Levada walking on the Island of Madeira.
2nd Sep 07
We would think levada's and the walks along these narrow canals are unique to Madeira.
Levada walks are unique to Madeira, these water conduits largely follow a contour and some are individually over 20 Km long. Madeira has 2500 Km of these water courses, built at the cost of many lives, and most are now available to the Levada walker, so we had no excuse for not trying them. One contrast on the walks was the bridges we had to cross, as you can see. The levada's themselves are about 500 mm deep, 500 mm wide and have a path about 500 mm wide alongside them. 200 years ago the dimensions were all probably one cubit.
Our first walk, (Sunflower Walks No. 14) along the Canišal levada, we did alone but a second (Sunflower Walks No. 9) along the Levada Nova was with Jorgen and Brigitte from Good Fellow .
Another walk we did was not simply along one levada but during its 28 Km we took in three levadas. The Rabašal levadas walk starts at 1300m above sea level and we took a taxi to this point then we descended 250m to Levada do Risco. Its easy to see why this walk is so popular; the path is at least 2m wide alongside the levada all the way to the Risco waterfall, a 100m cascade down near vertical rocks into a huge pool, very spectacular when its wet. 500m back from the waterfall was a descent of over 100m down to the Levada das 25 Fontes. This levada was followed into the head of the Ribeira Grande and then through woods where surprisingly the path was below the levada which, therefore, could be used as a hand rail.
The walk on this middle levada ended at the 25 Fontes where 25 trickle like streams all entered one pool. This is the furthest the majority of walkers go, thank goodness. Up to that point we must have seen 75 walkers in maybe 6 guided parties. (I've edited all but David from this photo)
Back along the levada for 10 mins we found the descent to the lowest of the Rabašal levadas, the Levada da Rocha Vermelha. We descended steeply through woods down a zigzag path which, at each bend, gave spectacular views of the huge valley. This levada was followed past huge rocky cliffs with shear drops below us until nerves were shot, and also because we must reverse this section we didn't want to go too far. Pity we had to turn back as Barry wanted to ascend the "300 Steps" a horrendously vertiginous rock face. Well, that's what he said he wanted to do.
We had a late lunch and then retraced our steps to the point where we had joined the levada. We then continued beyond that point towards the tunnel where the "book" describes our need to be, sure footed and have a good head for heights. This section of the levada was quite easy right up until where we could see the tunnel just across the valley. The levada was cut into the hillside so drops below, whilst being only 50m, were very near vertical and the path was 50cm wide at best.
The tunnel had one wet bit where percolated water streamed down on our heads and soaked us, no cagoules you see. Otherwise it was a pleasant stroll in the dark for about 30 minutes. Once out into the sunshine the levada took on a new appearance. Tall Agapanthus lined the banks for the next 5km, at which point we left the levada and commenced our descended back to sea level. At the first bar we came to we stopped for a well earned beer, and would you believe it, we had just been served and we were discussing bus's and whether they ran on this route on Saturday afternoons. They did and the only one for the next 4 hours drove past. Still it was only another 6 km to Calheta and Ruby Tuesday. The day ended with us having walked well over 30 km.
We did other levada walks and also walked on Monte Ruivo, the islands tallest mountain.