Well, it’s been a good few weeks since the last time I wrote a post, but I’ve been on a wonderful holiday to the beautiful sub-tropical paradise island of Madeira, also known as the “Garden of the Atlantic”, and for good reason.
Some way off the west coast of Portugal, lined with the top of Africa, this volcanic archipelago in the Atlantic ocean is well-known for its wine and year-round pleasant climate. It owes both to the trade winds and the Gulf stream, which stop the island getting too hot in the summer and keeps it well above freezing in winter. There is plentiful rain as the moisture laden winds – after travelling for thousands of unbroken miles – suddenly encounter a wall of rock rising out of the ocean to almost 2000m high in the island interior. Erosion throughout the long ages has created an incredible landscape of high plateaus, deep ravines and hidden valleys with flat land being a premium.
The sub-tropical conditions with regular rain and a very fertile soil mean the island is gorgeously lush. The main crop used to be sugar but is now bananas and grapes. Maderia has more geography than it knows what to do with and the island is characterised by dizzying roads and impossible terracing. The population is mainly confined to the coastal regions as the interior is largely inaccessible and simply too vertiginous to do anything useful with.
Of course, I very much enjoyed the flora of the island. At this time of year, the road banks are red with aloes in flower. Date palms are in various stages of flower and fruit. Large stands of Strelizia (my favourite plant) are dotted everywhere and are also in flower. In the spring, the island turns blue with the sheer abundance of agapanthus that’s found in the mountains, in the forests, along side the roads, pretty much anywhere.