Madeira is a volcanic island off the coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean. It is known for its steep roads and its woven basket chairs. When the two come together, you get one must-do experience. The biggest thrill ride of all is to ride down a steep street in a wicker basket loveseat on runners, and you can only do it here in Madeira.
We watched as others took their seats in the basket chair sleds. Two fit young men took the ropes for steering and braking, and they slid off around the first bend. It looked easy enough. Following in their wake, we settled in and the men pushed off. We had only gone around the first bend when the men pulled us to a halt and began to oil the runners. The road ahead was extremely steep and we gathered quite a pace as the men hopped on the back for the ride “ so much for being our brakes! The road was lined with high walls with ornate gateways, and more than once we brushed dangerously close to them. We went around corners, swerved around parked cars and even shot over road intersections. Did anyone know we were coming to stop the traffic, or were we just lucky? On and on we rode, over bumps and metal grids. From time to time we got splendid views of the world rushing by as we seemed hell-bent on driving straight into the harbor below. I was laughing all the way, but I think it was hysteria. The ride went for 2km, just over a mile, and seemed to last a lifetime but eventually we were pulled to a halt near an open-backed truck full of basket chairs sleds. Officially we were to catch the local bus back up to the top to pick up our more normal mode of transport, but our guides told us to hop on and we got a ride all the way back up the mountain in a basket on the back of the truck which was slightly less scary. Put this on your list of things to do before you die “ it may the very last thing you do!
By Gillian Birch
Gillian | June 11, 2009 | Category: Getaways