Ferguson Strikes Again! (And Our Week On Madeira!)

Loyal readers may recall the start of our 2021 Iceland trip in which disgruntled airline mechanic Kenneth Ferguson threw a wrench in precisely the wrong place, instantly transforming our ten-day trip to nine.

So what's Ken been up to lately?

Funny you should ask!

It turns out that on May 1, 2022, Ken took care of a latch in the forward bathroom of United Airlines flight 4660 from Boise to Chicago—the first leg of our journey to Madeira and Portugal.

What can a broken bathroom latch do to a travel schedule? The answer is ... a lot!

Let me count the ways ...

  1. A three-hour delay in Boise led to ... 

  2. An unplanned night at Chicago's Best Western Franklin Park Hotel—two thumbs down!—and six hours of fitful sleep led to ...

  3. A rescheduled trans-Atlantic flight to Frankfurt ending with us stumbling through customs at 7:00 a.m. on May 3rd to begin a NEW seven-hour layover for the flight to Madeira. We could barely contain our excitement ... which led to ...

  4. A bonus prize? Yes please! A one hour wait on the tarmac before departing for Madeira which then led to ...

  5. Arriving on Madeira only to learn that the grace period for the super-discounted Alamo car rental had expired by ... wait for it ... one hour!
And THAT'S what a broken latch in a jet's bathroom in Boise can do to a travel schedule.

Surrendering to fatigue, we took the bus into Funchal—Madeira's capital—and to our hotel.



Planned for 2020, then 2021, and finally 2022 ... without further COVID ado or delays courtesy of certified bathroom-breaker Ken Ferguson ...

Grab a cup of whatever makes you happy and come along for the first installment of our Portuguese odyssey presented in the always comforting picture-n-caption format!

Let's start with Madeira—Portugal's tropical diamond of the Atlantic! Shall We?

All Madeirans wear these hats everyday!

OR ... it's the opening eve of the 2022 Madeira Flower Festival!


After 50 hours of travel, nothing says "Welcome to Madeira" more than a glass of the island's traditional drink, Poncha! Add 1/2 cup honey, 1 cup sugar cane brandy, 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, and a giant double scoop of We don't care anymore! Poncha's the perfect way to soothe frazzled nerves, as demonstrated here by Natalie at the oceanside rooftop bar of hotel Allegro Madeira!

Funchal, the capital of Madeira (an autonomous region of Portugal), bustles with 111,000 of the island's 250,000 total inhabitants and is a thoroughly modern city. More importantly, it's built on continuous mountain slopes!

Fun fact: Funchal is frequently used as a stop-over by transatlantic ships, en route from Europe to the Caribbean, as it is the northernmost Atlantic island that lies in the path of the Westerlies! And now you know! You're welcome!

An advantage in cities with steep hills are equally steep streets—if you're going downhill! Madeirans have long made the best of this by offering rides in carros de cesto (basket cars) to many willing tourists! Originating in 1850, this two-kilometer 10-minute ride is absolutely worth the 15 Euros per person, as can be seen by this family!  

The tobogganers—or Carreiros do Montes—work hard to keep the baskets on track along pavement worn glassy smooth from decades of toboggan traffic. Are there streets that intersect the route? Yes there are! And other Carreiros are staked out to stop traffic as needed. That's a nice touch! At the end of the ride, there's a smell of superheated eucalyptus wood in the air.

Fun fact: Through the use of digital photography and the magic of Wi-Fi, the Carreiros do Montes are ready to sell each toboggan load of tourists a printed photo of their ride taken just moments earlier! Only sucker tourists fall for that scam! 

Yep! We're the suckers!

Madeira is a mountain island—35 miles at its longest and 14 miles at its tallest—dominated by lush green slopes with unbelievable terracing created to cultivate crops on rugged terrain. Today, strategically built highways help getting around, but patience is still a virtue when driving. Oh! Did I mention that there are some SUPER narrow roads? There are! 

Helping the island's cultivation is a system of narrow water ways, or levadas, guiding water from high, wet regions to low, dry regions. Many of the nearly 1,900 miles of levadas are walkable, creating a hiker's paradise.

Paths along levadas are generally good, though they can get a bit narrow and have severe drop-offs that the vertigo-prone may find distressing. Here, on the Levada das 25 Fontes hike, making room for folks coming from the opposite direction was sometimes a challenge. It would have been WAY easier just to give passerbys a gentle nudge, but that seemed unsportsmanlike, so I refrained. 

