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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

16 March 2015

Changeable Madeira

10th February 2015

Really, England’s weather is consistent and predictable. I mean, let’s say you’re driving up a hill. When you get onto the other side of the hill, what will the weather be? The same, right? Drive up a hill on Madeira in golden sunshine with a few distant fluffy white clouds, and you can go over the top and find yourself in freezing fog. Or rain. Or indeed, the same can happen in reverse. And the clouds form out of nowhere – like this morning, when we decided to get an early start and drive up to Pico do Arieiro, Madeira’s third highest peak which happens to have a car park on top. It was looking pretty exciting, with the whole island spread out below us as we climbed switchbacks under amber morning sun, not a cloud in the sky. Right until the last few switchbacks when we watched – actually watched – a cloud well up from nowhere to cover the peak. When we parked, it was freezing cold and visibility was about five yards.

Of course, by the time we got to Cruz and decided to take on the beautiful levada walk there, it was sunny again. Perhaps we’re lucky being here in winter, but we had this hike virtually to ourselves as well. The levada twisted along the hillside like a snake, never rising, never falling, into the forested interior where it taps off from the rushing Ribiero Frio. Lovely.

We drove back to Funchal for dinner, plunging straight down out of the hills through all the outskirts and suburbs, down and down vertiginious little roads with cars parked wherever, crossing more promising junctions and major routes, down and down, until we hit the sea exactly at the restaurant we had picked for dinner the day before, with a parking space right before us. Not very interesting perhaps, but it felt so uncanny at the time (we had no maps of Funchal) that I want to record it! The restaurant was a slightly more interesting place called Riso (which specialised in rice dishes, hence the name). It could have been really good, but the terrace was scarcely warm enough and the staff had been trained in the curt-and-aloof school of waitering. Can’t fault the food.

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