How to hurtle down a hill in Madeira in a glorified wicker basket
Ernest Hemingway called the carro de cesto the most exhilarating ride of his life. You will too.
There are any number of ways to get between the pretty hilltop town of Monte in Madiera and the city of Funchal below.
You could catch a bus or hail a taxi. Or take in the views from the Funchal Cable car.
But the maddest and most heart-stopping way has to be riding in a Monte sledge.
Monte sledges had been carrying people down the steep hill to Funchal since the 1850s.
Known locally as carro de cesto, the sledges are made of handcrafted wicker baskets, mounted on two wooden runners that are greased with tallow to make them go faster.
Propulsion is provided by gravity and two sledge drivers called carreiros.
They push and guide the taboggan down the narrow streets, reaching speeds of up to 30 kph as you hurtle your way towards the sea.
The carreiros wear distinctive straw boater hats and rubber soled shoes, only one of which is essential to your safety. Spotters are employed at junctions to stop cars from inadvertently crossing into your path.
The two-kilometre run only takes a matter of minutes, but the views across the bay and around the tight corners are, quite literally, breathtaking.
Ernest Hemingway said that the carro de cesto was the most exhilarating ride of his life.
That was back in 1959, but even in today’s fast-paced world of cranked-up theme park rides, jet skis and bungee jumping, it’s hard to disagree.
Who knew that hurtling down a hill in a 19th century high-velocity wicker basket would have such an enduring appeal?
- Visit the official Carreiros do Monte website
Watch Richard Ayaode ride a carro de cesto in Travel Man
How to ride a carro de cesto in Madeira
Where: Caminho do Monte nº4, 9050-084, Monte, Funchal, Madeira
Hours: Monday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
How much: €25 for one person, €30 for two, €45 for three.
NB: Carreiros do Monte is currently closed due to Covid. It will open to the public again on August 10, 2021.
For more information about other exciting things to do in Madeira – visit the Madeira All Year website
Main image: Carreiros guiding a wicker sledge down towards Funchal (© Greg Snell/Madeira)