Travel: Diving in a resolutely green Cape
Between deserted beaches and lush valleys, nature bath guaranteed on these ten islands with a tropical climate.
From the sky, we can see Sao Vicente. Small piece of arid, rocky and lunar land of 25 km2, lost in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, off the Senegalese coast. At the moment of touching the tarmac, the wind destabilizes the iron bird… which immediately regains height. Overcome the anguish of an aborted landing, we enjoy a tour of the island seen from the sky. The mountains flow into a rough sea. There is little greenery. Is Cape Verde badly named?
The port city of Mindelo swings between colored and greyish houses under construction and sometimes seems asleep, sometimes immersed in an electric atmosphere. It concentrates most of the population. We rub shoulders with Cape Verdean charm by going early in the morning to the fish market; we catch the animation once night has fallen, in the restaurants and cafes that we find around small poorly lit alleys. By day, however, Mindelo has little to offer. So, we venture elsewhere on the island …
Sao Vincente by scooter
The schedules of aluguer, collective minibuses, are not defined and their frequency unreliable. The low density of traffic and the appeal of good weather favor scooter trips. The asphalt road to the coast is breathtaking. It follows the topography of the place; it goes up and down, it crisscrosses, follows the voluptuous curves of the mountains.
Rather than take the branch which climbs towards Monte Verde and its 750 m height, we branch off towards the bay of Salamansa. And in our ears resonates the voice of Cesaria Evora, native of the island and national pride. On happy and catchy rhythms, she sang “a picnic in Salamasa“during which they”played, danced, sang, as long as when we got home we cried.“Unmissable invitation. An ode to this splendid bay which offers a unique panorama from which the neighboring island of Santo Antao emerges.
A little further east, Praia Grande offers an equally breathtaking spectacle. The mountains are the only ones to invite themselves on its deserted beach. They dive into the water in an atmosphere mystified by the thin layer of clouds stuck at the top of Monte Verde which dominates it.
We return to Mindelo by the interior road; the Ribeira de Calhao then Juliao allows us to walk along small hamlets of houses and crops. Life seems to flow there peacefully.
Santo Antao, the island of the trek with a thousand treasures
We leave the port of Mindelo to reach in an hour that of Porto Novo, on the island of Santo Antao, at the northwestern tip of the country. The Estrada Corda, a road that crosses the island from south to north, gives a fantastic overview of the treasures that the island has to offer. It crisscrosses the ridge and dominates vertiginous valleys suffocated by lush vegetation.
Santo Antao is the island of the trek. Its many trails allow you to easily use your soles! It is in Cova, the starting point for many hikes, that we discover the first of its many wonders. This cultivated crater perched at 1166 meters above sea level, 1 km wide and 400 m deep contains the soul of the island. Men have succeeded in exploiting the wealth of these isolated lands. Vegetable crops and sugar cane line the basin. On the trail that borders it, we are surprised to find a panorama of breathtaking beauty. The crater on one side, the Paul Valley on the other. Unexpected and astounding. A mule track clinging to the cliff winds it for 650 m above the void towards the valley, at the end of which you can see the ocean. The vegetation then becomes denser. Banana plantations and sugar cane plantations hide small, colorful houses.
From the same starting point, the route that crosses the Ribeira da Torre is a jewel and offers an exceptional moment to all those who dare to venture there. Steep, a bit slippery, insecure, the path crosses hamlets of traditional houses, countless terraced plantations of cassava and sugar cane. We do not know where to look, assailed by the beauty of nature. Arrived at Xoxo, we turn around dazzled by the path traveled in this lush valley.
Santo Antao conceals multiple treasures. The 14 km north path along the coast from Ponta do Sol to Cruzinha reveals another side of the island. Far from being easy, this path goes up and down, approaching the sea and moving away immediately. When you open your eyes, you can easily see large sea turtles. The return to Ponta do Sol en Aluguer is as beautiful as the hike.
At the end of the day, the Cape Verdeans get out their chairs and talk on their doorstep; play dice sitting on the floor; settle down on the parapet, their legs in the air, and look at the horizon; some fish, perched in a precarious balance on narrow rocks.
So, we tell ourselves that Cape Verde finally lives up to its name!
5 good reasons to come to Cape Verde
The feeling of escape
Whether on the island of Sao Vicente or Santo Antao, on foot or by scooter, the feeling of stepping on the ground of another planet, that of extracting oneself from one’s world, is total. The beaches are deserted on the first; the uncrowded hiking trails on the second.
While it is generally advisable to hike from the mountain to the valley, the physical effort is no less important. You can feel the work of your quadriceps and calves as you descend the vertiginous slopes of the Ribeira do Paul or the Riberia da Torre.
The atmosphere at nightfall
When the sun is less aggressive, the Cape Verdeans of Sao Vicente go out on Laginha beach, in the city center. The water is hot there, the current absent. The inhabitants bask there as they would in a bath. They flounder, discussing, in music, their bodies transformed into shadows by the setting sun.
The weather is favorable all year round. If the islands mentioned are said to be “on the wind”, and they are therefore quite windy, this is not a problem. It brings a cool breeze during the effort and especially blows at nightfall. It is more so on the island of Sal where idleness is legion.
Going to Cape Verde means diving into a particular cultural universe. The islands have seen sailors from all over the world. These exchanges gave birth to a gastronomic and artistic culture rich in its diversity.
How to come to Cape Verde
By plane: Several airlines provide the trip between Brussels and Cape Verde. To get to the island of Sao Vicente, the Portuguese company TAP operates several flights per week, with a stopover in Lisbon (8:50 flight time, 2 hour time difference).
By boat: Santo Antao Island can only be reached by boat. The easiest way is to fly to Sao Vicente and then board a ferry from the port of Mindelo. Hours are variable and unreliable.
Sao Vicente To know the crossing times and buy tickets, it is essential to get information at the marina, at the port of Mindelo.