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Last night, we returned to our cabin to find rucksacks and clipboards waiting for us… it turns out we are on tour…

Needless to say, we were up early this morning, in order to get an early breakfast, in order to be on the quayside for 9am.

As it happens, we were queuing to disembark due to a slight delay in getting clearance for the ship from the immigration officials.

We’ve been to Funchal, in Madeira, many times before. However, we’ve never been beyond the city borders of Funchal itself, so todays tour, billed as ‘Scenic Madeira’ looked like it might be interesting… and it was.

It was essentially an ‘on-the-bus-off-the-bus’ tour, but after a drive past Funchal airport, which is held up on huge stilts and quite interesting to see, and after a brief photo stop and a ‘tea and coffee’ stop at one of Funchal’s two golf clubs, things started to get mightily interesting as we headed along windy, narrow wooded roads, towards the high mountains located right in the centre of the island.

We stopped at around six thousand feet (the second highest peak on Madeira), by a large military radar station and small visitor centre. And for about thirty minutes or so, we gorged on the views. In all directions, the mountains receded away from us, dramatic and quit spectacular. We were lucky with the weather; despite a stiff breeze blowing (which one would expect at that altitude anyway), the sky was clear and the sun shone. To complete the drama, a few whisps of clouds clung to a few of the dark, plunging rocky valleys and jagged peaks below us.

After our truly awesome mountaintop experience, we headed back down into the centre of Funchal for a free tasting at a Madeira wine centre, before returning to the ship at around 2pm… just in time for lunch.

It’s been a leisurely afternoon on the back deck, enjoying the sunshine and catching up on a few things on the laptop. As I write this, it is just gone 5pm, and in about an hours time, we’ll be heading back out to sea again, towards or final destination, Lisbon, where we are due to arrive on Monday.

Peter Woolley

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