A lot has happened in Madeira, not least because we have been here for for a long time, three weeks in all. Once we realised we were setteled here we decided to have a new spinnaker pole sent out and that meant waiting a little longer, no hardship there then. Except of course we are now ready to leave and the wind has decided to blow really hard! Looks like Pappa who is coming to see us in Tenerife will be there before us and he can now welcome us in! Sorry Pappa, but we cannot dictate the weather, looking forward to seeing you though. (Pappa was indeed in before us and spent two days in a hotel awaiting the GSB and her crew.)
As said we arrived with the boat Pi and spent several drunken evenings either on their boat or ours. The children loved it on Pi as she is a 42 foot, one off design and had lots of hiding places so the children made full use and played hide and seek, it was not so easy to locate them. We also hired a nine seater mini bus to traverse the island with Pi, as Jan had been to Maderia 40 years ago and was keen to see some of the places he had once visited and long since dreamt of. As with all things, Madeira has changed so very much and I fear he was a little dissapointed; we, however, were not. We had a picnic up in the hills called Cerral de Ferrais, also known as the Nuns Valley, soon to be renamed by John as the Nun´s hole! It was here the nuns ran to for shelter whenever there were pirate attacks all those years ago. This is the highest point in Maderia and we were surrounded by clouds and the temperature had a distinct drop, it felt almost chilly! We had our picnic up in the altitudes looking down at the matchbox houses, when suddenly out of the woods came two old women carrying heavy bags on their heads. This transpired to be sweet chesnuts that they had collected on the steepest hills you could possibly imagine. We decided to have a go and forage for ourselves, it was not easy and I take my hat off to those ladies who obviuosly then sell them on to be roasted on the streets of Funchal. John not to be outdone, then carried our pickings in a plastic bag on his head too!
As always trying to source anything away from home creates a drama or huge headache, but with some luck we managed to find bits and pieces that we needed, but it meant that each day when we thought we would do so very much, we did not achieve all we had set out to do. We have however met up with a great carpenter called Juan who has now made my life better by fitting in shelves in the wardrobe and we all now have at last our own designated space for clothes. Crazy how a small thing like not being able to put your belongings away can drive you absolutely beyond despair, but no longer. Juan also made us a holder for our Port from Portugal, which we enjoyed sharing much of it with Gordon on Equniox, the Maderia from Maderia, with whom we shared much and enjoyed with Jim from Starblazer and a space for our Rum from Barbados, who will help us with this bottle, we wonder. Slowly but surely Brimble is moulding into a cruising boat and our home, we love her.
The children are happy as Starblazer, a Halberg Rassy 42, whom we first met in Porto Santo has arrived here in Maderia and they have two children on board the same ages as Ella and Jack, Josie and Clemmie, they take it in turns to play on each others boat and to dingy from one baot to the other. We spent a pleasant day with them at the Aquapark in Santa Cruz, a totally child orientated day sliding down the Black hole!
We have been on many sight seeing missions.
When here 12 years ago John and I refused to take the toboggan sleigh ride as being too touristy, even though his Gran and Grandad had done it many years before and loved it. Now travelling with the children we succumbed and enjoyed ourselves more than we thought.
Whilst in Madeira I have celebrated my 38th oops 39th! birthday and a fantastic day it was too. Thank you to everyone who sent me good wishes, presents and cards. School was kicked aside for the day and we ventured out. We first visited the volcanic caves known as lava tubes and learnt how Maderia was formed. I and the children enjoyed the experience but John could not put his managerial hat away and kept telling us how much better it all should have been and how they should have organised the trip and guide. I think he was right, but still enjoyed myself. The highlight for John was the 3D cinema explanation of the formation of Maderia, just look at him:
We then wound our way along the coast to the north of Maderia to Ponta Moniz where there are natural rock pools large enough for swimming. The children and I leapt out with glee at John having brought us here and immediately changed into our costumes. Stepping into the water was a shock as it was not the warm rock pool feel I had expeceted. John does not like to swim in anything less than 20 degrees and the children knowing this, laughed and played and pretended how warm the water was and were able to coax him in! I wish you had all been able to see John´s face as he dived in! Once swimming though, the water was in fact not bad at all and we enjoyed ourselves immensly.
We then drove up the steepest of hills and reached almost 2000 meters above sea level. The temperature dropped to 11 degrees celcius, having been 26 and the visibiltiy deteriorated too. Luckily we had a break in the mist and saw the cattle in the middle of the road before we drove into them! We found a spot to park the car and followed a recognised walk along a levada, these are the irrigation channels. As we had made the unexpected stop at the rock pools, it now meant we could only complete the shorter of the two walks, so about 5 miles intead ot 8. We walked steeply downwards for the first hour, made more difficult as I knew we would at the end of the walk have to retrace our steps and walk up this steep incline! The route then became flat for a bit before we again walked in a downwards direction. We arrived at the destination to view a very small waterfall! The walk back was as difficult as I feared and I am not sure still a week later if my calf muscles have recovered. The children coped well with not one word of complaint, but I think we were all glad to have reached back at the car and grateful that we had arrived so late in the day not to be able to complete the longer and harder walk. Thank goodness for the rock pool swim.
Juan the carpenter had recommend a resturant in the hills away from the tourists for my birthday dinner. We found the village ok, but failed to locate the resturant itself. I asked a man at the bus stop, who told me the resturant I wanted was in the capital Funchal, 7 miles away! John took hold of the situation asked a taxi driver and found that the resturant was only 300meters away from the man and the bus stop... dinner was superb, traditional meat on a spit, each table had its own iron hanging hook, where the BBQ chef placed the skewer of meat, one beef the other chicken. John and Ella had eyed up the chocolate mousse as they arrived and promptly choose those for dessert, I choose the Tiramisu, even though the fruit salad did look exceptionally good, but it was my birthday and so I though hell with the calories, Jack choose Vienetta ice cream. Both John and Ella took a greedy first taste and regretted it for the rest of the night. The mousse turned out to be pure melted chocolate, far too rich. On asking John just now to describe the taste, he turned a puce colour, the memory is still too strong. I should have known that ordering an Italian dessert in a Madeiran resturant was not a good idea and was presented with a Carte D´or ice cream! Jack smuggly ate his Vienetta and would not share. Despite the dessert fiasco, we all thought the dinner good, dinner came to less than forty pounds for the four of us with desserts, coffee and booze!
Since then we have been gleefully making up lists of all the essentials needed for the Atlantic crossing as we are only 4-5 weeks away from setting off. Knowing that Pappa was to come to Tenerife we have ordered a whole host of things to be delivered to his house for him to bring over. It will be like Christmas come early with all the new things for us and Brimble. Pappa rang the other day to say he thought we were not making good use of him and there was not much for him to bring, I thought this strange. He then phoned two days later to say he had spoken too soon as the post man and several couriers had been since then and that he was now not sure how he would be able to bring it all. I do like to challenge my father and thanked him for doing this for us, but I do chuckle at the thought of him and all our things, we had thought at one point to send the 2.5 meter spinnakar pole with him too, perhaps that would have been a tad too much.
So we sit here and wait for the wind to die down a bit and the huge waves to calm and we shall depart for Tenerfie, there are many boats here in our situation and I think come the right weather there will be a mass exodus of boats bound for the Canaries.