on the morrow and marched off up the road to find the levada.

I may not get all of these photos in exactly the order they occurred, but here’s the gist of the day:

Walking through the suburbs along the levada, we soon found that banana growing in residential areas is the norm. Quite big those banana leaves, said Mick…


You’ll notice that Mick has legs. No-one was aware of that fact before this holiday

Soon there were more banana plantations than houses, all terraced into the hill.


Terracing was quite a feature of this first day, some of it being particularly steep:

IMG_3513But as we made our way up the valley the cultivated parts gave way to general greenness and trees.


No tunnels were involved on the first day, although there was one bit where the levada went through the rock. Note that the railings here, as we emerged back into the open, were sturdy; probably the sturdiest we saw all week.


Not all of the railings were in quite such good repair. This bridge, over a yawning abyss, was the first part that made me suspect that I might have a bit of an issue with exposure.


After a particularly exposed bit of the path I declared that I had gone as far as I was prepared to go. Martin had already stopped a while before, so I plonked myself down on the edge of the levada and watched a JCB in a quarry below me move great boulders from right to left and then back from left to right. Meanwhile, Mick and Sue (who both have such good heads for heights that they’ll turn pirouettes on the edge of a breeze-block perched over a 400-foot drop), continued to the point where a gate prevented their further progress. They returned to me to report that I’d done the difficult bit and that I should have continued.

Having backtracked to a junction, where we lunched, uphill we went to pick up another levada further up the valley-side. On the way we passed a Renault 4, a car known by my family as a ‘tin tray’. The very colour that my mother had too. Hers was a 1976 and had at least two new floors welded in before she gave it up for an Austin Princess.


But I digress, and we had another levada to walk, first having made our way through a building site to get there.

The railings here weren’t in such good repair, nor had they ever been so sturdy:


That turned out to be one of the better maintained bits of this waterway – which sounds like a complaint, but actually it was a good and interesting walk back up the same valley as earlier in the day, but at a higher level (from where we saw the JCB moving rocks back from the right to the left; I’m sure there was method in his work somewhere).

We lost Martin somewhere along the way, but onwards we went, until we met a German chap coming towards us. He explained that the path further on was too crumbly and narrow and exposed for him to continue, but he added that if we were going that way then he would join us.



When the edge of the levada was just one crumbling breeze-block wide (and it was actually breeze-block at that point, forming a repair in the original stone wall), we took to the water and had intended going about a hundred yards further than we did. What put us off was a sudden crack and whistling noise. Mick saw one rock fall in the water just behind us, but I looked down and saw the big boulder that had just flown right over our heads. I flattened myself into the dripping rock-face, where I whimpered a little, and we swiftly backtracked*. Yikes! That was a bit too much of a close call!

Everything else about the day was uneventful. We rejoined Martin who had found himself a nice vantage point to wait for us and made our way back into Funchal, where the Garmin Gadget put into ‘back to start’ mode assisted us in relocating our hotel. It’s the first time I’ve used that feature, and it did prove useful as we made our way through the suburbs.

It was an excellent and varied first day out, all in good weather. In total 13.25 miles were covered with an amount of ascent that was almost certainly overstated by the Gadget and which I can’t quite be moved to calculate from the map.

(*After we finished the walk, I read what Paddy had to say about it in the guidebook. His description includes the phrases “sheer, exposed cliffs’ and ‘danger of rock falls’!)

Thursday 24 November 2011

A Week In Madeira

A week and a bit ago, shortly after we got back from our first outing in Colin, we popped off to Madeira for a week with Martin & Sue.


I opted not to blog as we went, but will try to string together a few words and snapshots about our outings over the next week.

If, by any chance, you should be too impatient to wait, then you can see what we got up to by reading Martin’s on-the-go posts (which contained no fiction and barely any exaggeration, honest), which are as follows:

Day 0 – Trying to meet up in Funchal

Day 1 – The deep-end introduction to exposed levada walking

Day 2 – A gentle stroll along a headland

Day 3 – Realising we’d all dressed in matching fleeces!

Day 3 – A gentle stroll around Funchal

Day 4 – The day I discovered that I have no head for walking along 15” wide parapets with sheer drops

Day 5 – The return leg from Camacha

Day 6 – Another stroll around Funchal

Day 7 – We should have come home, but stayed an extra day

Other news from the week included me meeting (and passing) my mileage target for the year (1825 miles) and our learning that we had places in the TGO Challenge next May (thanks to Louise for conveying that eagerly-awaited news!).

Sunday 13 November 2011

Introducing Colin…

There has been a new addition to our camping accommodation. Previously there was just Vera, Susie, Connie, Ellie, Midi, Maxi & Dora* (some might argue that we have more tents than necessary, and they wouldn’t be wrong). Unlike the previous collection of girls, the new addition is big and butch and is therefore most definitely male. He was christened as Colin well before he came into our possession last Wednesday.

Here he is on a campsite in Ingleton:


He’s rather luxurious compared to our other camping accommodation. In fact, he’s not really camping accommodation at all; he’s a mobile house.

We haven’t really taken any photos specifically of the interior, but Mick did snap me chopping an onion in between sips of bubbly out of a plastic mug.


Such was the novelty of his first outing that we didn’t take the proposed backpacking trip, but we did get ourselves out for a couple of good day-walks. I’ll try to get around to penning a few words about them in a couple of weeks’ time.

