A Madeira story: The day we had to stand up early in the morning

This post is a bit different from the others as it has absolutely no information about moving to Madeira. But it tells one of the stories that made us move to Madeira and we also want to share that.

On our first vacation (and any other vacation to follow) in Madeira we stayed at a guesthouse called Madeira Native Motion. The owner, who would become our neighbor three years later, picked us up at the airport. At her house in Fajã da Ovelha, an hour’s drive from the airport, she introduced us to everybody and gave us all the information we needed about the island. We wanted to see everything and didn’t have a car – these are usually two things that don’t go well together in Madeira. So she suggested that her partner at that time could take us to São Vicente the next morning. He had to go there on business, but quite early in the morning. We would be able to visit the volcanic caves, take a taxi to Porto Moniz and from there take the bus back to Fajã da Ovelha. That sounded great so we agreed. But of course things were a little more complicated. In fact so complicated, that telling the whole story of that one day would take too long for this post, so I am going to focus only on the first part.

Our host explained where to find the caves, that we shouldn’t pay more than 15 euros for the taxi, that there is only one bus driving back home, who to ask for help in case we couldn’t find the bus and so on. All the different parts of this excursion seemed equally important and difficult. Little did we know that while most things in Madeira seem complicated at first, a quick chat with locals is usually enough to solve all sorts of problems. Anyway, she explained and explained and couldn’t emphasize what she thought was the most important aspect: we had to get up early! Her partner would be leaving early in the morning, he had to be in Sao Vicente on time and couldn’t wait for us. It was a long drive, about an hour. Okay, we promised.

The next morning we got up and had breakfast. We were a group of Austrians so we got up very early. You know, if you tell an Austrian to get up early in the morning, the Austrian will understand something like “at 7 o’clock we have to be ready on our skis on top of the mountain”. So we were ready and eagerly awaited the start of this adventurous day. It turned out that we were also the only Austrians in the entire western part of the island. The only other awake souls were a couple of cows that lived their best lives. We sat in the garden and waited, around 10 o’clock we observed the first sign of life from our hosts. Everything was quickly packed and off we went.

After a two-minute drive, he stopped at what we would later learn was the best bakery in Madeira, Panoeste. He wanted a coffee and asked us if we would like one too. I remember thinking that this must be a long drive ahead of us if he has to have a coffee while driving. We declined because we just had one at home and didn’t like having coffee in a car. He said okay, got out of the car, ordered a coffee and drank it in the bakery. What? Why are we sitting in the car while he’s having a coffee inside? Wasn’t he in a hurry to get to this place on the north coast? We felt stupid and rude to sit in the car, but we were also too shy to get out of the car so we kept feeling stupid and waited for him to return. A few minutes later he came back to the car and we continued our adventure. The next time a local asked us if we wanted a coffee, we would say “sim”.

We were stunned by the views of the island. Everything was so perfect and so beautiful, but hey I’m sure you know all of this. Our host seemed to love it too, every time we left a tunnel and entered a roundabout overlooking the ocean, he smiled and said something along the lines of “what a perfect life”. For a moment you might think he was bluffing, selling the place to tourists, but after a while with him you would know that this was definitely not the case. He loved his island.

It seemed like we were getting to this place in the north pretty quickly. I feel like I was more stressed that he was on time for his appointment than he was. Back then, I wished I was as relaxed as the locals on this island. One moment he said “Oh, let’s see if I can make it on time” and the next he stopped the car in the middle of a tunnel and opened the window to speak to his friend, who was coming from the opposite direction. “How are the waves? These are my friends from Austria. “He’s the best surfer we know and he actually became our friend very quickly. A few minutes later we completed the first part of our excursion and arrived at the volcanic caves.

Madeira volcanic caves

That was one of the days when I noticed the locals were so relaxed and envied them. I’ve never been particularly stressed out, but I always had the feeling that life in Austria was stressful. Everyone has to go to a good school to be able to get the perfect job, to get too big a loan on too big a house, only to have to work until the end of the days to pay it back. That’s perfectly alright if you like that kind of life. And I’m not trying to say that people on the island live a completely stress-free life, but they live it differently than many people on the continent.

Well, the story of our first vacation on Madeira goes on and when it ended, when we decided to definitely come back next year, we agreed that we needed a pre-vacation vacation before arriving on the island. Just to relax and unwind a bit and not waste the first few days on Madeira getting away from the stress we are used to at home. Soon we began asking ourselves why we were living the life we lived then, stress can also be less and if Madeira teaches you something, it’s precisely that. Peace out, Hana.


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