Monte Sledges Madeira

MonteWhen you visit Madeira, those Portuguese islands off Africa in the Atlantic Ocean, there is an unusual form of transport that you must try.

Called a Monte, it is a gravity-powered wicker toboggan that is controlled by two assistants.

When these sledges first appeared in 1850, when they were the fastest way to travel between the Monte and the Madeira main capital. As time passed this traditional trip became an overwhelming and breath taking tourist attraction.

It is a really unusual form of transportation for which two “carreiros” drive the cars on the steep downhill slopes between Monte and Livramento, using their shoes as brakes to stop this unique form of transportation.

The Sledge drivers dress in their traditional clothing that consists of white cotton clothes and a hat made of straw, also they use rubber soled boots, so that they are able stop the sledge when necessary.

However, when you see how much sliding and breaking these “carreiros” actually do, it begs the question as to how many pairs of shoes they must go through for their job.

The course has a length of 2km and takes a total of 10 minutes to reach Funchal. The Monte Sledge can reach speeds up to 48km/hour and the Monte Sledges will give an adventurous, but safe journey down the steep slope.

The route is down very narrow streets and, apart from keeping the Monte on the road, the “carreiros” must also avoid approaching traffic.

The Monte Sledges are located at the bottom of the stairs that lead to the Nossa Senhora do Monte Church, otherwise known as the church of Our Lady of Monte. If going to Funchal by the Monte Sledge from the Monte, then you could use the Madeira Cable Car.

This thrilling and highly enjoyable trip downhill has become almost a must to all those who visit the island. It is certainly a good way to get to know firsthand a traditional islander means of transportation.  The Monte is unusual to look at consisting of a wicker basket that is attached to wooden skates, as a kind of cushioned wicker sleigh.

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