More Watery Thoughts
is Portuguese for "that which has been carried" -
in this case: water.
is the element that springs to mind when you think
about what makes
Madeira different from other islands.
the more southerly Canaries group, which suffers from
a chronic shortage of water, Madeira gurgles, streams,
gushes and flows wherever you look. If you need an
illustration, take the 25 Fountains Walk from Rabaçal
to the waterfall called the Risco; let nature hose
down your car on that unbelievable north coast road,
where water seeps from unseen clefts in the rock and
cascades off the cliff; or, after winter rains, watch
in awe as mountain waters roar into the sea at Ribeira
Brava, literally "Wild Ravine".
German scientist once calculated that the island was
sitting on a natural cistern holding 8 billion
cubic metres of water – enough to supply the needs
of millions for years.
problem, instantly recognised by the Portuguese settlers
in the early 15th century, was, and still is, how
to maintain a constant supply from the mountains and
the wetter north to the drier south of the island.
The vines and sugarcane that thrive in sunshine and
volcanic soil needed a decent squirt every so often.
The more recently introduced banana groves require
gallons of water regularly.
devisors and builders of the original levada system
could not have known that centuries later, a strange
breed of humans called tourists, dressed in Reeboks
and Nikons, would marvel at their labours and trek
for pleasure along the hundreds of miles of irrigation
channels taking pictures as they went. The footpaths
skirting the system were there for one simple purpose:
maintenance. A clogged channel could mean the loss
of a whole year’s crop.
the 20th century visitor, a levada walk is one way
to get back to nature, to see Madeira’s beauty from
a new breathtaking angle. But take care not to let
the views carry you away – forever. A slippery moss-covered
path by a precipice is no place for the fainthearted.
While many levada walks are on the flat or on gentle
gradients, others are positively hair-raising and
only to be attempted by experienced hikers properly
clothed, booted and equipped.
There are a limited number of guidebooks which plot
the walkable part of the levada system, grade the
walks according to the level of difficulty and advise
on transport to and from the start and end of an outing.
, which stocks one of the best: Landscapes of Madeira,
by J & S Underwood.
Winding Paths on an Enchanting Island
Article: A closer look at the origins and position
of the Levadas today. [More
Watery Thoughts - Article:
How much water is there in the Levadas?
How far do the waterways stretch? What else do we
need to know about Levada Walking? [More
- A dedicated walking host for your holiday
- Visit this STUNNING website for a
magical "carpet- ride view" of Levada
walking on Madeira. This site has hundreds of photographs
of the Levadas sent to them by their guests! [More
Digranes Photo Collection
- Jon has visited Madeira multiple times. His awesome
collection of photographs captures essentially the
beauty and spirit of Levada walking. [More
on Levada Walking
- Visit Madeira Shopping to find books and
picture CD-ROM's on Madeira Levada walking. Other
books and items are also available for purchase. [More