The nation of Cape Verde consists of ten islands situated 500km off the coast of Senegal and is a former colony of Portugal.
The islands are unlike anywhere else I’ve been in Africa. In fact it’s very non-African, more a mix of 60% Africa and 40% Europe with a quiet laid back Portuguese influence.
I arrived in the capital Praia early in the morning and later that night Lynda flew in from Christmas Island. We spent the first couple of days on the main island visiting a few of the local sights including Cidade Velha, the oldest European town in Africa. The town also has the oldest colonial church in the world and an accompanying fort on the cliff above providing nice views along the coast.
The port was a key Portuguese settlement and a stopping place for Vasco de Gama, Ferdinand Magellen, Christopher Columbus and Francis Drake on their epic journeys of discovery. My journey was slightly less epic but I did discover a place in the shade selling freshly squeezed orange juice before continuing on down the oldest European street in the tropics.
After a day at the beach we headed inland to the rugged mountains around Pico d’Antonia where traditional villages sit on the side of dry hillsides and the locals talk of the on going three year drought which has left all but one dam dry.
After four days in the capital we caught a local flight to the resort island of Sal. Sal is a dry, flat and barren lump of rock fringed with white sand beaches and surrounded by azure blue warm water.
We based ourselves in the sprawling southern town of Santa Maria and spent a week at the beach.
The European summer holidays are yet to begin so the place was quiet. Being an ex Portuguese colony and a Portuguese speaking nation it wasn’t surprising to see mostly Brazilian and Portuguese tourists on the island.
We found a Brazilian bar/cafe on the beach and spent a couple of afternoons drinking caipirinhas and watching the beach volleyball.
Cape Verde is a poor country doing its best to create an income through tourism and trying to attract Europeans to their sun drenched islands but I was disappointed to find the price of meals and drinks at all the cafes and restaurants more expensive than in Europe. Its easy to see why tens of millions of European holidaymakers head to Asia these days where meals are a third the price.
From Sal we flew to Mindelo on Sao Vicente for two nights and then caught the ferry to Santo Antao, my target destination and the main reason for visiting these islands in June. Below is Mindalo harbour.
Mindelo has a great seafood restaurant and women that dress rather strangely.
In many ways the Cape Verde archipelago is similar to the Azores where we spent two weeks last year. On the Azores the most spectacular island, Flores is the most westerly and remotest and the same applies here with Santo Antao.
From the ferry we caught a taxi across the island on the old winding cobblestoned road through the mountains, many over a 1000m high.
The road follows several knife-edge ridges along isolated and dizzying mountain sides that plummet into verdant valleys far below.
We stopped at Cova Caldera for a quick photo or two and continued across the island pausing at one stunning view after another.
We based ourselves at the Tiduca Hotel in the small fishing village of Ponta do Sol on the far side of the island, which is the final village along the north-eastern coast and what the Bradt guide describes as “the end of the world”.
Ponta do Sol, although remote, is perfectly situated at the start of the coastal walk to the cliffside village of Fontainhas.
Initially we planned to walk to the village and return but it was a shorter walk than we thought so we continued on to Corvo, where we met a couple from Belgium who were walking another eight kilometers to Cruzinha. We joined them and caught a taxi back to the hotel after eight hours of walking, virtually none of it was flat.
Santo Antao is real haven for hikers with countless hiking trails through rugged, mountainous and imposing green and brown scenery usually with an accompanying precipitous virtigo inducing canyon a few steps away.
After a day of rest and still feeling a tad sore we opted for an easier walk up the Ribeira Torre. The route was lined with tropical fruit plantations and finished with a lonely pinnacle of rock jutting out of the hillside.
The final three days were spent in the scenic Vale do Paúl (Paúl Valley) where we stayed in a wonderful family run guest called Chez Sandro at the end of the valley. We were surrounded by precipitous cliffs and lush fertile farmland with plenty of long hikes, all with spectacular views down the valley.
Not only was the scenery great but the local food at Chez Sandro was superb and their home made ice cream was sensational.
After three weeks in Cape Verde it was time to start thinking about the next destination.
Our last two days were spent Island hoping back to Sal for the flight to Sao Tome and Principe.
Bye for now…