I saw a magazine feature about Madeira the other day and was reminded of one of the unusual tourist attractions in this Portuguese island in the Atlantic.
It’s a toboggan ride, but not as we know it. Instead of travelling on snow, the sledges take a route of about a mile and a quarter down smooth, narrow winding roads from the village of Monte perched up in the hills to the capital, Funchal. The custom goes back to 1850 when the villagers needed a speedy means of transport.
Each two-seater wicker sledge glides on wooden runners, pushed and steered by two men traditionally dressed in white cotton clothes and straw hats.
Readers, I have experienced this tradition and if you think some theme park rides are scary, try hurtling downhill at 30 mph in a glorified beer-crate with a couple of gondoliers using only their rubber-soled boots as brakes.
by Andy Moreton
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