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In this part I present the last three days (Tuesday-Thursday) in one go, as we have fewer interesting single places but lots of pictures of the landscape.
On day six (Tuesday) we visit the upper-right edge of the island, the Ponta de São Lourenço. Our bus takes us along the east coast where we pass below the runways of the airport, then drops us about halfway on that headland.
On that hiking trail, we can discover fascinating rock formations. The path slopes up and down slightly, not too difficult. When you turn back, you can see the airport in the background, with its runways set on concrete pillars.
Casa do Sardinha is a welcome place of rest for some of our group; the rest tries to get to the ultimate point on the Pico do Furado.
After that we walk back to the bus stop, where the bus takes us to Pico de Facho, a small hill east of Machico. Then we head for the beach; pick the sunscreen from the bag, it is about time ... well, if there were not those clouds. As mentioned, Madeira is not exactly known for its sandy beaches, there are only a few, and they are artificial: The beach of Machico is built of sand from Morocco, as most other beaches. After some 90 minutes we pack our bags and return to our hotel.
Day 7 (Wednesday) ist our last day with a travel programme. Before noon, we have a stop at the Pico dos Barcelos, a hill within Funchal, which offers us a great panorama of the city and the environment. Some minutes later, we continue with our bus trip on the ER 107 road towards the middle of the island, heading for the entrance to the hiking trail to Curral das Freiras (Pen of the nuns).
Again, an impressive trail with steep rock walls and deep drops, taking about 90 minutes to walk. We reach Curral das Freiras, have a lunch in the restaurant Vale das Freiras, and have a look inside the chestnut museum that is located next to the restaurant. Our bus brings us back to our hotel, some of us ask to be dropped of in downtown Funchal to do some shopping.
Day 8 is the day of returning home. Some of us have their flight in the afternoon which allows us to go for a short walk around the hotel and have a final lunch.
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In this part I present the important points of the days 4 and 5 together. We have some longer bus trips and hiking so that there are not so many good pictures. Also, there is not too much to talk about.
On the fourth day (Sunday), our bus takes us right across the island. We start at the fishermans' village of Camâra de Lobos and the continue to the stepp cliffs of Cabo Girão, featuring a lookout with glass floor platform. After another break at Ribeira Brava we travel towards the middle of the island, having a stop at the lookout north of Serra de Água.
The first big item on our list for today is the Vereda do Fanal, a hiking path. Located at the northwestern end of the plateau Paul da Serra, we finally get some stretched-out landscape ... if there were not that fog (actually, the clouds). Sometimes, the air gets clears and sun passes through, but the fog does not disappear until we reach our bus again. At least the trees served for a spooky scenery.
We carry on towards the north coast where we have a short stop for a view, then reach Porto Moniz in the northwestern corner of the island. This city is know for the natural swimming basins, formed by solidified lava.
After some bathing and a quick lunch we start our way back, stopping near the waterfall Véu da Noiva (Bride's veil) and having a Poncha drink at the Taberna da Poncha.
On the fifth day (Monday) we start for another levada hiking, this time along the Levada do Furado in the east of the island. As with all levada paths, this one is easy to walk, but you should have a safe step when looking down. The start of our path is a trout farm.
The whole track takes us about 4.5 hours, but there are many impressive sights towards the coast. Shortly before it ends, the levada splits up, and we follow the Levada da Portela. At the end we have our afternoon snack in the restaurant Portela a Vista.
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On our first day, the primary task is to arrive on the island, find the hotel room, get to know the other people in the travel group; the official programme is scheduled for the following days. Our hotel is named Royal Orchid, and it is located in the city of Caniço de Baixo (sounds like "Kanisoo da Bayshoo").
For the whole trip we have a minibus at our hands, together with driver, since the travel organiser did not dare to let us drive rental cards on these difficult roads.
Some months ago (April 17, 2019), not far from our hotel, a terrible accident happened with a tour bus toppling down the hillslope, with 29 people killed. Authorities suppose a driving error, not a technical problem.
