Santo Antão: putting the “verde” in Cabo Verde

When we set out to explore Cabo Verde we decided we wanted to check out all the “Barlavento” (upwind) islands.

After our sail to Sao Vicente it was time to take yet another boat, the ferry to Santo Antão. Due to the strong winds the morning boat was cancelled so we got up early for nothing and bought tickets with another company that was scheduled to go in the afternoon. To my amazement the boat we boarded later that day was the same boat that used to take me to Vlieland in my home country The Netherlands! I have great memories from my youth going to Vlieland with this boat so I could not help but wonder whether the boat being canceled earlier that day was ment to be….

In contrary to my earlier trips with this boat the staff was not selling ice-cream and chips, but was handing out barf-bags….. It turns out that Cape Verdians are not a very seaworthy people and many of our fellow travellers ended up using the bags. After a voyage that took us almost 1,5 hours instead of the scheduled 45 minutes because of the high winds and rough seas we got in to the port of Porto Novo, the capital of Santo Antão.

Santo Antão is not known for its’ surfing but rather for trekking and its’ high mountains. Having researched the possibilities to kitesurf on the island we decided it was not worth the effort taking our gear along on this trip. The main attractions on this islands are the “Ribeiras” which can be best translated as canyons. These Ribeiras are the backbone of Cape Verdian society as these canyons are the most suitable places for agriculture on the islands. Their place high up in the mountains provide them with a lot of moisture in the air and are therefor able to produce crops and the like.

We had two walks in mind for this island, the first starting in Paúl and up the Ribeira Grande to the top of Pica de Cruz (1635m), the second down from the Pica de Cruz through Ribera de Torres back to sea-level. I’m proud to say we were able to fulfill our initial plan because these are some serious mountains we had to climb! The scenery from the mountains doen in the valley was absolutely stunning though and made all the muscle ache worth while. It had also been a long time since I had visited villages where all transport has to be done by donkeys because they are simply not accessible by car, what an amazing people and country!