Walkers sharing their experiences

Madeira Walking blog is all about Levadas, the walks, travel information, weather, walking opportunities, eco tourism, culture, history, flora and fauna and so on. It is a collective blog in which hikers, tourists, guides, walkers across the world and from Madeira share their views, thoughts and experiences ... in their own language.

As Levadas da Madeira

Portuguese - Português July 18th, 2013

Localizada no coração do Oceano Atlântico, a ilha da Madeira, com 57 km de comprimento e 23 km de largura, apresenta-se como a terapia ideal para todos aqueles que necessitam de recuperar do stress citadino, que ambicionam uma reconciliação com a natureza através de deslumbrantes caminhadas a pé e que pretendam usufruir de um serviço de qualidade exercido por profissionais exímios.

Atravessada por uma cordilheira montanhosa, cujo pico mais alto – Pico Ruivo – atinge os 1862 metros de altitude, a ilha da Madeira dispõe de um clima subtropical durante todo o ano que permite realizar passeios a pé ao longo das magnificas Levadas de água construídas desde o século XVI. As famosas levadas, que cruzam todo o comprimento e largura da Madeira, constituem engenhosos sistemas de irrigação compostos por cerca de 2000 km de canais e 50 km de túneis. Estas foram a forma encontrada para aproveitar a água que cai predominantemente a norte. Os ventos de nordeste empurram as nuvens contra as altas montanhas provocando na encosta norte precipitação que pode chegar aos 2 metros por ano.

Ao calcorrear estas obras primas de esforço humano, podemos contemplar uma das maiores relíquias da natureza qualificada pela UNESCO como Património Mundial : falamos naturalmente da Laurissilva onde encontramos o reduto de uma variedade de Flora única no mundo. Destaque-se as Laurássias, as Urzes Molares, Folhados, Pau Branco, Figueiras do Inferno entre muitas outras. Algumas destas plantas são endémicas pois não podem ser encontradas no seu estado selvagem noutro local do globo, outras são comuns apenas ás ilhas da Macaronésia – Madeira, Açores, Canárias e Cabo Verde.

Interview with Gerry Sluiter

English July 1st, 2013

This week we are featuring an interview with Gerry Sluiter. Gerry is Dutch, from The Netherlands, and lives for more than 10 years on Madeira Island, together with his Madeiran wife Guida, son Bart and daughter Annika

Gerry, we want to thank you for the opportunity for us to have a ‘peek’ into your relationship with the Green Pearl of the Atlantic also known as Madeira. Please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I met my Portuguese wife 20 years ago on Guernsey (Channel Islands). When I heard that she was from Madeira, I couldn’t wait to visit “her” island and from the moment I arrived by plane I was in love with Madeira. Since then, over a period of 10 years, I visited Madeira twice each year. After that we decided to live here definitively. I have been never be so happy in my life since I took residence in Santa Cruz,

Pico Ruivo

How long are you living on Madeira Island?
10 Years

Can you compare Madeira with for example your birth country The Netherlands?
First of all Madeira is surrounded by the Ocean, with the contrast of the Deep Blue color of the Atlantic Ocean, a volcanic landscape and a large variety of vegetation. All this makes it a paradise that is enjoyable 12 months a year. Many parts of the island are still “rural” whereby you experience the “true” way of living from the locals, with their traditions and culture. All this in combination with a mild climate, great food, kind people, very low criminality and pollution and a slower/relaxing pace of life, makes it for me the ideal living location.

How do the people (locals) treat (see) you now here on Madeira Island? As a local or as a foreigner?
I find it important to mix with the locals, and as long as you try to speak their language you are accepted. Trying to understand what and why they do things in a certain way (as it sometimes does not make sense to some Europeans). Avoid thinking that (as a Western European) you know it all. Certain locals on Madeira don’t always understand what the foreigners “sees” in Madeira, however once you explain why you are so enthusiastic about Madeira, then the doors open for you. Most Madeirans don’t see the beauty of Madeira in the same way as foreigners do. Speak with them, play cards or domino’s with them, sing, dance, eat and drink with them and you will become part of them!

