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1st March, 2015

Funchal, Madeira

A ‘gentle’ day at slow speed preceded our arrival into Funchal just before sunrise. In the darkness, with the millions of lights on the surrounding hillsides it is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful entries into port one can ever witness.

Being a Sunday, and a quiet day ‘office’ wise, I had enquired if any of my colleagues would care to take a little walk in the mountains. In fact this particular trek is one which needs careful planning as the journey between Pico do Arieiro and Pico Ruivo is at well over 1800 meters. If the cloud level is high then it’s fog and damp all the way but, with a web cam now at the visitor centre on Arieiro, it is possible to have an inkling as to what may be expected before leaving.

With a combined age of around 230 years (don’t ask who!), four of us arrived at the start, all kitted up for a chilly four hour walk over ten kilometres. But the conditions were clear, the sky bright blue, the sun hot on our faces and the cloud level at least 500 meters below. The photos will give you just an impression of what we could see, the views were fantastic, it felt like we were about to set off over the roof of the world.

The trek itself was a little more than the ‘S’ for serious put, on occasion, into our shore excursion brochures, in fact a triple ‘S’ would have been a tad more accurate this time. For the first couple of miles it was as expected, but then there was a tunnel closed, and it had to be circumnavigated by the narrowest of paths which descended a long way before it climbed the same distance, very steeply. Eventually, when the next peak appeared around a corner, seemingly just a mile or so away in the distance, another rock fall had taken the path away leaving only a sheer drop. The ensuing divert was tortuous to say the least. Needless to say we managed, eventually, to reach our destination, albeit after five hours. It was, we felt, quite an achievement for us ‘oldies’, and one we wouldn’t have missed, particularly as we spent most of the day in bright sunshine.

Twenty four hours later, on our way again and definitely back at sea level, we are still on a high….calves a bit tight though, and stairs a little challenging.

Captain Philip Rentell

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