11 October, 2012

Madeira Levada or water canals

On Sunday we set off on the local bus for Machica which is down the coast from Quinta de Lorde Marine to find a levada – water canal.  I had first come across them in Portuguese Timor in the ‘70 when we were leaving Australia.  (The water still does not run up hill even today – note to friend).  We boarded a local bus which took us up into the hills behind the town.  The driver dropped us off at a point that the road crossed the levada.  These are water canals which start high up in the valleys and channel the water along the contour towards the sea.  Because they follow the contour they go into the smaller gullies and valleys, usually above the house line and below the tree line.  The trees generally give you shade as you walk along the path next to the canal which is only half a meter wide and about a meter deep.  While we where walking the levada was only half full.  Where is meets a river they have built a bridge for the rive which now flows over the canal with only a small inlet to add water to the canal.  There are openings closed with a stainless steel gate that can be raised to allow the water to escape the canal and flow down onto the fields below.  At many points the land owners had placed garden hose in the canal and syphoned water out of it to water their vegetable patch.
Our walk was 15 kn along the levada all at about the same level.  We stopped at a convenient bar for a refreshing drink just ahead of a 20 strong party of German trampers along with all the correct gear including walking sticks.  We left them behind drinking their coffee and discussing the merits of the walk.
After a steep walk down the last part of the valley we stopped in at a restaurant to sample the local Portugese sardines -rather larger than I expected but very good taste.  We stopped in at the supermarket to get some supplies then boarded the bus at Machico for the trip back to the marina.
The next day it was time to head north before the winds filled in on the nose.  The journey is expected to take five days to cover the 560 nm to Morocco.

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