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Library : Itineraries : Levada Walking Last Updated: Jun 28, 2008 - 12:29:23 AM

The start of the great levada walking odyssey!
By Jorge Barbosa
Jun 16, 2008 - 4:52:43 PM

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I decided to find a walk as near as possible to the location I was at and this time round took some time to study John and Pat Underwood's book closer. I still needed a walk that would guarantee good weather and have some decent eye-candy along the way. Since the village of Santo Antˇnio da Serra was close by and the temperature there would be more amenable than the hotter climates in Machico I was glad to find walk number 9: " Santo da Serra - Levada Nova - Quatro Caminhos". Even more fortunate was the mention in the book that I would be "in for a surprise" (page 68, idem). I was intrigued! That seemed to be the one!

However, since I had lost some forty or fifty minutes from my initial attempt to do the first levada walk I decided to make up for lost time by starting the latest walk, as per the book, at a landmark chapel on the route, shaving off some forty minutes from the described four hour walk. It was two o'clock in the afternoon and I thought that if I had finished by six o'clock everything should turn out fine for me.

I left the bakery and headed straight to the starting point of my new adventure: the " Capela dos Cardiais" (Chapel of the Cardinals), which, I thought, would be quite appropriate as it would symbolise an initiation, a baptism of fire if you will, into this latest saga of mine - that of attempting to publish volumes of walking itineraries that I had planned for the web site for a quite a while now. I could not wait to see the ecclesiastical structure that, by its name at least, inferred some glorious architecture since it had something to do with the upper echelon of the Catholic Church. I fantasized trumpets blaring and organ music wafting the environs upon my pilgrimage to its hallowed grounds. Instead, when I arrived, the chapel was bone-dry sad, forlorn, desperately impoverished looking and with an almost abandoned feel about it. This was a bit of a downer for me. I had expected something charming and quaint to bless me on my way down the path of levada enlightenment. What I found was a glorified white box made out of poor breeze blocks sitting juxtaposed to an equally unattractive water tank right next to it - all quite out of proportion to what anyone might expect for a chapel that had some link to the revered cardinals of Catholicism.

I reminded myself that I was here not to evaluate churches and chapels. I returned to my guide book to find out where the start of the levada route was. On closer inspection of the property I noticed a hand painted placard with the word " lEvaDa" (sic) inscribed on it. It is precisely between the water tank and the chapel itself where it is posted. It is there that some rather discreet and short steps are found that veer to the left - suddenly, then to the right - suddenly, and then to the left again, and then to the right again, and where with a hop and another skip I arrived at a small plateau. I spotted a canal that looked like a levada channel and felt positively thrilled. After all, this is where I was about to start the incredible literary odyssey that I was about to embark upon.... But, lo-and-behold, instead, right there in most inglorious fashion I was put at a jolted halt: a few metres beyond where I stood the levada canal just disappeared before my eyes, replaced by an horrendous obstacle: a road that rose some two metres off the vanished canal! What a less than auspicious start to the great levada travelogue library! But, fortunately (oh, so very fortunately - I am superstitious at heart) my initial dismay was soon given over to relief when I found some recent but inconspicuous steps to the left of where I was standing. These steps, hidden by the reeds, rise up to the street level of the levada monster (yes, "monster"..., it swallowed the levada!). You need to go up the steps to cross the narrow road. A road, interestingly enough, that leads into some structure that was being built at the time and, dare I say, another woeful and ill-considered blight on the natural beauty of Madeira (it looked like a silo for gravel and other sand like materials for building construction). At any rate, we cross to the other extremity of the narrow road and find another set of steps leading back down to the original path that continues along the interrupted levada water course - here the water from the levada, visible now, was being routed clearly through a pipe and under the road to join, probably, the original water carriage I had found moments earlier. I was grateful to have found the original levada, as described in the guide book, and with my rucksack firm on my shoulders set forth on my grand maiden voyage of the levadas of Madeira.

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