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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

East Funchal- Cable Cars and Toboggan Rides, Madeira Island

Madeira is such a beautiful island and I am having a blast playing tourist in 67 degrees (in January!). I am slowly working on a summary/travel guide for Madeira, as this really isn't even a place most Americans have even heard of.  But we can't let the Europeans have all the fun, so I am excited to tell you all about this beautiful volcanic island.  Before I finish that guide, I want to share all of the fun activities and sites in more detail. 

Views of East Funchal
Our first full day in Madeira was spent discovering the beautiful area known as East Funchal.  East Funchal, located on the south central coastline of Madeira, is home to some of Madeiras most popular attractions.  While in East Funchal, we had a full itinerary and checked out the Mercado dos lavradores (a type of farmers market), the Jardins Botanicos da Madeira (Botanical Garden), the Portaleza de Santiago (fort), had a great lunch at Gaviao Novo (top rated seafood restaurant), and ended the day with a trip to Monte to ride the Carros de Cesto (Toboggans in the sun), and Teleferico do Funchal (the cable car).  It was a busy day filled with beautiful sights.  

Lets start with the town of Monte.  Monte is a section of East Funchal home to several of Madeiras largest tourist attractions:  The Botanical Garden (Botanicos da Madeira), the cable cars (Teleferico do Funchal) and the Toboggan rides.  Today we are going to talk about the Cable Cars and the Toboggan Rides. 

"Carros de Cesto" 
Toboggans in the sun
Cost:  15 euro a person
Duration:  10 minutes
Location:  Monte to Livramento
Notes:  The ride may be expensive, but it is a unique experience.  The ride will end at a gift shop where you have the option to purchase a photo from your ride. 

No Car? No Problem!  Book a tour that includes pickup at your hotel. 

Riding the toboggans down the roads of Madeira, is probably one of the most unique things you can do on this island. Rated as "one of the world's 7 coolest commutes" by CNN, you have to ignore the price and take a seat in the sled. 

Toboggan Rides 
"Ernest Hemmingway described it as the 'most exhilarating experience' of his life- whether he was attempting a little sarcasm, we'll never know, but nonetheless the toboggan ride down the Livramento is a must-have experience.  Toboggans were once the only way goods could be carried across Madeiras steep and roadless landscapes and the Monte "carros de cesto" are a relic of those days.  The toboggans are made of Camacha wicker with padded seats for two people.  The drivers wear straw boater hats, white shirts, white trousers, and shoes with rubber soles which help them brake the toboggans plunge down the asphalt.  Ten minutes of slithering for 30 euros (15 each), may seem as steep as the slope you are descending, but its a unique experience, though possible not as exhilarating as Papa described it".  -- Lonely Planet Madeira Pocket Guide 

Wicker cart and men controlling the carts
To get started, the men pull the ropes in the front of the sled to gain speed.  Once you start cruising, they stand on the back of the sled, using special rubber shoes to slow down the sled and steer. 
My mom and I pre-ride
While I agree that the price is steep, so is the asphalt road you sled down on a wicker basket with two men guiding you down the steep slopes.  Its that kind of activity where you have to say yep, I am going to pay far more than I want, but what a unique and fun experience.  15 euros and ten minutes is well worth it to sail down Madeiran streets in a wicker cart.  A wicker sled sliding down steep asphalt roads on a sunny day in beautiful Madeira.  As long as you don't mind some speed and men breathing down your neck as you slide down the streets, add this to your list. 

My aunts riding the toboggans behind us
A glimpse of the narrow roads we cruised down
 After sledding down on your toboggan, meet your driver and cruise back up to the top.  At the top in Monte, you can catch a cable car all the way down to your car parked at the waterfront. 

Teleferico do Funchal
Cost:  10 euros one way.  15 euros round trip
Time:  Open 9am to 5:45 pm.
Location:  Runs from the seafront up to Monte
Duration:  20 minute ride 
Notes:  A cable car can connect you from this car to the gardens. 
Each car can fit up to 7 people. 

Madeira Cable Car
"Roosting high above Funchal, this aristocratic villa quarter was once the stomping ground of wealthy families who preferred summer's lower temperatures 500 m and up.  Today, its one of Madeira's must sees, with a cluster of sights interspersed with outlandish greenery and infused with refreshing cool and exotically performed air.  Getting here is also part of the fun with the cable car from the Zona Velha often taking visitors above the low clouds that wreathe Madeira's mountain sides". --Lonely Planet Madeira Pocket Guide

Waiting at the cable car loading area
There are a couple of ways to complete this beautiful Madeiran excursion.  You can ride the cable car up and then back down.  You can ride the cable car to Monte, and catch another (separate) cable car over to the Botanical Gardens, eventually repeating your route back.  Or, you can do what we did.  We used a cab/tour service to drive us up to the gardens, over to the toboggans, rode the toboggans down, and then a ride back up to the top to catch a cable car down.  A little complicated at first, but this was a great way to squeeze in the garden, the cable car, and the toboggan in one amazing day. Whatever way you decide to do this excursion, make sure you do it.  The views from the cable car back to the seafront are breathtaking.  Soaring high above the red roofs with amazing views of the seafront and villages below. 
Loading into the cable car 
Tickets to ride the cable car (one way)
Loading the cable cars
Ride down the cable cars
At the seafront lower station, where we ended our ride
Watching the cable cars head back up to Monte
Monte is a beautiful section of East Funchal.  If you want to do the iconic Madeira activities, add these two on your list.  Prepare to be surrounded by tourists as you visit some of the islands biggest attractions.  Use a GPS with European maps and coordinates to get to each destination.  The city bus will get you around the island, but we had a rental car to get us around.  A short trip from the hotel district of Funchal, this is a great way to spend a day on the island. 

GPS Coordinates
Monte Cable Car- top (from center city) GPS = N 32°40′31.7″, W 16°54′01.3″ 
Jardim Tropical Monte Palace – Entrance GPS = N 32°40′31.8″, W 16°54′02.1″ 
 Toboggan Ride – Start at Monte Church GPS = N 32°40'31.53", W 16°54'09.35" 
Toboggan Ride – End in Livramento GPS = N 32°39'51.1", W 16°54'16.9" 
Jardim Botanico Cable Car – Top (from Jardim Botanico) GPS = N 32°40'34.4", W 16°53'57.2″ Jardim Botanico Cable Car – Bottom GPS = N 32°39′49.4″, W 16°53′44.9″

For information regarding bus routes and transportation without a car Click here
Check back in Friday for more fun on East Funchal.  Signing off!

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