The caves of São Vicente

São Vicente is another town — or village, we are not quite sure — in the Northern part of Madeira. The main attraction there is the caves in the mountain — the caves are actually lava tubes from the volcanic eruptions that once created the island. A visitors centre has been set up now — with the compulsory souvenir shop that sells a random collection of pricey stuf: all from poncha sticks, to Madeira wine, to images of volcanoes and handbags. The entry to the cave requires tickets, about €8 a piece, which also include (in our case involuntarily) a guided tour of the caves and what they call the Volcanic Centre.

The caves are worth a visit (wear sensible shoes and long sleeves). A path snakes its way through old lava tubes, with a view to several other connecting tubes. Lights have been put up along the way as well, which is really helpful so you can focus on looking around instead of constantly looking for the path and the walls.

The downside of the guided tour, however, is the guide. It is repetitive, and the group has to be gathered and information disseminated in several languages. As such, you end up standing there waiting for a language that you understand, while you would probably be more interested in examining the water streams in the caves, especially when the guide turns out to say the same thing she said at the previous stop.

Shortly told: we got more guided tour than we bargained for! After the actual walk through the caves, we are shepherded into the “Volcanic Centre”. This does not mean the centre of the actual volcano (which would have been wicked), but we are herded into a room where we can watch a film about volcano eruptions and then look at a volcano fact exhibition.

Having previously been on an island during a volcano eruption (Iceland) the film doesn’t show us a lot of new stuff. I can, however, imagine it would be quite cool as a school science trip. The result is that we decide to discreetly sneak out. Only that we can’t. They have actually locked us in! There will be no leaving the museum and centre until all the guided tour is over, thank you.

It probably wouldn’t be an issue if we had actually known about the guided tour in advance, but we didn’t: we just bought tickets to enter the caves and as such got more than bargained for.

Welcome to school!

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