The next day I was due to move to my villa on the south west coast of Madeira. The weather in Santana was still very cloudy, but as soon as I had driven down to the south coast, the clouds were replaced by bright sunshine. The road seemed to consist almost entirely of tunnels. I couldn’t check in to my villa until 1 o’clock, so I made a short stop to visit Ribiera Brava, a pretty coastal town where I bought some food.
I then abandoned the highway and its endless tunnels for a slower winding mountain road, and I was rewarded by some spectacular views. My villa was in a small village called Faja da Ovelha, strung out over a steep hill which descended to the sea.
The village was tiny, with a church and a small bar but no shops. After checking in I enjoyed the view of the ocean from my terrace and then decided to take the steep path down to the village of Paul do Mar on the coast. The path gave a magnificent view of the mountains and the sea.
Paulo do Mar is a traditional fishing village but is also a surfing centre and had a few bars aimed at the surfer community. I stopped at the first bar I found and ordered a cold cocktail. The heat and the sound of the waves breaking against the sea wall made me feel very lazy, so instead of continuing my walk into the centre of the village, I ordered another cocktail.
A van stopped to deliver bread to the bar; in this part of Madeira people get their daily bread from this van, so I followed the local tradition and bought a loaf for 50c. The trip back to the villa was much slower than the trip down. The sun was now lower down on the horizon, and its warmth seemed to beam horizontally across the ocean directly onto the path. When I got back to the villa I was sweating heavily. I relaxed in a sunlounger for a bit and then cooked myself a huge tasty tuna steak for dinner – Madeira is a fish lover’s paradise.
The next day the weather forecast was not great, but all the same the sun was shining when I woke up. The webcam site showed the weather in the north and centre was indeed bad, so I decided to visit the small seaside villages near my villa. The area is far off the usual tourist circuit and a long way (by Madeira standards) from the island’s main attractions. First, I drove to Paul do Mar, this time visiting the old centre, away from the surfers’ places. A maze of narrow streets led parallel to the sea and below towering cliffs to a small harbour.
There I was met by a simple statue of a man staring out to sea, which had been commissioned by the local fishing captains and somehow seemed to perfectly capture the relationship between man, the land and the sea.
The next village along the coast was called Jardim do Mar and had long sea front path as well as a similar maze of small streets and colourful buildings. I stopped in a bar for a snack, enjoying the pleasant warmth and the gurgle of water running down the “Levada” running through the town. These small channels carry water from the mountainous centre of Madeira to the drier coast; many of them have walking paths running along their banks, which form an extensive long-distance hiking network around the island.
My final stop was Calheita, the next town along the coast. It was completely different, smart and modern, with a couple of large hotels and harbour filled with yachts. I enjoyed watchimg the ocean waves beating against, and occasionally over, the harbour wall before visiting the supermarket to do my shopping for the week. Although 30 minutes’ drive away, this was the closest large shop to my villa. There isn’t much to do in this part of Madeira but I was really enjoying taking things slowly and listening to the wind and the sea. Back at the villa I enjoyed a glass of red wine whilst looking out over the ocean. The welcome leaflet left by the owners said that sometimes you could see whales, and they had left some powerful binoculars for guests.
I couldn’t see any whales today, but it was fun looking. Maybe tomorrow. Here, it feels like “tomorrow” is the answer to everything.