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One day before A and F’s wedding and after most of the guests had arrived from mainland Europe the night before, A’s parents arranged a day trip for all the guests to see the island. A tour bus came by the hotel in Funchal, the main port and city, to pick up all the visiting wedding guests – the bride and groom came along with us – so it became a party bus.

Some of the pictures may appear blurry or patchy. That is because many were taken in the bus on the move through glass that might be reflecting some interior lights.

Our first destination was Pico de Arieiro which is the third highest peak on the island  (1818 m, 5965 ft).

The road was winding and narrow, and the bus had to skirt right against the barrier when there is a vehicle on the other side. As we gained elevation, there were no trees to block our view. The passing scenery was great as was the illusion that we were about to fall off or fly off.

We think Madeira and the Spanish Canary islands are to Europeans like the Hawaiian islands are to mainland Americans. However, Madeira is much closer than Hawaii to the mainland, and it is in fact closer to the African continent than to Portugal (same latitude as Casablanca I was told).

At the top of Pico de Arieiro, there is an observatory, a gift shop and a small exhibit about local birds.

There is a path that leads northwards towards Pico Ruivo (1861m, 6106 ft), which is I think the highest peak in the island.  That path has a daily average of 1000 tourists trekking on it, according to Wikipedia. It looked fairly easy – we could have done it if we had more time.

On the day, the weather was fine with partial cloud coverage of the surrounding peaks.  Supposedly on a clear day, one can see both sides of the island as well as the neighboring island of Porto Santos; but on a cloudy day, the place can be completely covered by mists with zero visibility.

Madeira reminded me specifically of the big island of Hawaii. Both are volcanic in origin and each has an observatory at the top of the mountain. The difference is that Mauna Kea in Hawaii was  4,207 m (13,803 ft) and the air was so thin that it was hard to breathe at the top.

After the bus came down from Pico de Arieiro,we went through Ribeiro Frio (“cold river”), an area that is designated a UNESCO world heritage nature site due to the prehistoric wild Laurisilva forest. A trout farm is located here, however we did not stop as there were too many people.

After many more hairpin turns, ascents and descents, the bus took us north towards the shore. We passed the town of Faial.

The tour continues with our next post.

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