“Certain locals on Madeira don’t always understand what the foreigners “sees” in Madeira, however once you explain why you are so enthusiastic about Madeira, then the doors open for you.”

What do you think of the locals/people from Madeira?
As a father of 2 children, I do have a mixed opinion on this matter, especially that I am also an employee for a Portuguese company here. As a father, I get (quite often) upset with the local authorities who think that they are some kind of “God”! I experienced that when a Portuguese has a function with authority that they abuse it by being unreasonable, rude, selfish and arrogant. I always offer my full corporation from the start, however most of them they continuously try to remind you who is in charge. Unfortunately, this happens also at the schools and the health centres, resulting that children at an early stage get in contact with this ‘unpleasant’ phenomenon.

As an employee, it makes a huge difference if your superior is a Portuguese or not. I am lucky that I have an English “Boss” who understands that there is also another way of working than the traditional Portuguese manner of working, namely “Shut up, I am the boss” culture!

On the social level, you can’t find kinder people than the Madeirans. For me, they are the nicest people I ever met.

Madeira Folklore Colors

In which way you are related to the locals?
My luck is that I married one, and that makes my life a lot easier. It helps me with the language and makes it easier for me to communicate with the locals. As a father I meet my kids teachers, their friends, the parents of their friends, at the activities and charities etc. I live in the suburb, outside the city, where I am daily involved in local issues and conversations. I have a great relationship with the neighbourhood. I am happy that I am 100% accepted by them. On my side I try to blend in as much as possible (making quite often a fool of myself) and that is very much appreciated by the locals.

Madeira is slowly becoming a popular holiday destination. What are the three best reasons for someone to include Madeira on their travel list?
Quality (accommodation, services, environment).
Relaxation (peace, nature, pace of life).
Climate (pleasant throughout the year).

Tell us about your most favourite and also the least favourite thing about Madeira.
My favorite “thing” on Madeira is the climate in combination with the relaxation.
My least favorite “thing” is any form of authority that is arrogant and rude.

Lets talk about food: what is your favorite Madeiran food and that you would suggest everyone should try?
What is nice?? I like any form of local product (vegetables, meat and fish). These products are mostly organic and fresh. As a dish, you can’t beat a fresh Tuna steak with potatoes and salad!!

Levada Velha do Rabaçal

What is the first thing you recommend when people want to do a Levada walk?
Take your time and take a deep breath!! On every corner there might be a surprise. Try to imagine how the Levada was “build” and the purpose of it. Always respect the nature surroundings and most of all … Enjoy! Stand still for a while and look around!! A Levada walk is a healthy way to discover Madeira.

Do you see benefits in doing a ‘Guided Walk’ on Madeira? And if so, what are they?
This is a little of an unfair question, as I work for a guided walking company. However, guided walks offers so much for very little money (in comparison to DIY walks: time wasting, no safety, no information, sometimes it can be more expensive). By joining a “Guided Walk”, you will be collected from and returned to your accommodation, you will get a (multi lingual) guide throughout the day, he/she can answer any enquiry you might have. The guide’s priority is your safety which means that any kind of danger (bad weather conditions, vertigo, landslides, rock fall etc.) will be avoided. The combination of transport and guide will make your walk far more interesting, safer and less time wasting (last one is important if you are only for a short time on Madeira).

What is your favourite ‘off-the-beaten path’ that you discovered on Madeira?
Difficult question, probably: Cabanas – Santana.

“Take your time and take a deep breath!! On every corner there might be a surprise.”

Do you think there is a difference between hiking/walking on Madeira Island and in Europe? If so, what are the differences?
There is a big difference between walking on Madeira and Europe. Madeira is has volcanic landscape and therefore steep (up or down)! The walks in general are fine; however you can encounter more vertigo issues on Madeira. Secondly when walking the surface can be “rocky” and on many locations the tree roots are on top of the path. This means that walkers need to be extra careful when walking on Madeira. The feedback that I receive from my clients, is that they find it harder to do a 4hrs walk on Madeira, than when they do similar walking time in their own country. The footpaths on Madeira do not offer clear marks or signs as what can find in most European countries. Here you must be sure you know the way where you want to go.

