Madeira - paradise for drivers

31/05/2018

During my Erasmus in Lisbon have I and a friend of mine, Jana decided to go to Madeira, since it's so close and hey, we didn't want to sit at home. And why should we travel in an elegant, decent way, if we can make it "punk" and use couchsurfing. We found a host, made all the plans (ok, I did) and crazy early in the morning we departed direction Funchal.

The coast of Madeira
The coast of Madeira

To be honest, we were a bit scared - it is indeed just a small piece of land somewhere in the Atlantic and as we read on Google, it's quite windy in there and the airport has one of the shortest runways in the world. Actually, only pilots with special trainings can fly there. Well, good that easyjet had one of those.

Luckily, everything went well and, honestly, I've never experienced such a smooth landing (although, the arrow on the rock which indicates where the pilot should land, was a bit scary).

Day 1

Our first stop was supposed to be a small village quite closeby, Machico. 16 km, they said. Somehow we managed to make it 64 on the very curvy and steep roads of Madeira and still no Machico. We stopped in a random "café" where, apart from having a cup of tea, we got at least 146 bananas for free and didn't need to worry about food for the next 3 days. The next stop was the highest point of the island - Pico do Arieiro. Our GPS started working properly and we found it, although driving up there was quite tough. I mean, I'm not saying I'm the best driver ever, but this was just impossible, so I mostly used the gear 1. But we made it, although up there we found a bigger problem - parking. I was trying my best, but it was so steep that Jana prefered to get out and ask a nice French guy for help. His theoretical explanations didn't help (but he had a lot of fun), so in the end he parked for us, but hey, like a boss. Instead of just parking, he showed off and proved that reverse parking was the best. Why am I saying that? Well, there were only 2 cars parking like this - ours and a French one. When leaving, some Germans almost applauded. 10 minutes later I crashed the car.

Due to this small accident our stay on Pico do Arieiro became a bit longer, but then we got another car and continuued (up to hill, of course) to Cabo Girão. It's a view point on a bit steep hill and just to make you feel better, the floor is made of glass. But the sunset is amazing anyway.

It was a long day, so we continued to Funchal. The local drivers might be a bit mean and were not super happy with my careful driving, which in some moments sounded more like F1. We went to the first bar we found, had some ponchas, became friends with all the people form the bar and I'm sure we made a  hell of impression when our host came to pick us up. I think I don't need to mention I didn't drive anymore that day.

Day 2

We returned the car and decided to use the public transport which works (surprisingly) well. Funchal is really nice, there is great street art everywhere and even as touristic as the place is, it's not expensive at all. We were quite fed up of bananas, so we went to a nicely looking restaurant and ate as queens for beautiful 10 €.

Jana wanted to take look at Ronaldo's statue, so we did. It's pretty big and not so prudish, so I censored it a bit. 

Day 3 - the last one

The last thing on our to-do list was doing one levada. We chose Levada do furado, which is basically a nice walk, it might rain a bit, but also not, there are some waterfalls and some bushes that the tourists use as the bathroom. What I would like to mention is how great the buses in Madeira are. Due to the roads we felt as if we were on a roller coaster, and the seats are pretty slippery. Why? They are wooden, which is pretty convenient if you are wearing leggins and are sliding there and back all the time. Whatever, a bit of work out is never a bad idea. 

To sum up, you might want to enjoy  the stunning landscapes and avoid driving. Yes, they are used to the tourists and actually laughed at us after the crash, it might be nicer not to have such experience. Oh, and if you would like to hit on the locals, don't eat bolo de caco. If you would like to go to the nice bar we went to, where you get a lot of ponchas and tapas for only 20 €, it is somewhere in Funchal. Not so sure where, but the smell of burned tiers I left there must be there even today.