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Things to do : Walking : Levada Walking Last Updated: Jun 28, 2008 - 12:29:23 AM

Levadas: Dreamy Winding Paths on an Enchanting Island
By Jorge Barbosa
Jun 5, 2008 - 10:27:55 PM

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Part of the network, which today totals hundreds of miles, was said to have been in place before any kind of road system existed. After all, who needed a road when there were no decent cars to drive? But with or without a faucet, you still needed water for those first vines from Crete and sugarcane from Sicily.

One of the oldest professions here (no, not that) is the levadeiro, the man responsible for opening and closing sluice-gates and general upkeep of the irrigation system. To this day, Madeiraĺs market-gardeners pay for their water not by volume but by flow-hour, called a pena.

Happily for nature-lovers, footpaths run alongside many of these water courses. New arrivals can start with easier walks: the 45-minutes from Ribeiro Frio to the breathtaking belvedere at Balc§es or the 2-hour trek to Funchal along the levada from Papagaio Verde, a few kilometres west of the city.

See Madeira on foot and maybe you, too, will strike up a lifelong affair with its hills and valleys.

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