4th of February – 18th of February 2019:
The holidays during our holidays started with an early rise to catch the first domestic flight to São Vincente. A short flight and a rather expensive taxi ride later, we reached our luxurious accommodation with two bedrooms including a shower. After weeks without any luxury, we welcomed this change a lot. By foot, we reached the fort to enjoy the view across the harbor. Despite the strong wind, we managed to take a couple of pictures, before we ate a delicious dinner in the city center.
In the morning, we explored the hilly landscape around the city. Some rather slow-paced, others a bit faster. Mindelo is residence to 98% of the islanders. Therefore, outside of the city one can find pure nature and almost no settlements. In the afternoon, we took the ferry to our third island named Santo Antão. During the ferry ride, which took less than an hour, bags were distributed. Supposedly, the ferry can strongly pitch and toss sometimes. With light swell, we reached the most western island and the owner of our accommodation welcomed us directly at the harbor. Dozens of taxi drivers tried to convince new arrivals to bring them to their destination for horrific prices. Luckily, we could walk to our apartment and denied all offers with «no». After we organized the transportation for the next day and ate in a local restaurant, we laid down in our comfortable beds.
For the first time, we laced our walking shoes. An Aluguer (shared taxi) transported us in an hour-long drive through an impressive, rutted alpine world to Jorge Luis. Immediately, the trail led us steep uphill passing a remote farmhouse where an old couple greeted us friendly. Even a landslide, which made the steep slanting trail difficult to walk on, did not scare us off. The mostly dried-out riverbed left bizarre valleys and steep soaring cliffs. Thanks to our GPS on the phone, we found the right way in the isolated area, even though we lost the official hiking route. The trail was much longer than expected and soon the sun was already low on the horizon. The underlying sun illuminated the ragged mountainside in a warm shade of gold.
An extremely fascinating view from the top of the pass onto the cliff Bordeira de Norte impressed us. The cobbled mule trail wound itself down the vertical wall on elaborate serpentines. Until today, this trail represents an important connection for the locals between the villages. 750 meters in altitude further down, we saw our destination Chã de Morte, which we reached in the last twilight. Luckily, we quickly found a taxi. When we arrived in Porto Novo, we sat down on the chairs of an Italian restaurant exhausted as we were. The delicious spaghetti refueled our bodies, before we lowered ourselves into bed.
Quote Lilo: “Think well, before you start a mountain hike with three well-breathed men. Hiking 21km including almost 1300 meters of altitude was my limit of performance!”
We woke up with astonishingly less muscle hangover than expected. When bargaining about the fare across the island, the taxi drivers undersold themselves with the price. After fierce discussion among them, we entered the minibus. Despite his promise to drive us for a ridiculous price, our driver tried to increase the fare again. We did not let him impress us since he made the low price offer himself.
Then a ride with various interesting landscapes started. The central mountain range separates the scarce south from the green north. The road led us along the impressive volcanic cauldron Cova de Paúl. On the route from the small farmer village Corda down to Ribeira Grande lays probably the most photographed stretch of road on Santo Antão. This part of the road called Delgadim and could not be more dramatic. This stretch built in the 1950s in tedious manual work occupies the narrow mountain ridge almost completely. On both sides, the cliffs drop vertically several hundred meters. We were enthusiastic about this view as soon as we saw it.
From the balcony of our great apartment, we enjoyed a stunning view on the surrounding mountains and the raging surge of the sea. The rest of the day, we explored the small town and enjoyed doing nothing while having an aperitif on the balcony.
Santo Antão is a paradise for hikers. We experienced this again today. The taxi brought us in one hour to the starting point in Cruzinha de Garça. The trail led us along the steep coastal cliff with the effervescent sea in our ears. The small village Corvo is only reachable by foot. For us it is unbelievable in which isolation people live here. In a tiny bar directly above the cliffs, we treated ourselves with a cool drink and observed some marine turtles far below us. The cobbled footpath led us neatly through the forbidding coastline and was at some spots supported by meter high dry walls. The village Fontainhas with its turquoise or pink-colored old houses is one of the most appealing in all of Cape Verde. At the village border of Ponta do Sol, there was a football party going on. We strengthened ourselves with some local pastry and ended our day in a native bar while drinking a Grogue. Grogue is a strong rum, a traditional product of Cape Verde.
The same taxi driver as yesterday brought us to the crater Cova de Paúl. The tour led us 1’200 meters of altitude down through a sugar cane growing area. The valley Paúl qualifies as the greenest of the whole island.
Steep cliffs, which are densely vegetated with conifers, decorate the ancient volcanic crater. The farmers utilize the bottom agriculturally in an intensive matter with corn and bean cultivation plus livestock farming. Thunderstruck we were astonished over the countless water-bearing irrigation channels, called Levandas that we saw during the descent.
On the way we passed a stall among coffee plants, mango and banana trees which surprised with the variety of the offered products. Guavas, coffee beans, bananas, different liquors, dried mangos; tea made of avocado leaves or pastry all local produce. Of course, we had to degust some products. A range of green terraces in the steep hillside amazed us repeatedly. Plenty of water is available in this valley. Countless yams plants clutter the creek beds. The farmers must put up with the long and steep trails for the cultivation. During the last part of the hike, we saw many breadfruit trees. In Pombas, we took an Aluguer back to Ponta do Sol. In a small local restaurant, we enjoyed fresh fish together with yams and breadfruits.
