Levada dos Piornais
The Levada dos Piornais is reputedly one of the oldest functioning levadas on Madeira and, as its final surface appearance is just to the south of the Barreiros football stadium in Funchal, it's one of the most accessible to many visitors. It formerly continued along two terminal branches whose courses are now roads with names reflecting their history - Rua da Levada dos Barreiros and Levada dos Ilhéus, but now enters a series of tanks and pipes on the far side of the Ladeira da Casa Branca.
The source of the levada is the Ribeira dos Socorridos - the river which runs in the deep gulf that separates Funchal and Câmara de Lobos and which in turn begins close to the Pico das Torres and flows down through Curral das Freiras before finally reaching the sea near Câmara de Lobos.
The initial part of the levada, from its source, is dangerous and inaccesible. A further stretch clings precariously to the side of the valley of the Ribeira dos Socorridos, sometimes on a narrow ledge, sometimes in short and cramped tunnels and sometimes apparently hanging in thin air over the precipitous drop beneath. In this stretch there are handrails and barriers where you need them, but not always where you might want them: you have to be sure-footed and have a head for heights. There's also an impressive bridge where the levada takes a short cut across a broader part of the valley. As the levada approaches Câmara de Lobos, it turns back inland, following a safe horseshoe path around the next valley east, through cultivated fields of bananas, before passing under the Via Rápida heading for Papagaio Verde and Amparo and ultimately the urban streetscapes above Ajuda and the Lido before disappearing underground.
You can walk out and back from Funchal (as far as you feel comfortable) or there are various places along the route where you can find alternative transport. It's also possible to walk down from Madeira Shopping, though you will find you arrive at the levada at one of its more uncomfortable sections.
There are sections of the levada where there are trailing pipes and missing covers where the path is on top of the watercourse as well as steep drops, so some caution should be exercised throughout.
We'll start the route from the centre of Funchal, which will be the most convenient access for many visitors.
Shortly, the views open out as you pass through some urban farmland that has yet to be built upon. As you pass above Ajuda and the Forum da Madeira shopping centre, the levada meets a set of steep paths and staircases (Escada do Pico da Cruz) that provide alternative access/egress. A little further and you pass the Casa da Levada (a coffeehouse/bar) before the levada crosses under the Caminho do Amparo.
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