You normally associate toboggans with snowy winter climes, not tropical islands. But people have been tobogganing down the hills of Madeira since 1850 or so.
These toboggans originally transported Madeirans from the uphill town of Monte down to seaside Funchal. But today these death machines exist solely to scare the hell out of tourists who pay good money to speed down the island’s narrow, winding streets. These two-seat wicker sleds slide downhill on wooden runners, steered by two “drivers” who dress in traditional white cotton shirts and pants and straw hats. Believe it or not, they use their rubber-soled boots as brakes (I can’t imagine that a pair of their shoes lasts more than a week or two.)
The hair-raising downhill trip takes about 10 minutes and can reach a top speed of about 48 kilometers per hour.
When we left on our ’round the world trip two years ago I wrote a blog item that listed some of the things I wanted to experience before I get hit by a truck.
Now that we’ve flown downhill on one of Madeira’s toboggans, I can check one of those goals off my list.
We did a video of our toboggan ride, but the file is too large to download, so you’ll need to make do with a YouTube video of someone else’s ride.
But here’s a selfie of us and our two “drivers.” Note that the driver on the left is so blasé about flying down the hill at 48 mph that he’s actually posing and smiling for the camera.