Madeira Island Levadas

Madeira Island Levadas

Madeira Island Levadas

Madeira Island LevadasThe Madeira Hydraulic System dates back to the fifteenth century and is unique in the world. The purpose of this vast network of stone channels is to capture the water falling in the mountains and carry it till the crop fields. Over the past 500 years the availability of water in plantations has always been a critical factor, since arable areas were the least rainy and dry.
 
On the other hand, it rained abundantly in mountainous areas unfit for cultivation. Hence, a titanic battle that involved the construction of 2200 km of canals and 40 km of tunnels. Task even more formidable when it is known that in most cases, galleries and conduits were opened by hand. Sometimes with such adverse topography that men had to work suspended ropes, while attacking the rock.
 
Typical Madeira Island Levadas have no more than a meter wide, swinging the average depth between 50 and 60 cm. The canal side runs a path that rarely exceeds half a meter wide and here is known as fret or terrace. Thus if you can reach on foot almost inaccessible way of another local. Almost all the Levadas start in the north and central part of the island, rainier and consequently richer water view.
There are about 200 Levadas in total, the majority state owned, such as Levada Rabaçal and the Levada da Serra do Faial, which are the largest. Others are private, as is the case of Levada Santa Luzia, Funchal, which already in 1515 brought water to the sugar cane plantations.
 
There are very strict ancestral rules governing the use of levadas. Water is shared by different users (villages, crops, etc.) for days and minutes per week (average portion chucks 15 minutes every two weeks). Even in Funchal there are still gardens that receive their shares of water by this process. Each approach has its Levadeiro, responsible for channel monitoring and manage the performance of the respective operation.
 
The Madeira Island levadas network allows spectacular walks, sometimes for relatively easy paths, others through tunnels or walking several minutes on the edge. Given the popularity of these walks has been an effort to classify the various paths, from accessible to beginners, even the most difficult, lengthy and possibly dangerous. In bookstores abound publications on levadas, including information on the procedures to adopt, as well as descriptions and maps of different paths.

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