Wood revisited

February 2022
2016 was our first encounter - and we fell in love with this wonderful island, the nature, the people, the food, the magnificant spots, the stunning views, the exciting hikes.
Just translate "wood" and you know where we are heading.
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  • On your marks - set...go!

    February 1, 2022 in Germany ⋅ 🌧 6 °C

    Believe it or not - for the first time in all our travels so far it feels like everything is settled: Paula (our flea trap) is dropped of at friends, we've done some minimal food shopping (since we'll return on a Sunday), we've done a final Corona test, we've packed our stuff and cleared out our trash, had a "Good-bye-lunch" with a friend at our favorite Vietnamese Restaurant and...packed, unpacked and reduced our luggage to the max.
    We've checked in for the round trip and whatever can go wrong now may go wrong and become part of the challenges we love making our trips worthwhile - Wood, here we come!
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  • Day 1

    Whatever can go wrong...

    February 2, 2022 in Portugal ⋅ 🌧 15 °C

    Well, we almost fucked up the boarding this morning. We were way too early at the airport, had a relaxed coffee and enjoyed being totally in control of the check-in procedure. Sometimes we (that is "I") get a little hectic before we enter the plane.
    While I was checking out a charging station for my smartphone I recognized a sign saying #SafetyMadeira. So I asked Anke if she knew what it was all about.
    And while the other passengers starting boarding Anke was lightning struck when she remembered that we had entered our Corona documents 48 hrs ahead of time.
    So things all of a sudden got quite tense and hectic and in the last minute we received a message that our data were being processed. The ground personnel let us enter the plane on our own risk getting turned down entering Madeira.

    The plane was crammed full with Tschech tourists. Some of them gave the flight attendants a hard time being unable to cover mouth and nose with their masks. I know, I know...it is really hard to understand how and why masks are being used.

    After only four and a half hours the nightmare was over (can you imagine flying to Australia for more than 23 hrs, wearing a mask and being surrounded by folks that could care less?). Finding the car rental was easy, passing the health check a piece of cake, and we quickly turned out on those narrow and windy roads along the coast.

    Took us an hour to get to our house, did some food shopping during the trip and I know for sure that I don't need a car full of electronic nonsense on narrow, winding roads.

    Side thought: Seing the prices for booze in the Duty Free area reminds that I have not been buying any stuff in ages😱
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  • Day 2

    Slippery when wet!

    February 3, 2022 in Portugal ⋅ ☁️ 16 °C

    Slow start, lazy morning - it has been raining all night, more or less. And it is still raining when we wake up...no need to hurry, nothing scheduled = holidays!

    After an opulent breakfast the downpour turns into a light drizzle and we decide to drive down to the Ocean and hike along the coast line on those small garden trails going along the hedges like pearls on a string.
    After a couple of trails we decide to stop at a bar for a drink and a coffee.
    We meet our landlord and his wife, have a nice chat with them and the owner of the bar...and find out our bill has been payed when we get up to leave. Thank you folks, we'll make it up to you. Strolling back to the car we're accompanied by male black Labrador...showing us the best way between those garden hedges.

    We drive along the coastal road and try to follow a gravel track - just to out this magnificent automobile has no ground clearance at all. Just not our kind of car.
    So it's back to hiking along those slippery and wet Levadas. Anke misses a step...and that's how we met that friendly lady at the local pharmacy selling us disinfectant and giving us some great information where to go and what to see along the Northern coast.

    A final sandwich at our local bar, a discussion with the local drunkard dressing up his dog as a clown and back to our house for a fantastic, misty sunset.
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  • Day 3

    Duck tales

    February 4, 2022 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    You won't believe it...but we'll tell you anyway:

    After being guided all around town by a friendly Labrador yesterday we were quite sure things couldn't get weirder.

    Today a chicken, a goose and half a dozen of their friends proved us wrong:
    We were hiking along some historic limestone quarry when we got lost between different trails. While we were discussing whether to turn right or left this chicken showed up and started posing right in front of us. At first we didn't pay any attention so it started running into one direction and returned to us as we were not following. After the second or third time we got curious and started following that crazy bird. She got all excited, picked up speed and made sure we were following.

    The path was rough going up and down and that bird seemed cock sure we were heading the right way.

    A little way down the trail there was sitting a goose holding guard. The two birds held a short chat then the goose went on to lead way while the chicken made sure we were keeping up with them.

    Our local guides took us down a rocky path for quite some distance until we met the rest of the family - a second goose and half a dozen other running birds. And there was the main trail we had been searching for.

    Total nonsense? We knew you wouldn't believe us. So them hero birds end up in a children's fairy tale instead of becoming local guides...

    And the rest of the day? A stunning cable car ride (the steepest in Europe) taking us from the highlands down to the beach area where the locals keep their traditional allotments. We did not walk back up that steep path since it seemed quite a slippery challenge.

    Before we forget - all the spots we wanted to visit (local art museum, local honey museum, special restaurant) were closed due to off season, we think.

