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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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The first ten minutes or so was one full of expectation; I was finally on a proper levada walk, after all these years! But, yet again, quickly, over another short period of time, I had come to feel disappointed and frustrated with what transpired. This time it was over the levada itself. It seemed to be quite overgrown with no sign of frequent use by any walkers. It looked forgotten and abandoned - just like the chapel that preceded this trail. Moreover, the construction site, mentioned earlier, seemed to continue along the levada route itself for quite a bit. The noise from the moving machinery was annoying, not to mention the sight of it all too. Maybe, since I was following the guide, and since the guide does not mention this, I was less than impressed with this crashing introduction into the world of levada walking. But, of-course, John and Pat Underwood's book was published in 2002 and this was 2008. How could they have predicted the construction site I saw to my left!

Levada near "Capela do Cardiais"
The overgrown levada near the "Capela dos Reis"
I thought to myself, was I to be forsaken again that day? Was I to rethink my plans - desist then and save myself a lot more disappointment later perhaps? Find another levada on another day? Desist or persist, fight or quit, desist or persist? Questions like that had been going through my mind like a poker player on the small stack playing the dying rounds of his tournament.... In the end I decided to persist. After all, it was a walk that was meant to be "surprising" according to John and Pat's book. I still had the courage to want to be surprised. After another fifteen minutes of plodding along things started to look better. The levada walk had become quiet and felt very remote and, with the construction site way behind me, I had entered into some thickening forest. I was able to appreciate some of the charms mentioned in the guide: falcons wafting in the sky and squawking at each other, a miscellany of small different types of birds twittering and warbling in fabulous profusion around me, small lizards scampering out of my way - darting across the levada water with such speed that it tingled the optic nerves, the rustle of quail and the scratching of other small fry in the bushes where hundreds and hundreds of butterflies fluttered along in dappled shade off age old trees, and so on, and so on. All that was missing was a fairy or an elf to transform it into the enchanting. This was a very romantic experience and it prevailed how pleased I was that this was a relatively unused levada. I could have it all to myself! I saw lots of photographic opportunities and started taking snaps. It had started to look like the traditional levada walk - the type seen in pictures and in many guide books. Things were looking so much the rosier!

I did feel a bit alarmed the further I went on though - that is, despite the rush of natural beauty surrounding the levada, it still looked too forlorn and forgotten with few signs of recent activity on the levada. The only real recent activity I did find were the many fallen tree trunks and huge branches that had tumbled off from loftier perches above - probably during wetter and wilder weather during the previous months of winter. In some parts the trunks and branches trapped the path along the levada. It was trying circumstances at different positions on the trail. In parts I thought I was being subjected to what could be an obstacle course similar to those I had endured in my army training camps back in the wildest South African bush. Here and there I had to go on all knees, for example, and, in some cases, nearly in a cat-walking position to get past under a fallen behemoth of a tree trunk. At other points I had to jump over the levada to its other side and squeeze past a jutting sword of a branch. This element of constant obstacle had become a worrisome part of the journey for me - especially since I was carrying some Ä4000 Euros worth of camera equipment. But, staying steadfast to my earlier decision and determined to maintain my resolve, I persisted on with the trail.


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