“The sea hates a coward.” – Eugene O’Neill

The tunnel curves and spits me out onto the western cape of Madeira. The Ponta Do Pargo lighthouse appears too short for any useful purpose. But nearing the edge, vertigo hits and the matter is clarified. The cliff drops an unsuspected 290 metres, cleaving down into the spectacular Atlantic.

Flamed by the mid-afternoon sun, the ocean is burnished blue and textured silver. Standing this high up, the crashing waves are barely audible, only as a soft rush. They’ll keep their never-ending war against the rocks, churning delicate laceworks of white foam that lance up on occasion.

There’s an epic quality to this island’s edge. The cliff holds a hard line heading northeast toward Porto Moniz and snakes southeast down to São Martinho. On these mountaintops, the wind – though clean and empowering – is charged with the threat of flicking me off into mid-air. It flows around me, hungrily flapping the tails of my cropped trench wrapped tight around me. The force is staggering.

Unnerved, I lick my lips and taste salt – a flavour of eternity and violence.