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Madeira

For my 40th birthday, I decided to escape the cold miserable weather of the UK and take a trip to Madeira to have a few days of hiking. Barber, Ben and Rice joined me. Flights were pretty cheap and I had heard that it was decent for hiking, even though the average age of the tourists was about 78, we considerably reduced that. It didn't all go to plan as the main route we wanted to hike was closed due to a landslide, but with plenty of options we managed to fit enough in. 

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Day 1

Thursday 25th January

After a delayed  train caused me to miss my connection to Gatwick, the trip didn't start great. A night in the Travelodge and we were ready for the early flight over to Madeira. Landing in Funchal Airport on a crazy runway that extended over the cliffs, we took in the rays of the sun and waited for our hire car company to pick us up. 

With the hire car picked up we checked into the hotel with the OAPs got some food and had a relaxing evening exploring a bit of Funchal whilst deliberating on what the plan was for the following day after finding out the main trail we had planned to do was closed due to a landslide.

Day 2

Friday 26th January

After rejigging our plans, we decided to sign up to a morning of 'intermediate' canyoning! We had to work our way down a river by abseiling and jumping into gorges. My terrible fear of heights got the better of me on some of the jumps but I managed most of them. The two guides were great and everyone had a great time. Strava route here.

After that we decided to drive the short trip up to the highest point of Madeira, Pico Areiro, but we took the wrong turn and drove to the north coast. After some heated discussions we went for a little stroll down some steep stairs to a black sand/stone beach. I stabbed myself in the head with an aloe plant causing blood to pour from my head.

After that we headed to the peak for sunset. The views were amazing but it was a bit nippy!

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Day 3

Saturday 27th January 

Saturday plan was to tackle as much of what we thought was a 3000m elevation hike of the PR9 - Caldeirão Verde Levada, which didn't seem right as the Levada routes all followed man made water transporting streams. Turned out due to the amount of tunnels, the mapping software thought you were climbing massive steep hills. You didn't. It was pretty flat but still a great walk which ended at a waterfall before returning back to the car. Ben and Barber decided to brave the freezing cold water  for a dip below the waterfall. The evening ended with some tasty junk food, some Pina coladas and an early night due to an early start in the morning!

Strava of the walk here

Day 4

Sunday 28th January

I'd been reading about another popular hike on the east coast of the island that was a great spot to watch the sunrise, so I managed to convince the boys to get up at 5am to start the hike in the dark (knowing fine well that it was forecast to be cloudy). We started the trek from the carpark with one head torch and a couple of phones, a few other people had the same idea behind us but were much better prepared with better torches. As we reached the end of the trail we soon realised that we weren't going to get a sunrise but stayed for an hour or so just in case the cloud decided to part. It was still worth the trek for the amazing views on the way back to the car, I'm sure the sunrise would've made it a lot better though!

A stop for second breakfast on the way home was followed by a relaxing afternoon by the pool with the pensioners.

Strava route here

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Day 5

Monday 29th January 

Today I turned 40. So how better to spend it than on a boat with booze and dolphins? Taking a day off from the hiking, we had a relaxed morning breakfast then strolled down to the harbour for a couple of pre boating beers and a tuna toastie. When I first booked the boat trip, I was expecting it to be us four lads joining pensioners trip out to sea, but thankfully it turned out I was wrong. Starting the trip with a white plastic flute of bubbly we set out into the ocean aiming for the dolphins. We were lucky enough to find a pod and followed them for a while. As the drinks kept coming, we headed to the other side of the island for a swim before heading back to the harbour for sunset. A few more beers we eventually found somewhere for dinner, turns out it was an English pub but we didn't care as we were starving. On the way home we stopped off for a nightcap in a bar. A local eccentric camp old fella joined us and told us some interesting tales of his life and local goings on, whilst taking an uncomfortable interest in mine and Ben's thighs.

Day 6

Tuesday 30th January

Expecting a hazy head in the morning, we planned today's hike in the afternoon. Surprisingly we didn't feel too bad. 

We set off to the west of the island for another Levada hike which started at the top of a mountain The 25 Fontes hike. PR6.0 and PR 6.1. After surviving the steep hills in the car, the clutch smelling like it was on fire and the car bottoming out as I parked up, we started the steep descent into the valley. Another busy route that followed the waterways lead us to a waterfall at the end, the lads refusing to jump in this time due to the crowds. It was another not too challenging walk but great views as always. I say not challenging, the steep road back to the car was horrible for a slightly hungover fat lad with horrendous heartburn. 

The final evening saw us regrettably taking advantage of the hotel giving me a free meal for my birthday in the hotel restaurant, it did a job. 

Holiday finished, the following morning we relaxed, got a quick massage and then flew home.

Strava route here

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