Almost everyone travelling to Santo Antão takes the ferry, leaving from São Vicente, to Porto Novo on the South coast of the island, but I decided to fly to Ponta do Sol, where I would be staying in, on the North coast. Considered one of the most mountainous islands of Cape Verde, some of its remote areas are still innaccessible. It is an island of harsh ravines, precipices, intricate terracing and ingeniously irrigated areas running across the slopes.
Having stayed at a guesthouse ("Chez Louisette") owned by a Capeverdean who had been an imigrant in France, allowed me to visit the island together with other French tourists, on very well organized guided tours over three days which covered most of the island, even some of those inner areas you would not consider visiting if you were on your own.
On one of these tours we stopped at Ribeira da Cruz, where the production of "grogue" (a local sugar cane alcoholic drink) is stil hand made, using a large machinery driven by oxen plodding round and round in an almost never ending sequence of circles, called the "trapiche".
Sugar cane in bloom (Left). "Trapiche" (Right)
Cruzinha da Garça, which mostly impressed me with it's dark cliffs against a strong blue sea, was home to a few Jewish families, who in their condition of exiles escaping the Inquisition or forced "degredados" started arriving and settling on this part of the island around 1548.
From Ponta do Sol I walked to Fontainhas, which is "perched like a fairy tale village on a high and precipitous spit of land above a deep ribeira". It is located in the Northern part of the island and as I was walking there, met several children and young adolescents, who then had to walk for hours up those labyrinthic lanes to go to school (every single day). The mountains dominate the whole area around the village and to both sides farms in the form of paddies and stone walls are to be seen.Ponta do Sol village (Left). Fontainhas village (Right).
On the way to Coculi I met this lady, one of the many who work for endless hours collecting stones and transporting them across some difficult track towards a delimited area in the valley, where they have to break them smaller and have them filtered, so as to obtain a thin mixture similar to sand, used for construction purposes. I was impressed with the amount of hard work involved, but even more impressed when she (another Capeverdean mother bringing up their children alone) invited me to the house she had built herself with the help of her two daughters and son (still young adolescents).
Moved, not to say almost "inspired" by the visible strength of these women and men I headed to the airport on my way to the next stop, Santiago island ...