From Funchal to Deserta Grande: Day 17

Today we started out in Funchal and finished the evening watching the sunset at the Desertas Islands – not a bad way to spend the day….

We were out early this morning taking the Teleférico do Funchal (cable car) up to the hilltop town of Monte. The cable car ride offers beautiful views of Funchal and the sea. It’s hot, hot, hot inside the car but as you get closer to the top you can feel a breeze, and the views are worth withstanding the heat…

On the way up to Monte from the cable car, you can spot the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Monte (Our Lady of Monte), the Catholic Church dedicated to Madeira’s patron saint. The church is beautiful and today our visit in Monte began there. Prince Albert II wished to pay his last respects to those who tragically lost their lives when a large oak tree fell on the crowd during the annual celebration of the Feast of the Assumption on August 15th.

After visiting the church, Madeiran President Miguel Albuquerque invited our group to ride the famous Carros de Cesto (literally means ‘basket car’), which is a toboggan ride dating back to the early 19th century. The toboggans were used for carrying freight down the steep 3-mile (5k) hill from Monte to Funchal. It wasn’t long until a Monte resident realized that the same basket cars could be used to take people down the hill as well, and so was born the famous basket car ride of Madeira, which CNN has named one of the world’s coolest commutes. The ride was very exciting and it took 8 baskets to get our entire group down the hill!

Prince Albert I also took this ride when he visited Madeira in the and in this sense it was a great opportunity to follow in his footsteps. It is clear to see that the toboggans have not changed much since they were first put to use, and it really gave us the sense of stepping back in time.

While we were visiting Monte, a group of monk seal researchers and experts were convening aboard the Yersin. This group spent the morning sharing their research findings and conservation actions in an effort to open lines of communication and collaboration toward a united goal. When we returned to the Yersin, Prince Albert sat down with the group and asked that each person brief him on their specific work. You can read more about the group here.

And you can watch our lucky encounter with a Mediterranean monk seal here.

After the monk seal group finished their meeting, the Yersin departed the port and headed to Desertas Islands. It was a smooth and beautiful ride, arriving at Doca just in time to see a perfect triple layer of sea, rock, and mist.

After the mist cleared, we were very lucky to enjoy a beautiful sunset after a long day. Tonight we are all happy to be onboard, happy that Prince Albert is here to enjoy this mission and get involved in the many activities ongoing, and most of all – we are all ready for tomorrow’s explorations in the sea!

HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco watches the sunset at the Desertas Islands from the Yersin. Photo courtesy of Emilie Rousseau

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