The culmination of the Levada das 25 Fontes hike are pristine falls and serene crystalline pools ... like something out of Jurassic Park!

The reality is something more like Jurassic Zoo! Still, everyone is good natured about the communal clamoring to take photos as proof of their conquest!

Oddly enough, the alternate hike to the Risco falls was shorter, more spectacular, but far less traveled. The best part about both hikes was the conveniently located mountain café serving coffee, beer, wine, and snacks ... plus the equally convenient shuttle relieving us of the last very steep mile back up to the parking lot. Shuttles are good!

While the coasts of Madeira typically bask in sunshine, the top of the island can feature pea soup fog ... which we experienced during the drive back down. Lucky for us, another car led the way. Ah, the blissful advantages of tailgating!

Fun fact: Though located 300 miles off the coast of Morrocco, it snows on Madeira every winter ... at least a bit!

The topping on our Madeira island cake was the Pico Areeiro to Pico Ruivo hike. Here in the distance you can see the radar station at the top of Pico Areeiro—where the hike begins—at 5,964 feet above sea level. The hike ends about six miles later at the top of Pico Ruivo—Madeira's tallest peak—just 141 feet higher at 6,105 feet! So what's the big deal?

The big deal is the constant descending and climbing of steep stone steps and steel stairs—1,500 feet down and 1,500 back up—in a short distance. To add a bit of scale, note the group of hikers near the top, just left of center. This image characterizes the entire hike.

One of the more notable exposed sections of the hike! This is a favorite spot for people filming with GoPro cameras because they make it look MUCH MORE steep and narrow than it actually is!

Still, this isn't a good place to stumble.

Oh, and when you can't go up or down ... tunnels provide the path. Who thought creating this hike was a good idea? Sources say it was created 50 years ago by "the island's administration" to connect the two peaks. Sources also say "the island's administration" may have had a few too many cups of Poncha!

Success! After 2.5 billion stairs going up and down, we arrived at the top of Pico Ruivo, pictured here with fellow hiker Dan (from Brazil via England). While we're all smiles for the photo, the two additional miles to the waiting van seemed like a cruel topping to the day.

How do you soothe aching calves and knees after the Pico-to-Pico death march? By glamping at the cliffside Mango Yurt of course! (photo borrowed) BTW, located in the cluster of buildings in the distance is the 90° Bar - Grill - Restaurant where you go when cooking doesn't fit with your idea of glamping. Natalie thoroughly enjoyed an octopus served on a sizzling-hot iron platter. The octopus enjoyed it somewhat less. 

It's called "glamping" for a reason! "Roughing it" doesn't match life in the Mango Yurt, complete with full kitchen and an "eco" dry bathroom featuring black (charcoal activated?) toilet paper!

Above, Natalie contemplates about who to complain to about the view.

Along the road to Mango Yurt there's a Madeiran oddity to experience: A waterfall cascading onto the roadway. Can you believe people stop their car, let out a passenger with a camera, backup, and then drive through the waterfall again just to get a photo? Sheesh! Some people!

Above, Natalie captured the moment we got the Madeiran car wash after I drove through the waterfall once, l
et her out with my camera, backed-up, and then drove through the waterfall again to get the photo. And it was super fun!

No TourAlong about Madeira would be complete with homage to its food. Almost anything that lives in the surrounding sea ends up on a plate (sometimes served with banana!). Natalie's favorite was the octopus at the 90° Bar - Grill - Restaurant! And one night, at Porto Moniz, I ordered the plate of limpets as my appetizer. I had never had limpets. You know how when you go the seashore and walk by at low tide? You know ... that, "Wow! It smells like the ocean, but not in a good way!" That's how limpets smell and taste.

On the other hand, meat bits on a skewer never disappoint ... like the espetada shown above! Roasted in a wood-fueled open oven and then served by hanging the skewer from a ceiling hook. The bovine contributing to this juicy Madeiran treat gave their lives for an honorable cause.

The other note about food on Madeira
—and all of Portugal for that matter—is the cost. The espetada beef stack, along with a giant fresh green salad, morsels of fried cornbread, and wine and beer put us back $20. Oh! It also included bolo do caco—traditional bread served with a generous application of melted garlic butter. I could gladly live on bolo do caco ... forever.

