Mindelo, Sao Vincente to Santo Antao
Mindelo in Sao Vincente has the decaying grandeur of an ex colonial city -
hard to picture in
its heyday (mid 1800s) when its natural harbour made it the fourth
most important in the world
(after Port Said, Malta and Singapore) in terms of ship tonnage handled at
its huge coaling station.
However, it does now boast a yacht marina - a safe place for us to leave
Freewheel in order to
explore the wonders of Santo Antao, only 8km across the water by regular
Santo Antao itself, as you arrive in Porto Novo, presents itself as another
barren arid island -
but once we crossed the 1000m+ ridge (in our rugged hired 4x4) we were
in another world.
Incredible Ribeiras (ravines) dissect the mountains and lead down to the
northern coast between
craggy peaks and ridges. Tiny terraced fields are hewn out of the steepest
slopes and are
highly productive as they make good use of the rain/clouds that often cover
the higher slopes.
Ancient cobbled paths connect the isolated farms and minute fields,
winding round the rocks
and zigzagging up near vertical cliffs. They provide excellent walks
for the developing tourist
trade whether they be groups of masochistic hikers (mostly German)
or just unfit amateurs like us.
We spent two great days exploring - we drove along the rough water
tracks in the base of the
varied ravines, scaled two peaks and descended to the fertile floor of a
volcanic crater. Locals
often hailed us for a lift and either jumped into the open pickup back or
climbed into the backseat
to keep us entertained with voluble Creole. A bit like the Brits, they
assume repeating loudly
and often will eventually bring understanding - luckily our French
went a long way to help.
On our return journey the clouds had descended so we drove much of the
vertiginous road (on
several cols the road dropped vertically 500m+ on EACH side) in mist,
finally breaking through
to sunshine and the fascinating view of a 'sea of cloud' pierced
by rocky peaks.
We were a little concerned to arrive back in Porto Novo to a deserted port
since, although we
had tickets we knew they were for an "extra" ferry put on for New Year's
Eve with no ferries
due to run for the next 2 days. However within half an hour the crowds
and bustle returned
- aluguers bursting with people and luggage filled the harbour and we had a
back amid a festive throng.
Looking back from Santo Antao to Sao
Vincente Hill top village perched on knife edged ridge
Standing a foot away from a 2000'vertical
drop! Local kids playing on black sand
Driving up a not so dry ribeiras river
bed Mountain tops
peaking through sea of cloud