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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!