What is the first thing you recommend travelers to do when they arrive in Madeira?
Have a cup of coffee: Chinesa or a Bica.

Where do you recommend to go for a day trip on Madeira Island?
First of all arrange your own transport, or book a private tour. This gives you freedom, and allows you more flexibility. Start the day early and drive to Camacha – Santo da Serra – Portela – Porto da Cruz – Faial – Santana – SãoJorge – Ponta Delgada – Sã Vicentes – Encumeada – Ribeira Brava.

Cabo Girão viewpoint

What is the most famous landmark? And which one is your favourite?
The most famous landmark might be Cabo Girão, but it is not my thing, especially as it now, for some unknown reason, has been reconstructed into a ‘circus’ attraction with a platform of glass. I prefer the viewpoint at Eira do Serrado. The route to the viewpoint gives you a good impression of “Rural Madeira”, the mountains, the rural landscape and an impressive view of how local people have use any free space to cultivate and create a village, and how they live from the land.

Do you have a place on the island where you feel most comfortable, or had the most fun? Where’s your secret hangout place on Madeira?
When I am with the locals in the country side, I am happy (I am not a city person, I lived too long in London for that). I like to get involved in local activities, such as: farming, slaughter/cleaning chickens and pigs, cooking, dancing, and singing. I also love to get involved in local events (whatever it is).

Interview with Ulf Eklund

English June 10th, 2013

This week we are featuring an interview with Ulf Eklund. Ulf is from Finnö, Åland Islands, Finland, photographer and hiker.

Ulf, first of all we want to thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. Please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am 61 years old biologist, economist, photographer and chef. I used to work with hazardous waste and recycling, but now I own an ecologically certified bakery, café and catering together with my Wife, Karin.

Levada do Bom Successo

How many times have you visited Madeira Island? And when was the first time?
The first time I visited Madeira was in 1998, just when they started to build the new freeways, rapidas. The next time was in 2007 and then I have spent two weeks every winter in Madeira , except for 2010 when we could nor come due to our business. I have now bought the flight tickets for 2014 so I know we will come again.

“The system with the Levadas is quite unique. You feel like a fly on the wall”

The first time you visited Madeira, what was the reason for your visit?
Rehabilitation for my former wife who was ill with cancer.

And what is the reason when you visited it the last time?
We come every year to hike with our madeiran friends for at least two weeks, That’s a way for us to relax and to build our physics for next tourist season.

Do you consider Madeira to be a good place to hike?
Madeira is a wonderful place to hike in. You can choose your own level and you always have new things to see.

Levada do Norte Estreito

When is the best season (for you) to travel to Madeira Island?
As it is I have only experienced winter and spring and I find both very positive. The season when the Jacaranda is blooming is astounding, but you find plenty of flowers att year around. The temperature in the winter is very suitable for hiking.

Tell us about your most favourite and also the least favourite thing about Madeira.
The most favourite thing must be Madeiras nature and the possibilities to come out and see it from the Levadas and veredas! The least favourite thing is scraping the old roads and exploiting the island. I understand that it is a question of resources, but still it was a unique thing. An other disaster, I think, was tearing down the Savoy Hotel.

What are the two most important things to take with you on a hike (on Madeira), other than water and a map?
Good shoes and warm clothes together with a walking stick and a flashlight.

What is the first thing you recommend when people want to do a Levada walk?
To take it seriously and take proper gear with them. You have to respect the nature and quick changes in climate in the mountains. Plan your walk well and preferably take a guided walk or hire a personal mountain guide.

Ponta São Lourenço

Do you see benefits in doing a ‘Guided Walk’ on Madeira? And if so, what are they?
Yes, no problems finding the walk, you get picked up at your hotel and brought back after the walk. Safety with an experienced guide who can tell you everything about the landscape and nature.