The other new thing for the trip was Mick’s shoes. I think he chose the colour to go with his jacket…


(For those not familiar with the names of our tent collection: ‘Vera’ is a Terra Nova Voyager; ‘Susie’ is a Terra Nova Superlite Voyager; ‘Connie’ a Terra Nova Laser Competition; ‘Ellie’ a Vango Eos; ‘Dora’ an Aztec Dura; ‘Midi’ a Blacks dome; and ‘Maxi’ an Aztec Sala 3.)

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Chilli Again?!

The backpacks are packed again. There’s no guarantee that we’re going to get out for the fourth week in four, but we’ve maximised our chances by having everything* ready to go.

The downside is that no cooking and dehydrating has been done for months and the stocks are severely depleted, so for the fourth week in four the meal that I have available is a dehydrated veggie chilli. Good job we’ve not been out for a four-night trip, or it could have got a bit repetitive!

We’ve run out of dried rice too. Must get some dehydrating done before the next trip.

(*by everything I mean ‘all of our kit’. I don’t have a route up my sleeve, but I didn’t last week either, and the one two weeks before that was thrown together in ten minutes too, so there’s plenty of time yet to come up with a route.)


The photo is completely unrelated to the text, except that it was a bit chilly that night too


Sunday 6 November 2011

Back to Glossop (Again)

Friday 4 November

Distance: 13.25 miles

Weather: A bit of rain, a bit of sunshine but mainly just cloudy.

Friday didn’t get off to the best of starts when, within two minutes of emerging from my sleeping bag, I upset the stove and dumped a whole pot of water onto my gear inside of the tent. The water may have been inconvenient, but at least the stove landed such that it narrowly missed setting fire to anything; that really would have been a bad start to the day.

Over breakfast the rain, which had fallen for much of the night finally stopped, but camp was still a soggy, misty place when we emerged at 7.30. What you can’t see from the photo is that it was also unseasonably warm. In fact, still in my summer sleeping bag, I think it was the warmest night (out of 63) I’ve spent in a tent this year:


Having ended Thursday about a mile away from the originally planned route, and having no intention of backtracking, we started Friday with a ‘get back on track’ diversion. The diversion didn’t go entirely well either as, when we reached the point where we needed to cross the River Ashop, we found that the bridge marked on the map (and which appears to be in place on aerial photos) is now just two piers without the critical bit in between. With the water levels being high, none of us fancied the ford, so a bit of head-scratching and map-poring took place. The decision was that we would continue on the south side of the river for two miles until we could cross back just before the Snake Inn.

It turned out to be an ‘interesting’ hour or so of walking. None of the side streams proved to be difficult obstacles:


Some of those tumbling side-streams were quite pretty too:


But, of course, it wasn’t all just a simple stroll along a riverside. Some diversions up the hillside were required to find our way down to steep-sided streams, and then there were the two barbed-wire topped fences over which we had to clamber:


After the second clamber, a trod was found, which took us all the way to where we wanted to be. A trod was better than no trod, but it was deceptively strenuous walking, being very slip-slidey in its muddiness. I look happy enough to be walking it, mind:


One last stream crossing brought us to second breakfast time, which was enjoyed with a cup of tea whilst sitting on the wall-of-convenient-height that you can see on the left side of this photo:


Back on the north side of the river, into woodland we went (entering the shade at almost the exact moment that the sun finally came out). Someone had rigged up a swing in that woodland and Mick & Martin both turned to me to pose for a photo opportunity. It didn’t look the most secure swing that I’ve ever seen hanging from a tree, but they made me. That expression on my face is me trying to smile whilst being very alarmed at quite how much the string is moving along the branch.


It was as we made our way up the Snake Path (still in the sunshine, you’ll note) that we first started seeing a helicopter going back and forth between Glossop and the east end of the Kinder Plateau.


Each leg of the helicopters trip took about five minutes and it went back and forth continuously until we were out of sight of it, as we approached Glossop. On each outward leg it was carrying a skip full of something. On each return leg it was dangling the empty skip from one end. It was flying pretty low and it came quite close to us on Mill Hill – so close that we exchanged waves with the pilot. This website has lots of information as to the current regeneration project on Kinder Scout, which confirmed that the load would have either been lime or fertiliser.


A similar project on Black Hill has had very noticeable results, as shown by the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos I posted back in June last year.

As we dropped off Mill Hill I vaguely noticed something out of the corner of my eye, but didn’t think to investigate. It was Mick who spotted that it was aircraft remains, and over we popped for a look. Given how little wreckage was at this spot, I thought that Mick was guessing when he said that it was a Liberator, but it seems that he was right. It crashed in October 1944 on a delivery flight and both of the crew on board at the time survived.


The 1:25k map had suggested that there was a path running down from the Mill Hill path to the shooting cabin on Chunal Moor, and so there was. It may have been narrow and wetter than a wet thing, but it was definitely a path and it did take us down to where we wanted to be. From there we managed to stay on footpaths until nearly the centre of Glossop, from where it was just a bit of a road-walk back to our starting point.

We were later arriving back than expected, but then we had walked further than expected and with more obstacles than anticipated. All good fun though, and the trip was rounded off nicely when Pam & Paul didn’t baulk at allowing two muddy walkers (i.e. me & Mick; somehow Martin was remarkably clean!) into their house, for us to finish the trip exactly as it had begun, with tea, cake and good chat. (If you happen to read this Pam & Paul then thank you very much for your hospitality!)