In my last post, D1602 – Late Doors, I described my first day in Funchal, Madeira – our last port of call on the Island Hopping cruise. On our second day we were due to set sail at 2:30pm, leaving time for a second shore tour in the morning, and possibly a quick walk into the town afterwards.
Twice before on previous visits to Funchal, my friend Barbara and I had tried to go on a shore tour by Tukxi – a tuk-tuk taxi, but for various reasons had not managed this. We thought the ride in the tuk-tuk would be fun, and a good way to see places that the tours on the big coaches don’t get to. I had ridden in a tuk-tuk when in India, which was quite an experience in the crazy traffic there, but I figured that in the comparatively sedate Funchal it would be a calmer experience for Barbara. So for day two we had booked the tour once more, and kept our fingers crossed that it would be third time lucky.
When we approached the tour organiser that morning, she directed us to any of free tuk-tuks parked up before us. I had thought ahead of time that if there happened to be a lady driver this would be a good choice as it would be more comfortable for Barbara to be left with her if and when I went off with my camera – as I am prone to do! Spotting a lady driver we made for that tuk-tuk and what an inspired choice that proved to be.
Having introduced herself to be Andrea, she asked if there were any particular places we wanted to visit, and checked how much we had been to the island and knew. We told her we were happy for her to select the route, and we set off to initially explore Funchal, before heading out along the coast to the fishing town of Câmara de Lobos.
Andrea told us that while the tuk-tuk we were riding it had conventional engine, the company also had electric versions. The small engine coped fine with the steep hills Andrea selected, although a couple of times she amused us by imitating peddling furiously to assist it.
After passing and telling us all about some interesting buildings higher in the town than I had ventured to before, we returned to the centre, where preparations were well under way for the big flower festival that was being held that weekend. It was galling to be in town so close in time to the festival but miss the actual event, but for once I will resist my usual rant about the failings of the cruise company’s itinerary planning!
We stopped outside the fish, fruit & vegetable and flower market, and hearing that I had not been inside before, Andrea parked up so I could explore inside. I was so impressed how beautifully everything was displayed, especially the fruit, and thought perhaps our markets could learn a lot about presentation:
Returning to the tuk-tuk if found the ladies deep in conversation, so my hunch about a lady driver was correct. Andrea then drove us up part of Rua Santa Maria and pointed out the door which appealed to her:
She then took us up to a higher quiet part of town, where there was a delightful little garden with great views of the harbour, the kind of place only a local would know. Andrea helped Barbara down from the tuk-tuk, and took her arm to walk her to the viewpoint, as she did each time Barbara got out to walk. There, and also later in the tour, she used my camera to take pictures of us both, being careful to include the background.
We stopped at the natural swimming pools at Doca do Cavacas, where more pictures were taken, on our way to Câmara de Lobos. Here Andrea pointed out where Winston Churchill used to like to paint, before taking us for a short walk to show us the beautiful small fisherman’s chapel:
We were then left to have some free time, which we used buying some souvenirs and I took some pictures of the very colourful fishing boats pulled up on the beach. Barbara then returned to the tuk-tuk for another chat with Andrea while I scooted around with my camera. Following my ears I homed in on a group of local musicians and dancers performing on one of the quays:
The final stop was at the main church in the town, which Andrea invited me to compare to the chapel she had showed us earlier – I agreed with her that small is best!
We finally got back to the port around half an hour late, but quite unconcerned Andrea wanted to do more photographs, and sweet-talked a port official to take some pictures of the three of us together in the tuk-tuk:
It was definitely a case of third time extremely lucky – not only had we finally made the tour, we had done so with such an attentive, knowledgeable and fun driver/guide – the best tour guide I have ever had in all my travels. I very much hope I can arrange a different tour with Andrea as the driver and guide when I return to Funchal on a cruise early next year – but I mustn’t get ahead of myself – there are more cruises to enjoy this year first!
I did still have time to walk into town, primarily to see the preparations for the flower festival – a description and pictures of that, together with a wrap up will be my next and final post about this Island Hopping cruise.