What is your favourite ‘off-the-beaten path’ that you discovered on Madeira?
There are two, the path from Encumeada to Boca Corrida and a walk from Machico to Boca do Risco, to Canical and back to Machico. Plus half a dozen others.

“You have to respect the nature and quick changes in climate in the mountains”

Is there a difference between hiking/walking on Madeira Island and in Europe?
Yes, the system with the Levadas is quite unique. You feel like a fly on the wall.

What do you think of the locals/people from Madeira?
I find it difficult to speak with the locals, but easy to communicate, if you get it. They are very friendly, generous and open! In Funchal and the tourist traps you must be aware of people trying to con you of your money in many tricky ways. But not very many!

What is your favourite thing to do at the end of a long hike?
To take a good swim in a pool and, if it has been a hard walk, a hot bath. Then some good local food and a glass of good wine or perhaps a poncha!

Madeira, Eiland in de Wolken

Dutch - Nederlands March 28th, 2011

Het Portugese eiland Madeira kreeg het vorig jaar bijzonder zwaar te verduren door hevige regenval en modderstromen. De schade is intussen hersteld en in het bloemenparadijs kan vandaag weer volop gewandeld worden.

Madeira heeft niet onmiddellijk de reputatie een bruisend oord te zijn. Het is een bloemeneiland, een plaats waar gepensioneerden graag overwinteren vanwege de milde temperaturen en waar wandelaars hun hart ophalen aan zoveel groen. Hier vind je geen zandstranden of hippe discotheken, maar botanische tuinen en eeuwenoude bossen.

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Photographers Paradise – One Island

English February 22nd, 2011

Every photographer has his or her favorite subject and interest to perpetuate it on an image. For most of them it means to travel around the world to find the desired objective. Only a few places in the world that one can find a large number of photogenic treasures into one place. Madeira Island is one of these places.

Madeira is truly a chest full of photographic gems and jewels that the photo-pirates can put their hands on. The island offers a large variety in photogenic subjects, from Mother Nature’s creations to modern man-made structures.

Madeira is well known for its beauty, peaceful environment and all year round pleasant climate, but Madeira is also a photographer’s paradise. Its natural infrastructure and biodiversity offers a lot of photo opportunities in a acceptable travel radius by short drive or walk.

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Madeira, the ideal alternative for Egypt!!

English February 10th, 2011

Egypt has the Pyramids. Madeira has Pico Ruivo (1862 mtr).
Egypt has the Nile. Madeira has the famous Levadas (2163 km long).
Egypt has sand. Madeira has the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Laurisilva” Forest (19,000 ha).
Egypt is hot. The “Green Pearl of the Atlantic” is pleasant warm throughout the year (20°C / 68°F).
Egypt has Safaris. Madeira offers expedition/discovery excursions.
Egypt has diving at Sharm El Sheikh. Madeira has the Atlantic Ocean.

And Madeira has even more to offer:
Boat/Catamaran
Whale Watching
Big Game Fishing
Wind Surfing
Cycling
Horse Riding
Canoeing
Paragliding
Bird watching
Motor biking
Abseiling
Canyoning

Madeira in 2011

English December 21st, 2010

Are you making plans to visit Madeira in 2011? Tip: add into your list one or more Nature Walk trips. Learn with the qualified Madeira guides about the Laurissilva, nature, flora, fauna, culture and history of the Green Pearl of the Atlantic Ocean.

Video Impressions Christmas illumination Madeira

English December 5th, 2010

Two excellent video impressions of the current (2010) Christmas atmosphere in Funchal, Madeira island (Portugal).

Madeira by Travel Channel

English December 1st, 2010

I suppose that the Travel Channel crew could not stay long to film much of Madeira. A short report of Madeira Island in Travel Today by Travel Channel.

Madeira Island – Levadas, Walking Paths & Mountain Ridges

English October 30th, 2010

See photos taken by walkers that visited Madeira Island

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