Mindelo – San Vincente Island
After our 6 day sail from La Gomera (Canary Is), we arrived in Mindelo marina, on the island of San Vincente, Cape Verde Islands.
Mindelo is a feast for the senses, from the colourful fruit market with many types of banana, papaya and root vegetables to the fish market with its rather overwhelming scents and sights and an incredible collection of fish. Apparently this is one of the under-fished areas of the world. Huge locally caught tuna were being carved up and sold in the market, in doorways, on planks in the park….
Santo Antao Island
As the trade winds haven’t yet arrived, the forecast for a few days of light winds meant it was a perfect time for us to head for the adjacent island of Santo Antao, a one hour ferry ride away, which we had heard was great for walking.
It wasn’t easy to find out about the island, but we managed to book a small guesthouse, Casa Cavaquinho, in the small village of Cha de Manuel dos Santos a the top of Paul Valley.
It was a great find, helpful hosts, delicious food, with stunning views down the valley from our comfortable room. Jose arranged the local shuttle (aguluera) from Porto Novo to bring us to the hotel. The other, more expensive option was to dropped at the top of the Cova de Paul and then walking down into the Paul valley. Jose’s suggested walk to Pico d’Antonio and down the Paul Valley. This took us via the villages of Chazinja, Cha de Mato, then up to the peak, then down to Boca de Figueiral. Jose gave us a laminated card with the route and directions, but said to ask the friendly locals, which we did many times, especially when we took a wrong turn at the pig….
The path winds through small villages, fields of sugar cane, banana and coffee.
Unlike the other islands, water is plentiful in this valley. Large catchment areas such as this one are used for bathing, washing and irrigation.
As we cautiously trekked down the cobbled paths we pass the locals carrying their produce or building products.
0r offering their produce for sale.
A lunchtime stop in Cha de Mato a friendly local brought us oranges, guava and sugar cane to taste. Portuguese and the local Creole are spoken but many of the islanders speak French. French tourists, especially trekkers have certainly ‘discovered’ the magic of this island.
At the end of lunch, Sandra, the owner of the café at the top of Pico d’Antonio arrived and led us through the plantations and up the seriously scary ridge to her village. The mist had rolled in- it was good that we couldn’t see the drop off from the ridge but not so good that we missed the panorama on the other side.
Five families (and a few pigs) live on the ridge. The children have an hour’s walk (took us 2) down a steep path to nearest school.
The walk through the fertile valley was spectacular. Most of the way there are good paved paths, with short parts of the walk along the river bed. Erosion is obviously an issue with large amounts of planting in vulnerable spots.
Just before dark the path ended at the road, where we picked up an aluguer (local collective transport) for the steep ride back to Casa Cavaquinho and a wonderful dinner of local produce. Unfortunately, we could only stay one night at Casa Cavaquinho. Following their directions, we walked up the dauntingly steep hills to the volcanic crater of Cova de Paul. This walk was more straight forward – walk through the village, turn hard right at Bob Marley, and keep walking up!
The village is about 500m above sea level and the crater about 1200m. Very quickly we were level with ‘Sandra’s place’ – we couldn’t quite believed where we had climbed the day before.
The path is in great condition, cobbled most of the way. The views……
After about 2 hours, we reached the Cova de Paul.
The weather has been unusually unsettled, the ‘rainy’ season is usually August, September, but we had some rain most days, luckily not so heavy as to stop us walking. We lunched at Biosfera, the only restaurant at the top, a rather quirky place run by an Italian. Luckily we met up with Amilcar, a very pleasant local driver who helped us out with transport for the rest of our stay. The road between the Crater and Ribeira Grande at the coast is like nothing we had ever seen before. The road, which winds along the top of ridge, affording spectacular views down the valleys on either side.
Our second night was spent in Ponta do Sol, where we a great meal at La Calheta. The hotel was modern and comfortable, but in the weirdest position, a disused airstrip then the coast in front, a big of a garbage dump with chickens, kittens and a very annoying rooster behind!
Ponto do Sol is a good place to stay before the spectacular walk along the coast to Fontainhaus. Corvo, then Forminghaus. Part of the track had been damaged by recent rain so we didn’t go the whole way.
On the outskirts of Ponto do Sol is a pig farm with the best views. In most other places this would be the site of a 5 star hotel.
The track was rated as easy, but there sure was a lot of up and down, luckily once again on very well made and maintained cobbled paths.
There are terraces everywhere
We were meant to stay in Kasa XoXo the next night, where Tine and Gordon would join us. A bungle in the booking meant we ended up back near the rather colourful Riberia Grande, then made the trek up to Xoxo the next morning.
Being Sunday, some of the locals were in their finery heading to church, while many others worked.
XoXo sits at the head of the Ribeira da Torre, which is narrower and steeper than the Paul valley.
Erosion is a big problem here, the rains must really come down in a torrent given the size of the watercourse.
We walked up to Agua de Rabo Curto, passing through many small villages along the way.
Our last day we drove back over the middle of the island then
walked back down from Cova de Paul into the valley,
into the valley for a coffee at Pension Chez Sandro.
then down to Passagem past many locals
before heading back to get the 4pm ferry from Porto Novo to Mindelo.
Our impression of Cape Verde – a place you should not miss! Not only is it the logical stop for sailors en route to the Caribbean, it is a place to wonderful experience. We arrived back in Mindelo to find the marina full of ARC rally boats on the docks and in the bay. After days of no wind and wallowing out in the Atlantic, many have stopped here to wait for the trade winds to kick in. The forecast is looking good for tomorrow – hopefully we will provision and cast lines heading for Barbados (you’ll be pleased to hear that John Reid!).