It was September and we had recently returned home from a holiday in France in our campervan when we thought that we would like to book a holiday for November.
We looked at various holiday offers but could not imagine ourselves being happy to sit by a pool all day drinking from the free bar. Suddenly, we remembered friends talking about Ramblers Holidays. We looked on the Internet at Ramblers and searched the holidays on offer. What caught our eyes was Madeira – a three centre holiday, Porto Moniz on the north west coast, Ponto do Sol on the mid south coast and the capital Funchal. We had enjoyed many walking holidays staying in Funchal in the past but had only been able to get to the walks by public transport.
We booked online, retrieved all our information about Madeira from our bookshelves and started to get excited about this new venture for us. Since our retirement, all our holidays had been in the UK or Europe, in our own campervan or in rented vans in many countries around the world. Everywhere we had visited we had always taken every opportunity to walk and had also enjoyed many organised walking tours. This was to be our first time on a Ramblers Holiday.
The holiday was extremely well organised from start to finish. A representative from Ramblers met us at Heathrow Airport and our walk leader was waiting with a minibus at Funchal Airport to welcome us and take us to our first hotel.
We were 16 persons in total including the leader, some couples and both men and women on their own. The hotels were all very good – meals were well organised and always met everyone’s individual tastes. Our walk leader looked after our needs at all times, making sure we were comfortable and happy.
We went on organised walks every day except for the days of our arrival and departure and the day that we moved to Funchal. The start and the end of the walks were sometimes at the hotel, but usually we were transported by taxi, minibus or service bus. We never had to wait for the taxi or minibus transport as Mark, our leader organised it so well, as he did with the orders for the dinners every evening.
The walks took us alongside the levadas, through long dark tunnels, up and down hills and steep mountain paths and along the spectacular north coast. The walking was not easy and was sometimes challenging, but we always felt very safe with Mark looking after the group.
Some of the group were much younger than us and could travel faster. Mark made sure that they were not frustrated by organising the walks so that they could go ahead at their own pace and wait for the rest of the group at a strategic point.
The scenery was spectacular and very interesting as we were walking in both rural and urban areas. We went through a number of dark, sometimes wet tunnels where torches were required. One of the younger men usually took up the position of “Back Marker” with his large wind-up torch. I found it quite reassuring to hear him constantly winding it behind me when I could not see anything but the small light from my torch, as I personally do not like enclosed spaces.
The walks ranged from five to thirteen miles and we covered over one hundred miles in total on the organised days. The length of the walk did not illustrate the amount of effort that went in to that particular day. Whilst some of the walking was along the flat the majority was either steeply up or steeply down. We found that our strong walking boots and sticks were a must for us on this walking holiday, although some of the party wore shoes and one man wore walking sandals until he got a thorn in his toe.
We were extremely lucky with the weather, the sun shone every day with little wind and virtually no rain, just some drizzle towards the end of our holiday. The temperature ranged from 20-24 degrees centigrade, but it was still warmer than we would have preferred during the night.
In conclusion it was an excellent holiday, the leader was great, the company was good and we saw many of the different areas of Madeira. We were able to take part in all the organised days as well as walking on other days to sightsee. We are now looking forward to our next holiday with Ramblers which we have already booked for April 2014.