On day 2 we go by bus to our first hiking trail going along the Levada do Norte, or, to be more precise, a section of it. Levadas are channels that transport water from the rainier parts of the island to the dry parts in the south. The levadas have a path next to them, not only for the purpose of maintenance but also for tourists. Since the levadas are open channels, they cannot pass steeper terrains, so wandering along the levadas is not difficult.
Still, you should be free from giddiness. The paths get very narrow in some parts, and there is a steep descent right next to you. Some people of our group actually had some trouble with that.
Near Eira do Mourão, we leave the hiking trail again and return by bus. On our way, we have a stopover at a bakery and cafe bar and enjoy some of the specialties.
Madeira is not known for its beaches - there are really very few. In fact, the whole island looks like a giant lava rock thrown into the sea, where people settled down at the most improbable locations. In the middle of the island there is a plateau which offers free sights. Near our hotel there is a promenade, not too long, though.
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The third day of our vacation is dedicated to the capital of Madeira, Funchal. The name comes from the fennel which the purtuguese navigators found here in abundance. The name is correctly pronounced as [fũˈʃaɫ], somewhat like English "foo(ng)-shull".
Before we reach Funchal after departing from our hotel in Caniço de Baixo, we have a stop at the Cristo Rei statue.
In Funchal, our bus drops us off at the Santa Catarina park. Right before it, we encounter the statue of Empress Sissi, or officially called Empress Elisabeth of Austria. After a short walk through the park we get to the street Avenida Arriga which leads to the centre of Funchal.
First we take a detour through the municipal park (Parque Municipal do Funchal) which is famous for its exotic plants and trees. After that we proceed on the road to the Funchal cathedral (Sé do Funchal) and then reach the market hall. There are really lots of fruit and vegetable stands, and in the back part there is the fish market.
We continue walking a bit to the east, then turn around and head for the bottom station of the Funchal-Monte Cable Car. It is indeed a fascinating ride over the rooftops of the city; after a while we arrive at the top station and have a look at the church Nossa Senhora. Well, it is not our actual goal: Rather, we take a ride downwards with the famous toboggan drivers. This ride is about 2 kms long and is already done since the beginning of the 19th century, when it counted as public transport.
Lastly, our bus picks us up and brings us to the Botanical Garden. We are walking back and forth through the flowery environments, and enjoy a look over the city from two lookouts on the western end. We take a coffee at a small café inside the garden and leave it shortly after. The first director of the garden was "Engenheiro Rui Vieira"; this word appears every now and then in Funchal. But it is not a name, it is the Portuguese word for "engineer", which is used as a title here.
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Reykjavík, the northermost capital of the world, offers a lot to see for its visitors. Hence, the fifth part of our trip is dedicated to this one location. We ride along the Vesturlandsvegur, which now looks like a motorway, not like the narrow road that we enjoyed for the most time of our trip around Iceland. We directly head for the center of Reykjavík, where we first get on the Öskjuhlíð, the hill where the warm water reservoir Perlan is located. On the roof of this building we have a great look over the city and the environment.
The Hallgrímskirkja is visible from every edge of Reykjavík. The bus takes us to its location; we have a short look inside, then have a walk through downtown Reykjavík and meet the Alþingishúsið where the parliament resides (it does not assemble in Þingvellir any longer, of course).We reach the Tjörnin lake, walk through the town hall, and continue our walk towards the harbour, then to the Harpa concert hall. Our bus picks us up near the concert hall and brings us to our last hotel, the Cabin Hotel.
On the next morning, we drive to Mosfellsbær, the neighboring city to the north, to wander on the Úlfarsfell as our last hike on this trip. The hill is 295 m high, which is not too difficult to manage. From here, we get a last overview on Reykjavík and on the west coast, which we drove along when we came from the north the day before. For the rest of the afternoon, we spend our time in the city, walking around, having a café, and then meet at the Restaurant Reykjavík in the evening for our closing dinner.
The last day has come; we have to leave very early (04:20!) at the hotel to get to the Airport Keflavík in time.
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