We all felt the rather strenuous hikes of the last days and decided to take a rest day. The reduced Keller family observed the lively activities at the small port and cooled down in the water. Meanwhile, Adrian ran on top of the local mountain and discovered the trails of the shepherds. The small fishing boats returned full of fresh fish. The fishermen disemboweled those fishes directly after unloading and sold them to women of the village.
After changing transportation once, we reached a traditional rum distillery recommended by a local. The entrance of the large distillery was hard to find. Therefore, we suddenly stood next to a sugar can press and the fire with which the fermented sugar cane juice is distilled multiple times. The 84 years old owner explained us the procedure, before we tasted a few of his products. The experienced salesperson did not lower his price and took our bills without moving his eyelashes. With a few rum bottles more in our luggage, we searched for a collective taxi back to Porto Novo. The ferry back to Mindelo was rather calm and all wanted to eat a pizza. The flight to Praia was without any incidents. However, one Swiss army knife was lost at the hand luggage inspection.
We ordered our breakfast quite early at a cafe and at the same time gave back our keys from the apartment and bought some snacks for the day. Swiss efficiency! Afterwards, we walked to the collective taxis, which drive into the heart of the country. Next to our luggage there was additionally a bucket containing fresh fish in the trunk of the minibus, which reminded us why people do not hang a tree-shaped air freshener with fish flavor in their car.
In São Domingos, we found a nice accommodation with many exotic plants, trees and a few farm animals. After we took our room, we walked in the direction of Rui Vaz, our starting point of the hike. A jeep almost fully loaded with milk containers took us even further than the small mountain village and did not accept any money from us. From there, we hiked through the Nature Park Santo António, which is indigenous to eucalyptus trees and bushes. Our goal was the Pico da Antónia (1’392m), which was only reachable via a steep and slippery trail. One side of the mountain drops vertically into the valley and the ascent requires head for heights. Back at the starting point, we saw a traditional goat cheese factory where our driver unloaded all his milk. After a searching for quite some time, a very friendly villager helped us to find an excellent restaurant, which cooked a huge meal just for us.
While haggling over the price for the accommodation, the owner promised an immense breakfast and indeed it was delicious and we were full until the late afternoon. Quickly, we found an Aluguer that brought us to Assomada. There, we roamed through the colorful and diverse market. Huge tunas that most likely still swam in the Atlantic Ocean the same morning, were cut into two pieces with an unsharp knife and sold afterwards. Multiple times, we saw many different vegetables that grew locally, despite all the islands being rather dry. After a rather long, but interesting waiting time, we drove with some locals to Tarrafal. There, we walked around the small fishing village with its own beach and enjoyed a delicious and even cheap dinner.
After we were on the road a lot during the last few days and did a lot of exercise, we treated ourselves with a relax day at the beautiful beach. Many locals tried to sell different snacks and most of all coconuts to the tourists who tried to change their fair complexion into a darker and for western standards more attractive complexion. Occasionally, we entered the relative warm water to swim between the partly huge waves. In the evening, we ate an authentic pizza out of the wood stove and listened to the sounds of drums by some teenagers from a local music group.
From a friend we heard that it is possible to go fishing with a local angler to see how they catch fish on Cape Verde. Highly motivated, we went up and down the beach to find a suitable fishing expert. After a long hunt and a few discussions, we found a guy who agreed on our price proposition and half an hour later his boat was ready.
Equipped with fins, goggles, snorkels, bait, line and a prehistoric anchor, the self-confident captain steered our small boat into the open sea. The strong wind whipped the surface water in our boat and we were wet relatively quickly and suddenly not as motivated to go swimming anymore. While the experienced angler prepared his fishing rod, the youngsters discovered the underwater world. During the same time, the brave fisherman pulled three middle-sized fish out of the ocean and surprised us all. Motivated from our cheers, he even pulled out a couple more and posed proudly for our cameras. We tried our luck as well, but only Adrian was able to catch two groupers and one moraine after quite some time on the wild water. Tired and one authentic experience richer, we brought the fish to the mother’s restaurant of the fisherman and were able to indulge in a feast of our own catch.
So far, we could not complain about the weather, even though the sun was mostly hiding behind the clouds the last days. We decided to undertake a hike to a lighthouse not far away. Adrian ran to the local mountain instead and enjoyed the beautiful view on the coastline. Suddenly, on the way to the lighthouse, something was in the water. First, we thought there were whales, but afterwards we realized that a few dolphins were playing the coastal waters. During the last dinner in a group of four, we treated ourselves again with some delicious local fish, typically served with rice and French fries.
For the last time, we had breakfast in our regular bakery with tasty coffee and bread. Our shared taxi filled itself surprisingly quickly and we were ready to go. The minibus was full to the last seat for the first time and for short periods; some passengers even had to stand in a crouched position. The responsible person distributed the infants randomly to seated women and everyone greatly amused himself or herself by the uncomfortable way of transport. Gas bottles, flowerpots and beverage cartons were somehow, without any order, placed in the vehicle without any specific storage space.
In Pedro Badejo, we ate in a local restaurant for the last time. We entered the restaurant together with our luggage directly through the kitchen, since we did not see main entrance. After we strolled around the colorful and lively market in Praia, we took a taxi to the tiny airport. After we finished the check in procedure, we said thank you to Lilo and Peter for the pleasant two weeks and the generous sponsoring of all the accommodations and meals. We enjoyed the two-week break on the islands of Cape Verde a lot but look forward continuing our trip with our bikes again.