    And the moral of the story is, sometimes animals are great local heroes.
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  • Day 4

    "Our wine is kind of wet"

    February 5, 2022 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

    Here we are again. Later in the day than last time and just as lucky with the weather. In 2016 when we arrived at the parking lot it was all hazy and foggy and we were afraid the hike up to the summit would end up in the clouds with no view at all. We were proven wrong - after we pushed through the clouds the air was crystal clear while the neighboring Pico was still covered in haze.

    This time the air was almost warm and clear right from start but it got much colder and somewhat hazy the closer we came to the top. The all over view was better than the first time but the air lacked that liquid transparency.
    The minute we started to return the sun was moving to the West and wet clouds started racing up the mountain from the South of the island. Temperatures dropped fast and we were surprised to find the South in cloudy haze while the north was clearing up.

    So it was worth doing it all over again.

    Besides being a lot of fun and incredibly impressive it also was somewhat weird. Watching all those white sneakers, those fancy outfits, those small dogs being tortured up and down the mountain, all those selfie-sticks producing social media crap as we are doing now 😂

    And the winner is...a fancy fake fur jacket pushing glittering slippers up the mountain range...

    We had a wonderful dinner at a nice little place in Santana (Samba Pa Ti, if you know what I mean) and the guy serving us had a great humor: "What wine do you serve?" - "The one in bottles upon the shelve". "You have a dry red wine?". "Sorry, ours is just kind of wet" - we had lots of fun, an excellent dinner and extraordinary service.
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  • Day 5

    Atlantic storm arising

    February 6, 2022 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    It has been raining all night long. The rising gale forced the street lamp and the palm tree into a shadow Tango on the walls of our bedroom and grant us a restless night.

    So we're kind of slow starting out into gusty showers hitting the Madeiran north coast.
    Some of the backroads we drive along show marks of the storm...rocks and mud sliding down from the mountain ranges.

    The reward is fantastic though - huge waves are running up the Rocky banks of Porto da Cruz and fill the air with spray and thunder.
    We take cover from the rain in the halls of the famous historic local rum distillery.

    Later, at the harbor Cafe & Bar again we are pleased by the friendly and supportive service. After all we are the only folks that do not want to take cover under the umbrella and rather sit out in the open to witness the power of the incoming surf. And although instead of ordering a decent meal we stick to Poncha, coffee and cake they make us feel welcome.

    Anke is glad that due to the storm the local cable car is out of service and we have no chance to swing down to the coast today.

    Enough is enough and after a short hike and more incoming showers we decide to corner back to our "humid camp" along those endlessly winding backroads (since we try to avoid the boring tunnel passages).

    Just before we reach our home we pass that small restaurant we've been trying to get into the last couple of days (just to find it closed all the time). This time we realize that the parking lot is full of cars and the place is open.
    As we try to get into the bar the owner tells us that the restaurant is open for the members of the family dinner only. Being a little disappointed we decide to stay for couple of minutes to enjoy the cheerful atmosphere. Enough time to convince the friendly elderly lady to come around from behind the counter and to explain to us that they could serve us some pork ribs and potatoes. We just have to put up with a small table up front at the bar (all that in French - which we don't speak - and with the help of a popular smartphone translator).
    Of course we agree, enjoy a very special meal and the family atmosphere.

    Later, as we want to pay our bill the owner charges us for the drinks only, since the food was a leftover from the family feast.

    People surprise us day by day and confirm that friendliness harvests friends, again and again.
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  • Day 6

    The world meets here

    February 7, 2022 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    Today we hiked out to the far South Eastern Casa do Sardinha.

    The one-hour-drive is either through endless tunnels or countless curves. This time we decided for the tunnels and I truly admit - curves are much more fun and will stay my favorite way of traveling (wish I had a motorcycle for a day or so😉)

    Again we started a little late (this seems to be the motto for this trip) and when we reached the starting point of the hike at least half of the actual tourist community was either starting or returning.

    We got into the lineup and followed the flow of tourists. While it was somewhat awkward in the beginning the stunning views soon helped us to forget that we were in a constant flow of international tourists.

    Very special were the moments when we were taking a little break sunbathing out on the boulders just to realize that the dozens of Lizards living around us were "attacking" us for some food leftovers.
    Suddenly the cries of a couple of Skuas and the Lizards dashed back into their safe crevices.

    Lazy as we were we skipped the steep path up to Miradouro Ponta do Furtado, had a coffee and a beer instead and started our multi lingual way back to the starting point - collecting another dozen of unforgettable fotos on the way.

    Before we got on the "highway" to take us back to our hut in Ponta Delgada (this time taking the way along Funchal and across the island on the middle connection) we stopped at a small roadside restaurant.
    There was only one "peixe do dia" left and did not regret waiting until the chefe de cozinha had performed his magic.
    What can we say? Excellent dinner, good glass of wine, a nice view and a good mooded and friendly service - what else could we ask for.

