The start of the great levada walking odyssey!
One Saturday morning I decided to join the craze that so many tourists to the island were flocking in droves to do. It would be my first levada walk in about ten years. The previous two or three jaunts I had had before being merely exercises to acquiesce some social obligation or the other at the time. This was my first serious walk for the walk itself. I had grabbed John and Pat Underwood's standard setting walks guide - "Landscapes of Madeira", 7th Edition, 2002, London (one of the first and still one of the best levada walking guides on the market) to help start the adventure. I wanted to find a walk that had great photographic possibilities too - I was armed with a new Nikon D300 and wanted to test drive the much vaunted camera. After a quick flip through their book I found walk number 16 - the one Pat Underwood called "utter bliss" (page 84, idem). It seemed to be the one that hit the bull's eye for me: firstly, as a necessary walk to captivate my interest in this field of touristic activity and then, secondly, to acquire some desperately needed photos for this site.
The levada as it passes through some thick cover
I jumped into my car taking along a rucksack fitted with the above mentioned camera and an older backup Nikon D100 with a longer lens, a 500ml water bottle, one yogurt covered flapjack, a mobile phone and said levada walking book. At the time of day I set off the sky was marvellous over Funchal; indeed it was clear everywhere, even over Palheiro Golf where I would have expected some cloud formations by midday already. That there was blue sky boded well for my excursion. But, alas, as I soon discovered, I was a real amateur at this walking thing.... That is, after I had driven all the way from Funchal, past the airport, past Machico city to the starting point of walk nr. 16, at "Cruz" in the village of "Porto da Cruz", on the north-east of the island, the weather was miserable - overcast and muggy, just the worst type of weather to take photos in. Had I been more experienced with this type of adventure I might have taken a look at the webcams on www.madeiralive.com
or on www.netmadeira.com
first - to check what the weather was like in Porto da Cruz (there is a webcam on those sites with a view over the village and skies of Porto da Cruz). As is not unusual in Madeira, it is possible to have glorious blue skies in Funchal and overcast grey weather in another part of the island.
I found that I was forced to halt at the point of entry to the village of Porto da Cruz and, feeling flustered with my frustrated expectations, found myself indecisive as to what I should do. I thought I would do the next best thing for my deflated excitement: instead of losing calories on a long walk I would pound them on at the nearest coffee shop I could find.... Still, before all that, I felt I had to return to the sunnier side of the island first. I headed back into Machico going through the tunnel that separates the Machico and Santana municipalities and re-emerged to all that was peachy creamy again. I found a bakery just off the motorway and availed myself to the lesser prize of the day: a fat greasy cake with some stretchy custard sauce and an equally fatty creamy "chinesa" cup of coffee. Accompanying that sweet excursion down the wrong path of gluttony was John and Pat's book (some vain attempt to counterbalance the sin I was committing in the bakery). Fortunately for me I was positive enough to try another attempt at finding an appropriate levada walk in their guide.