These and other Maderian treats are featured on this page. BUT NOTE: The author was clearly suffering a seizure when, describing limpets, she wrote "They are absolutely delicious though." She meant to write "They are absolutely disgusting though and will turn your stomach in a boiling cauldron of sea sludge ... and not the good kind of sea sludge."

Our last night on the island was spent at the Vila Galé Santa Cruz Hotel where you can watch passenger jets come in for the sometimes bowel-movement inducing landings. I didn't share this video with Natalie before our trip ... just in case. NOTE: Be sure to catch the first 30 seconds of the video in which the cartoon sailor guy struts around the tiny cartoon world!

Fun fact: Part of the airport runway is essentially a highway overpass, but on this giant overpass, enormous air machines are the cars!


Like the Iceland trip, our time on Madeira—cut short by travel buzz kill aficionado Ken Ferguson—simply wasn't enough. Will we go back to Madeira? Yes ... but shhhh! ... I'm pretty sure Ken's listening.

Coming up? The Portugal mainland and trip photo albums in which I get to show all of the things that TourAlong posts can't possibly cover!

Take THAT, Ferguson!!!

Until then ... Ciao!



1. How many dinner entrée choices were offered on the flight to Frankfurt? 

The answer is ... one! Dinner was stir-fry. United Airlines' haute-cuisine version of stir-fry consists of soggy spaghetti topped by variably-cooked vegetables doused in teriyaki sauce. Umm... Yum?

2. How many breakfast choices were later offered on the same flight?

The answer is ... one! And if yogurt in a plastic cup doesn't suit your fancy, you're out of luck. My fancy was not suited and I was out of luck!

3. How do you bypass presenting COVID test results when entering Europe?

The answer is ... Have Ken Ferguson break a bathroom latch! Ken's diabolical dabbling in our Boise departure resulted in our new route bypassing Lisbonwhich cares about COVID test results—and flying directly into Madeira—which really doesn't care about COVID test results!

Suck it, Lisbon!

4. What is very-fine (150-, 180- and 220-grit) sandpaper used for in Madeira? 

This is an easy one ... The answer is ... it's sold on rolls and used as toilet paper!

5. What does Madeira distinctly lack? 

The answer is ... unlike the rest of Europe, there's almost no graffiti adorning every outdoor surface! Why is this? I don't know for sure, but in my mind they throw offenders off very tall sea cliffs with great fanfare! This may seem harsh, but after the first few take the plummet, the incentive for others to spray paint nonsense on walls quickly fades. 


WAIT! How about the photos?

I thought you'd never ask!

Join me on this review of Madeira - Portugal's Atlantic Island Jewel - in pictures!

Here's how:

1. Click this link to access the photo album.

2. Once at the album, click the right-facing arrow in the upper right corner to start the slideshow.

3. Use the slideshow controls in lower middle of the screen to navigate as the show plays (go back, go forward, pause).

It's as easy peasy as 1, 2, 3!

(Coming soon: Photos of Portugal's mainland!)


  1. This looks like an amazing trip!! What a beautiful and unique area ♥️ Thanks for sharing your travel adventures with these great photos and narrative. All the best, Marcia Darby

    1. Thanks Marcia! Madeira is quite a place! The photo album(s) from the trip (along with another blog post about the rest of Portugal) will be along in the next few weeks!

  2. Your pix are as usual AMAZING! And the commentary... li

  3. Whoah, that was an amazing read! I strongly believe Ken is secretly using you as protagonists in his play „The Odyssey — How many obstacles must one plant to have people regret what they have been dreaming about for the past two years of locked-up-at-home-and-people-seem-to-be-completely-losing-their-minds-pandemic? — A nine-dimensional theatre experience“ to finally get his breakthrough. Cut him some slack, he just needs a good story to tell… Also: I sure hope your butts have recovered after what I can only assume was a formative, possibly even life-changing experience? Please let me know, I’m worried.

    1. Wow! You have an active imagination! But who knows, you may be right! And I'm pretty sure our butts have recovered ... I don't want you to worry too much! :)

  4. A true wit you are Todd! Even your camera skills have improved - looks like you both enjoyed yourselves!

  5. Please tell me you got the recipe for poncha....No need for a recipe for Limpet and while I have had octopus, I don't think I can eat it with the suckers showing....weird, but true...same with calamari...I like it, but no suckers! --Andrea