|(Aside: We realized
that referring to the country we're visiting as "Cabo
Verde" is akin to saying we're visiting "Deutschland"
on a trip to Germany. So it's "Cape Verde" from here
We took a direct flight from Lisbon to the Cape Verde island of Sao Vicente, then caught a ferry to the neighboring island of Santo Antao (photo 1), known for its precipitous mountains, deep valleys, precariously perched villages (photo 2), terraced agriculture, and excellent hiking along a large network of footpaths. By late afternoon we were being whisked by pickup truck across the high spine of the island to Ponta do Sol, where we would begin trekking the next morning. The steep, curvy road was cobbled expertly by hand for its entire length, as were many other roads and footpaths throughout the island, along with impressive retaining walls, buttresses, and bridges. The manual construction effort for such quality and durability is truly mind boggling.
Our three days of hiking were exceptional, each one very different from the others. The first day, from Ponta do Sol to Cha de Igreja, stuck to the coast, but a series of deep canyons yielded plenty of ups and downs (photo 3). As the trail traversed high above very rough seas, we tried not to think about the sailing ahead. The second day, from Horta de Garca to Alto Mira, involved a big climb back up to the spine of the island with incredible views in both directions (photos 4-5), then an extremely steep descent (photo 6) to the Alto Mira village on the rim of a deep ravine. On the third day we drove some distance to a remote part of the island so we could hike to the island's highest point, the summit of the Tope de Coroa volcano (photo 7). Views, once again, were excellent (photos 8-9).
We organized the trekking in advance through Vista Verde Tours. Our guide, Osvaldo (photo 10), grew up on Santo Antao and started guiding initially based on his gift for languages -- in addition to Portuguese and the local Creole dialect, he speaks Spanish, English, French, and Italian. Osvaldo has been guiding for 20 years so he knows the island well. He also claims to know 99% of its 45,000 residents -- a claim we can't refute since he did seem to know everyone we ran into, with the exception of a man alongside our most remote trail making goat cheese inside a cave. (The man happily shared his fresh goat cheese with us -- it was delicious!) We met a handful of other trekkers on our first two days, exclusively Europeans and predominantly French; apparently that's representative of the typical clientele. Guesthouses in the villages were modest but clean. Food was good to excellent, with little difficulty catering to our one vegetarian and one celiac. Overall, Cape Verde defies categorization -- although it's a developing country of African persuasion, it seems far more "together" in many ways than one might expect. We're looking forward to getting to know it more deeply in the remainder of our trip.
Next: Ferry back to the town of Mindelo on Sao Vicente island, an afternoon to shop and provision the sailboat, overnight in the harbor, then head out the next morning for eight full days of island-hopping.