There were two possible ways we could have chosen which walks to do in Madeira. We could have read the guide books in detail, scratched our heads at length, done comparisons about the alleged merits of each walk and picked accordingly – or we could see what Martin suggested. Martin has been to Madeira more than once before, so when he suggested a circular walk, starting from the door of the hotel and featuring the town levada, we nodded enthusiastically.
The taxi driver who was loitering outside of the hotel didn’t agree with Martin’s choice of walk. Boring, he decried and offered to take us to the east of the island for €60. We promised him we would do that walk on the morrow and marched off up the road to find the levada.
I may not get all of these photos in exactly the order they occurred, but here’s the gist of the day:
Walking through the suburbs along the levada, we soon found that banana growing in residential areas is the norm. Quite big those banana leaves, said Mick…
You’ll notice that Mick has legs. No-one was aware of that fact before this holiday
Soon there were more banana plantations than houses, all terraced into the hill.
Terracing was quite a feature of this first day, some of it being particularly steep:
No tunnels were involved on the first day, although there was one bit where the levada went through the rock. Note that the railings here, as we emerged back into the open, were sturdy; probably the sturdiest we saw all week.
Not all of the railings were in quite such good repair. This bridge, over a yawning abyss, was the first part that made me suspect that I might have a bit of an issue with exposure.
After a particularly exposed bit of the path I declared that I had gone as far as I was prepared to go. Martin had already stopped a while before, so I plonked myself down on the edge of the levada and watched a JCB in a quarry below me move great boulders from right to left and then back from left to right. Meanwhile, Mick and Sue (who both have such good heads for heights that they’ll turn pirouettes on the edge of a breeze-block perched over a 400-foot drop), continued to the point where a gate prevented their further progress. They returned to me to report that I’d done the difficult bit and that I should have continued.
Having backtracked to a junction, where we lunched, uphill we went to pick up another levada further up the valley-side. On the way we passed a Renault 4, a car known by my family as a ‘tin tray’. The very colour that my mother had too. Hers was a 1976 and had at least two new floors welded in before she gave it up for an Austin Princess.
But I digress, and we had another levada to walk, first having made our way through a building site to get there.
The railings here weren’t in such good repair, nor had they ever been so sturdy:
That turned out to be one of the better maintained bits of this waterway – which sounds like a complaint, but actually it was a good and interesting walk back up the same valley as earlier in the day, but at a higher level (from where we saw the JCB moving rocks back from the right to the left; I’m sure there was method in his work somewhere).
We lost Martin somewhere along the way, but onwards we went, until we met a German chap coming towards us. He explained that the path further on was too crumbly and narrow and exposed for him to continue, but he added that if we were going that way then he would join us.
When the edge of the levada was just one crumbling breeze-block wide (and it was actually breeze-block at that point, forming a repair in the original stone wall), we took to the water and had intended going about a hundred yards further than we did. What put us off was a sudden crack and whistling noise. Mick saw one rock fall in the water just behind us, but I looked down and saw the big boulder that had just flown right over our heads. I flattened myself into the dripping rock-face, where I whimpered a little, and we swiftly backtracked*. Yikes! That was a bit too much of a close call!
Everything else about the day was uneventful. We rejoined Martin who had found himself a nice vantage point to wait for us and made our way back into Funchal, where the Garmin Gadget put into ‘back to start’ mode assisted us in relocating our hotel. It’s the first time I’ve used that feature, and it did prove useful as we made our way through the suburbs.
It was an excellent and varied first day out, all in good weather. In total 13.25 miles were covered with an amount of ascent that was almost certainly overstated by the Gadget and which I can’t quite be moved to calculate from the map.
(*After we finished the walk, I read what Paddy had to say about it in the guidebook. His description includes the phrases “sheer, exposed cliffs’ and ‘danger of rock falls’!)