Madeira – Levadas (2)

Walk along the Levada dos Piornais and Levada do Curral.

In our second walk along a levada, we followed one levada from our hotel into the country, then up through a village to another levada, and then deep into a river valley. See the photo gallery and the post about the whole trip.

The first levada was the Levada dos Piornais, one of the oldest on the island. We picked it up a few blocks uphill from our hotel, and followed it upstream, westward. The initial part was through some rather depressing shanty/farms, but the scene quickly changed as it began to pass older, established banana farms.

Most homes in Madeira, particularly the nicer ones, seem to be surrounded by walls, with an entrance gate. Here you can see a typical section of the early part of the Piornais, where the levada is covered over to become a sidewalk, with people’s doorways along the wall. Above we peek through the gate to an elaborately floral display along the steps leading up to the house.

I liked this spot, with an old wall and a tree leaning over the levada.

Here we leave the sidewalk section and enter a cliffside section, where the levada clings to the side of a cliff. Sometimes it’s supported by arched stonework, like a bridge, and other times it cuts into the cliff-face.

Truly impressive. I was glad for the recently installed railings, because the drop was severe… several hundred feet in some places. Look closely at the pictures… see the trucks down below? it’s a long way down.

Here’s a place where they decided to cut the levada through some cracks in the cliff. We hikers then must scramble through.

Another set of impressive views. Here, you can get a sense of the vertigo we faced.

Here, we had reached a point where I was able to walk down below the levada and snap this picture looking back up at it… here you can see the bridge-like stonework. (In a few places the levada actually was on a bridge, a few feet out from the cliff.)

At this point we left the levada and climbed up through a village to find the Levada do Curral. That levada, too, weaved through many villages, like a sidewalk, and then entered a wooded section with some more steep drops.

Quite a ways further, we climbed up through a village to join the Levada do Curral, another very old Levada. This levada led deep up the river valley. Here are two views upward into that valley… on the right we peek between two high ridges (and below a layer of clouds) to a village high on a distant sunny ridge.

This levada, after passing much of the same “sidewalk” sort of terrain, past villas and villages, entered a wilder portion with only an occasional small farm. Below is a grape arbor overhanging our route.

Here we have reached our turn-around point, where the steep drop becomes truly treacherous, and the hillside is so steep that the plants overhang the levada and a spring drips, no, pours water on your head. We’re actually quite far up a river valley, near the head of the levada.

Next is a view of the head of the ravine, and you can see a bridge where the levada curves across the ravine toward the left.

Here is a view looking back down the valley. We walked pretty much all the way up from that fancy bridge in the background. Actually, it’s a pretty neat suspension bridge, very high and very long, for the new coastal highway.

See the photo gallery and the post about the whole trip.

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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