Position 16:53.15N 24:59.48W

Julian & Anne Whitlock
Thu 1 Jan 2009 19:00
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 ferry.
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 fascinating journey
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 beach
    Driving up a not so dry ribeiras river bed           Mountain tops peaking through sea of cloud