All that remained of our hiking holiday circuit was to return to Canical and then to continue onto the next seaside settlement 10km south, Machico, nestled between soaring headlands at the foot of a valley running high up into the verdant hills and right next to the airport.
Checking out with the bemused looking hotel staff unused to guests shouldering packs to head off on foot we climbed up out of the Marie Celeste of a resort past the exotic plantings along the road.
Soon back above Canical we could see the sheer looking hills we had to negotiate but couldn’t see how.
We decided to stop at the modern whale museum, another development that, although worthy, seemed to be as much white elephant as whale.
The vast space was devoid of visitors when we were there which was a pity as they told an interesting, if unappealing, story of the whaling industry that existed here from the mid 40’s right up until 1981. Sperm whales were the prey and there had been plenty of them butchered in these waters turned from turquoise to red.
It turned out that the little buildings we had seen on prominent headlands were not the coastguard stations we had imagined saving lives but whale lookout posts devoted to taking lives.
Still, nothing of the animal was wasted and a little earner on the side for the whalers was the carving of their bones into implements and souvenirs. One example on display was an ironic carving of a whaling boat complete with harpoonist.
Thankfully after the bloody whaling exhibits there was another large space devoted to general conservation of whales and their natural world. I liked the balls of sardines.
The museum sat at the end of the seafront promenade that led along the Ribeira do Natal beach to the start of the old path that would take us over the hills to Machico.
We watched as a couple descended to the little stone humpbacked bridge over the Natal stream and , encouraged by their reports of a “good path”, started up the trail.
The description we had read advised us to follow the electricity pylons up the steep slope but in fact the path was clear anyway.
It was good to see the prickly pear here was healthy after seeing so much devastation and disease in Spain.
Reaching the peak of a headland we had a fine view back over the Ponta de Sao Lourenco before plunging down and across a wide hidden valley complete with cultivated terraces still being worked.
Another climb and we were passing the final pylon and up to the Pico do Facho at 323m and our first view of Machico.
There was a road up to here to service the masts and offer a view and a snack van satisfied my tourist needs. I’m not sure what you do in Rome but when in Madeira you eat cake and drink wine.
We discovered the small path we wanted to follow down and a little dog followed us past a mass of geraniums to flights of metal steps that made our life a lot easier.
We climbed down the narrow ridge past the lights we had seen for days flashing a warning to the aircraft taking off and landing on the stilted runway that lay before us in the sun.
At a cliff edge we thankfully turned sharply off down a switchback path leading across a slope occasionally cultivated or grazed by goats.
As we descended into the town with its man made beach of yellow sand from Morocco we found a labyrinth of steps leading down towards the seafront.
After a celebration drink of a good hike well done we unfolded the map of Madeira to retrace our route and look at all the others.
There’s still a lot to do.