In May this year we took a walking holiday on the island of Madeira.
Madeira is a beautiful sub-tropical island formed by violent volcanic activity many millions of years ago. Imagine, if you will, a high central plateau from which radiate deep, steep river ravines in all directions down to the coasts. These ravines are covered in lush vegetation - trees, bushes and beautiful flowers. The soil is very fertile so the Madeiran people have farmed it as best they could by creating magnificent terraces to grow wheat, sugarcane, vines and bananas. The north of the island is open to Atlantic rains while the south is more sheltered. Years ago irrigation channels, called levadas, were gouged out of the sheer rock face of the valley sides to bring water from north to south to irrigate the terraced fields on the way. The levada walks are on a narrow path alongside the concrete water channel which follow the contours making our walks pretty level but not always easy - many times the levada was cut out of the rock face with the result that the path beside it had a sheer drop to the valley floor. Fortunately on many occasions there was a little handrail to stop us plunging down but we wouldn’t have liked to put it to the test!
Sometimes we walked under sprays of water which tumbled from the rocks above and one of the walks is named ‘25 Fontes’ because after rain the walker would be well and truly drenched by all the waterfalls. We avoided a soaking because there hadn’t been too much rain before we arrived. The flowers growing wild at the side of the roads were absolutely gorgeous.
On one occasion we came to a Hydro Electric station and passing it the levada path was actually the top of a 30ft wall which dropped straight down to the road below. To make things worse, there was no handrail and the path was very narrow.
It was at this point that I was reminded of a tale told about my dear grandmother. She and her family were walking to Church along icy pavements in Kintore and while the rest were walking very gingerly she called out “Trust in the Lord - He’ll not let you fall!” and strode off in the lead. History does not relate whether she fell or not.
I walked on carefully and successfully crossed this tricky section, putting my trust in a higher power. Grandma’s advice is as good today as it was all those years ago. I didn’t stride out - that would have been silly - but I walked carefully and felt that I was in safe hands. It was a memorable holiday full of exciting, wonderful experiences.
Old & St Andrew’s