Hiking in Madeira is spectacular and terrifying.

In the Rob/Justine dynamic, Rob does the research and planning for where we are going to hike and I provide the enthusiasm. When it comes to finding suitable hikes the biggest consideration is really about how easy they are to get to without having to rent a car or hire a tour guide and then – how ‘challenging’ they are rated. 

We are not opposed to renting a car or hiring a tour guide. It’s just that those things represent next level organization. You can’t just get up on a Saturday morning and decide over a leisurely coffee – let’s book a hiking tour. We are going to do those kind of planned things but we also want to be able to be a bit spontaneous. Especially while we are figuring out what Madeira is all about. 

When it comes to the ‘challenging’ rating – I’m not so concerned about distance. What I need to know is how much the trail will engage my vertigo. I have always been a bit vertigo-ish but ever since I had children it has gotten way worse. That’s when I progressed to sympathetic-vertigo. (This is a condition that I have made up but I think it should be a thing.) 

It started when the kids were little. I could be well back from the edge of any kind of drop but as soon as one of them got close to that edge – my vertigo would kick in. My head would start swimming as though I were the one standing close to the drop. Over the years that has extending to seeing Rob near an edge. And recently it even extends to total strangers – like friendly looking German tourists leaning out over a sheer drop, getting a selfie. 

The good thing for Rob and his hiking research is that the apps he uses have photos to go along with the descriptions. We have discovered that descriptions like ‘easy’ and ‘moderate’ don’t always mean the same thing to me that they must mean to other people. One person’s ‘moderate’ is another person’s (i.e. me) ‘death defying’! It is way more accurate to look at actual photos of the hike. 

This is what I know NOW. 

Would you describe this as moderate or border-line terrifying?

Our first hike, Ponta de Sao Laurenco, was described as ‘moderate’. I’ll let the photos do the talking here 🙂 Most of it was fine but there were a few places that well – again I’ll let the photos do the talking. But I’m glad I didn’t know enough to chicken out before hand. It really was spectacular. 

Those railings may not look like much – but I was very grateful for them!

This hike is right on the very tip of the island of Madeira and you can get there by just hoping on a regular public bus. It’s a lovely meandering way to see the little towns and local life. That is – in the places where I didn’t have my eyes closed.

I’m not sure if our bus driver was a maniac or if driving along narrow roads with sheer drops, minimal guard rails and hairpin turns is just so normal that they don’t bother to use their brakes but let’s just say I was very glad that Rob was in the window seat! At first I was curious about why the bus seats had handles on the side. Turns out you need to hold on for dear life or you will be flung into the aisle. 

The view from the bus window.

I have discovered that Madeira has a tax on post-child-bearing bladders. There are plenty of public washrooms but they typically cost anywhere between one euro to 50 euro cents. (Euro cents is incidentally a word I just learned.) And in places like the start of trails, where there are few options, it’s definitely one full euro. I spent more euros peeing than I did for the bus.

Midway along the trail is a little snack bar. Snack bars are very popular in Madeira and do not have the kind of stuff that I would imagine if someone said to me – quick, what does a snack bar sell. (Crappy coffee. Pop. Chips. Chocolate bars… ) These snack bars, including the one in the middle of this remote trail, sell delicious espresso, pastries and (as Rob discovered) apple pie. And even though this was literally in the middle of nowhere and who knows how they get the supplies they need to their location – the full price was way less than Starbucks. 

The café with a fat seagull eyeing up Rob’s apple pie

The Ponta de Sao Laurenco is one of the more popular trails to go to (because it is so moderate – ha ha), and we were there on the weekend, so it was pretty crowded. I find it slightly ridiculous when I hear a tourist complaining about the crowds created by other tourists, so I’m going to restrain myself! I think if I were to hike it again I would try to go as early in the morning as possible and choose a week day. 

All over Madeira there are the cutest little lizards. The scramble around at amazing speeds and make a surprising amount of noise. Rob got this video of a lizard hotspot.

Ocean dolphin adventures, sunrise hike and more vertigo-exposure-therapy tram rides coming up…

Photos from the hike (it was so hard to choose!).

This was a runner!!
So crowded but not too too crowded