Going downhill fast in Funchal

//Going downhill fast in Funchal

toboggan.jpgThere are 2,039 of us on this Queen Elizabeth “Iberian Adventure,” as the Cunard brochure describes the 12-day cruise to Madeira, the Canaries, and Lisbon.
That means the ship, which carries 2,092 passengers when every one of its 1,046 cabins has two occupants, is pretty near full.
After three full days at sea, there can have been few who were not ready to stretch their legs ashore when we arrived in Funchal, Madeira, yesterday. The weather was not quite as warm and sunny as we had been promised, but the morning at least was bright until cloud began to shroud the mountain tops.
Intrepid as ever, Captain Greybeard had chosen to take a cable car and toboggan excursion, which first involved a labyrinthine journey by coach along Funchal’s intricate road network and through a few of its tunnels to get to the starting point.
QE_monte.jpgThe cable car station, completed in 2000, was just across the water, at the start of a 3.2 km climb to the village of Monte, from where there were spectacular views back to the pier and Queen Elizabeth, which had been joined by Norwegian Spirit.
There are carefully-tended gardens up here and an interesting church, where Austro-Hungarian emperor Charles I is buried.
But the real reason for the ascent is to go down again – by toboggan. A totally pointless tourist trap, but great fun nevertheless. This method of transport dates from the 1850s; sturdy wicker baskets built for two ride on waxed wooden runners, guided and braked by two men wearing straw boaters – which have no effect on performance – and sturdy rubber-soled boots which most definitely do: they were the closest thing we had to brakes during the descent which is said to reach speeds of 30 mph.
A hugely-exhilarating 10 minutes and the obligatory photo-souvenir, ready on arrival at the end of the ride, was a bargain-priced €10 and came complete with a CD of local folk dances. Rather better value, dare I say, than the $29.95 cost per picture in the ship’s photo gallery.
There was less in the way of thrills at today’s port of call, Santa Cruz in La Palma. In fact Captain Alistair Clark had been quite disparaging about the island during his welcome party.
Perhaps he has had an experience he would rather forget on a previous visit to what is billed as the world’s steepest island. There did not appear to be many takers for the coach journey to the Caldera de Taburiente. Most of us chose to take a short stroll into town, where the shops stayed open until the 2.00 pm siesta.
After which it was time to return to the ship, with a brief rest on a bollard on the way back (below).
Tomorrow: Tenerife, and for me a trip to Mount Teide, Spain’s highest mountain.

By | 2017-06-15T15:59:35+00:00 12 April 2013|Cruise Destinations|1 Comment

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

One Comment

  1. L Loades 12 April 2013 at 8:48 pm - Reply

    Shame that your captain was so disparaging about La Palma and few takers for the trip to the Taburiente Caldera. We did the Canaries in January. To my mind, La Palma is the most scenic of the Canaries and the Caldera was quite magnificent – especially if you get a chance to see ith when the trade winds cause clouds to gather around the top. However, each to their own and a very unique and peaceful space would have become less picturesque with 2000-plus people gathered around it.

Leave A Comment