Madeira Camping Expedition: Funchal to Pico Alto

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This is the article number 1 of this series

I left work on a Friday at 6:00 pm, went home to get my backpack and Emanuel, my co-worker, gave me a ride to the bus stop. It took almost 3 hours from Coimbra to Lisbon. I stayed at my friend Thiago’s house, who lives in Lisbon, woke up at 4:40, picked up my suitcase, ordered an Uber and went straight to the airport. My flight from Lisbon to Madeira was at 7:20 on the following Saturday, with a slight delay of 25 minutes.

The time for the flight has arrived.

It was a smooth flight to the island, without turbulence, very calm, I even slept a little. When leaving the airport, I took the aerobus right in front and paid 5 euros to take me to the center of Funchal. One thing I noticed was the weather, very good, tropical weather, and the locals say it’s like that almost all year round.

When you take the bus, you have the option of stopping at Mercado dos Lavradores or at the Marina further down. I stayed at the market and went to eat something, in this case, a pizza. I was hungry. I ate and went to the Pingo Doce market, a very famous chain of markets here in Portugal. I went there to buy my supplies to start the trail.

I chose non-perishable foods, such as rice, canned sausage, bread and sardines. When you camp, you don’t have the best meal in the world, in fact we do what’s best with what we have on hand, the intention there was to have as much food as possible without carrying too much weight. Rice was ideal for this, sardines too. Sardine oil is very nutritious and gives strength and satiety for a long time, which is very interesting on the trail.

Leaving there I also saw a cable car and it took me to the starting point of the trail. I paid €12.50 for the ticket and went up to Monte, a village just above Funchal, and where my friend Zé was born, a Portuguese person I met on the metro in Lisbon.

My journey began there, I confess it was a difficult stage. Start the trail in Monte, a very steep place and the climb on foot is very difficult. Very tiring from the start, but that’s part of it, that’s how it starts. I felt extreme tiredness in my legs, and I had prepared myself in the gym, running and lifting weights, but there it was something completely different. Climbing a mountain with around 20 kilos on your back is a serious endurance test. There I realized that I was carrying a lot of weight, and that’s a lesson for the next expedition. Always carry as little weight as possible. A lightweight camping kit will help you succeed in your camping journey.

Main Mistakes When Assembling a Camping Pack

One of the main mistakes when putting together a camping kit is being overweight. A kit that is too heavy will hinder your development on the trails, especially if you are going to ride on routes with uneven terrain that is difficult to walk on. The heavier the equipment, the more fatal it will be when you slip or fall. Keep in mind that you must be light enough to walk without feeling breathless or extremely fatigued, if this happens, this means that your backpack is overweight and you need to replace your equipment with lighter ones. After this experience, I consider that a full backpack, between 14kg and 18kg, is ideal for camping trips of up to 3 days, making it possible to take a sleeping bag, tent, food, clothing, water and some extra items. In short, the main mistakes when putting together a camping pack are:

  • Very heavy backpack: a very heavy backpack ends up hindering the development of your trail, you become very tired, increasing the risk of accidents and not enjoying the experience. An ideal size for your backpack is up to 20% of your body weight for heavy camping (more than 3 nights). For lighter camping (2 nights camping), between 15% and 20% is ideal.
  • Bring lots of clothes (take only what you need): generally you will wear 1 set of clothes per day, that is, 1 t-shirt, 1 pair of pants or shorts, 1 sock or anything else you want.
  • One piece of warm clothing is enough: if you are going camping in the summer, you will generally only wear warm clothing at night, so just one is necessary, as they take up a lot of space and are heavy.
  • Take a lot of non-functional food: plan your diet, take food that gives energy, with carbohydrates and minerals. If you’re not going to cook, then you need ready-made foods that don’t spoil quickly. Canned goods and bread are a great option.
  • Too heavy tent: your tent is one of the main items, and it needs to be as light as possible and take up less space too.
  • Just take one shoe, and it goes on your feet.

Climbing to Pico Alto

As I went up, the view became more and more beautiful. I passed the Pico Alto camping site. I thought about camping there, but a group of local Portuguese women said that I could still walk a little further and still have the sun, at that time of year, between the end of September and the beginning of October, the sun sets around 7:40 pm.

I entered the Funchal Ecological Park area. I noticed that on the right side of the trail, further down, there was a support house and a camping area, one for spending the weekend, called Casa Parque Ecológico do Funchal.

My first night on Madeira

The place I camped was just above, up a hill amidst the trees. I looked for a place among the trees, next to a high bank, where I could protect myself from the wind. From up there I could see all of Funchal. It’s beautiful at night and at sunset. I immediately took the drone to take some videos and photos from up there, the view was incredibly beautiful.

My first night sleeping on Madeira Island was not very cold, I also had a sleeping bag, very good and can withstand temperatures down to -1 degrees, which is a lot. There at night the temperature approached 7 degrees. I was prepared, I had food and clothing. So I went to prepare some rice with carrots and sardines, but for that I found some wood while there was sunlight and put it next to the tent. When building the fire, I was aware of cleaning the area around the fire so it wouldn’t spread if there was a strong wind. I also had a small metal barrier with me to block the wind against the fire, a very useful piece of equipment that helps a lot to maintain the fire and the temperature.

I made my rice with sardines and carrots, it was delicious. I made a little more rice, so I would have leftovers for the next day. I ate and went to sleep, I was a little tired from starting the expedition, but at the same time I was very excited for what was to come. It was just the beginning.

Spending of the day

  • Aerobus ticket to Funchal = €5.00
  • Coffee with custard tart at the airport = €6.50
  • Market in Funchal = €27.00
  • Cable car = €12.50
  • Lighter = 5.00
  • Lisbon airport food = €11.15
  • Pizza Funchal with drink = €13.50

Total: €80.65

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