    During the drive back we realized one more time that the weather on Madeira never seems what it looks on first glance. When we started at the far eastern tip of the island it looked like the rest was covered in haze. The further south-west we got the more the sun seemed to shine and it looked like the north was doomed with rain clouds - which vanished the more north we got and for the first time during this journey we able to have a drink sitting out on the porch viewing what almost looked like a sunset.
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  • Day 7

    Height of throne

    February 8, 2022 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    We always have wondered why the thrones of leaders and emporers are in gloomy halls filled with arms and treason. Wouldn't it be much more inspiring to see world with all its beauty and glory from the stool of power?

    Well, during our travels we have discovered several truly inspiring thrones - one of them on our morning challenge.

    Underestimating the steepness of the mountain just behind our house we decided to "hike" up to one of the waterfalls.
    Turned out to become a challenging climb over rolling rocks, fallen trees and through blackberry bushes and we had to realize that coming up was one challenge, getting back down a totally new adventure.

    Nevertheless we discovered a true visionary's throne and the rewarding view it had to offer.

    Second round was hiking through the National Forrest of Laurel trees - a beautiful area with a magnificent view down on the breaking surf of the north coast, in complete silence.

    Dinner (tasty, friendly, competent - what else would you expect) on the way home in a restaurant down at the coast in the spray of the thundering surf.

    Final drink at the local bar and the wisdom of the day that the throne may make a leader and service staff is extraordinary on Madeira - at least according to what we encounter in Berlin regularly.
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  • Day 8

    Levadas, twisted trees & pickled beans

    February 9, 2022 in Portugal ⋅ ☁️ 15 °C

    We have made it a habit to stop for a small talk at the local bar every evening we return to Ponta Delgada. The owner of the bar & the local "u name it we've got it" seems to await us (as all the other handymen, house keepers and drive-by-shoppers) and serves the desired Poncha, coffee and a small tray of pickled large yellow beans.

    So what did we do today?

    We had our first true Levada hike (during this trip). It was thrilling, surprising and a little bit boring at the same time.
    Thrilling to see clever the construction is to direct the rain waters from where they fall and gather to where they are needed and desired.
    We were also quite surprised to find trout (just a wild guess) living in the concrete channel.
    The huge Eukalyptus trees lining the Levada (no, it is not Laverda 😉) on the down slope side came quite unexpected for us. Guess we'll have to do some research how the different types of Eukalyptus came to Madeira. What we found out so far is, that they are a invading threat to the endemic Madeiran Laurus forrests.

    As the Levada passes through several tunnels so did we - on small paths along the stream of the water, about 30 cm wide and an average height of 160 cm, in the total dark, of course. Glad we had Smartphones with flashlights along.
    And yes, after two of the shorter tunnels we gave up on the longest one (length about 1,2 km) and returned along the Levada again passing under the small waterfalls.

    When it comes to natural life the Levada hike was almost boring. The surrounding forest seems to be completely dead silent, we hardly (or didn't) see any animal life from or traces of that.
    Flora great, Fauna invisible or existing on a very low level.

    After the Levada we changed into the next valley (from quiet sunshine to gusty and chilly haze) to do a hike along a trail that reminded us of the arctic rain forrests of Southern Argentina. Lots of different species of ferns, moss and lichens and weirdly twisted trees - but again almost no signs of vertebrates...🤔

    Well, after reflecting the day out in the setting sun up front of the bar it is time to finish up and go home for dinner and wood stove.
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  • Day 9

    "Save the worms" Day

    February 10, 2022 in Portugal ⋅ ☁️ 16 °C

    Today we combined a Levada walk and a mountain hike. Just because walking along a Levada is nice but rarely challenging (on an old folks scale of challenges) and pure mountain hiking can be rather demanding around here.

    We decided for a one way Levada walk in one of Madeira's biggest Eukalyptus forrests running between the forrest on one side, along a small river in the middle and steep mountain meadows on the other side.

    In the South-East of the island there much more spring is in the air. The sound of humming bees and the clover blooming in small pink blossoms are good signs that soon Madeira will give honor to her nickname - the "Blossom Island".

    Again the Levada raised several questions. This one was flowing very slow at the start and picked up current after being fed by a waterfall. In this fast flowing water we found two rather large rain worms that had fallen in and were struggling to get back out again (which proved to be impossible so we gave them a hand).
    After that we discovered something which is best described as "Little worm's graveyards" - hundreds of worms in several rather small spots, all closely together and it seemed like they all had drowned in the Levada. We are
    still searching for a decent explanation...

    For the way back we decided to hike across the mountain and were rewarded with a good view over the area and an overgrown, wild hiking path. Honestly, we like those surprise hikes more than the orderly walk along the Levadas.

    We could title our way home with "Same as it ever was, same as it ever..." - we revisited a restaurant we had favored at our first stay five years ago (and this time we were clever enough to just share one meal for the two of us, again choosing the wrong meat). On the way to our "Humid Home" we got stuck in a road construction for half an hour (there is no possibility for a detour along the steep mountain roads), met our landlord (who was on his way to our place bringing in the repaired laundry dryer), had a coffee and a chat at our local bar and returned to our house on the hill.

    Another great day out here in the Atlantic Ocean.
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