Oh, how have we enjoyed these two islands! As we found Porto Santo to be a generally dry and earthy brown place from the beaches up to the mountain tops, the southern coast of Madeira provides all kinds of tropic flavors, including fruits, flowers and mosquitoes.
The entire Madeira archipelago is of volcanic nature. Today, it is only a fraction of what it used to be, approximately 1 million years ago. When the archipelago found its maximum extension it was as long as 1400km! Most of it has eroded and washed away by the sea. In fact and when sailing down from Lisbon, we passed several under water mountains, one peaking just 20 meters below sea surface.
Porto Santo was commercially used already half a millennium ago. By then the so called dragon trees were milked. Their red ‘blood’ was shipped to Milan in Northern Italy, where the clothing industry was eagerly seeking the red color for the fashion business.
Our days in Porto Santo peacefully started at the harbor cafe with a great espresso against 60 cents. After our school lessons we would play at the nearby beach with its healing sands, and enjoy swimming in the sea every day. We explored the island with two Quads, which are the motor bikes with four wheels. Wooaaou, it was fun for the boys crawling up and down some rocky mountains and drifting along sandy trails.
The next best place after the beaches and some hexagonal volcanic columns was restaurant Torres in the tiny village of Camacha. Go there if you can, roasted chicken stands out. We were seated in the garden, sun protected by a huge passion fruit tree. I ordered a drink which was not on the menu list, particularly a tall glass of fresh passion fruit juice. Imagine how many fruits this would take. The price for it was 5 Euro and so I decided that it would be impolite to order a second one.
It was just a short 40 miles ride to the main island of Madeira. Different world, colorful all over, with up to three huge cruise ships tied up to the Funchal quays. The market hall offered a huge variety of local fruits and veggies, best presented and well marketed at a ridiculous price.
We visited tropical gardens, volcanic caves, natural swimming pools at the sea and a museum about whales and whaling. That made it quite easy for us to cover some aspects about school requirements.
The best thing for us on Porto Santo and Madeira however was that we really touched down with the blue water sailing community. Everyone in the harbor is traveling with his or her boat for a good time of the year. Many of them would pass the Atlantic Ocean this season. What however made this community so outstandingly great was that most different people with all kinds of social and business backgrounds meet. All of them are down to sailing and have a common theme which starts when helping each other with the mooring lines upon arrival. We were neighbored not only to kids from various countries, but also to a business lady from the Caspian Sea, doctors of medicine from France, financial investors from Norway, an oil exploration engineer from the other side of the world or a Swedish manager from an internationally acting Swedish furniture company. There are also cruisers who live their way around the globe on a very tight budget. That opens up such an entirely wide field of exchange. When saying “Good bye for now!” and wishing “Fair winds!”, we also say “See you in the West Indies!” or exchange invitations to visit each other at their homes around the globe.
Before leaving Portugal for some time, we shall not forget to mention how easy it was for us to communicate with the locals. Even the bus drivers were fluent in English as far as their job required it. The lady from the bread counter in the supermarket was not shy to interrupt a colleague, just to explain to us that the reddish color of the bread comes from the beet root juice they would add. Lots of charming people, nature and culture. Great place indeed.