Cape Verde Islands – How Good are your Knees?
The highlight of this holiday is the scenery and walking on the island of Santo Antao. Minibuses convey you from the hotel on the coast to the ‘top’ of the island on roads more spectacular than you have encountered before. From there, the walks are in ribeiras, dropping three thousand feet through stupendous scenery and luxuriant vegetation.
Good paths take seemingly impossible routes. The best walks are down Ribeira de Paul, Ribeira de Torre and descents into Ribeira Grande. On the islands of Santiago and Sao Vincente, the slopes and the vegetation are less, and walks are short and less demanding. There is, however, the opportunity to swim from deserted beaches on two occasions.
It was a joy, especially in February, to see all the flowers, fruit and vegetables. Ornithologists were delighted by the sight of grey shouldered kingfishers, on an almost daily basis on Santiago. Those interested in geology will not be disappointed.
The February departure can also be recommended because it coincides with the Ash Wednesday celebrations. Drums were being enthusiastically practised and we were mesmerised by the girls dancing in the town squares in the evenings. We witnessed several small, colourful processions.
Photographers will be pleased by the wealth of material :– the bright clothes and colourful houses of the people, childen’s braided hairstyles, children jumping in the waves, people carrying bundles of sticks or bowls of produce on their heads, well-laden donkeys and fishing boats pulled up on the shore.
The islands are full of contrasts. We landed on Sao Vincente in a moonscape scene, drove over a hill and were suddenly confronted by the town of Mindelo, sprawling up the hillsides on three sides with a harbour full of boats on the other. We were able to enjoy this from the fourth floor breakfast room of our hotel. On the same island we walked the length of a magnificent beach of sand blown onto the shore from the Sahara. The sea was turquoise and the hills behind very scenic.
The Hotel Quinta da Montanha on Santiago is a delight and serves good food. The other hotels and restaurants are mostly adequate but no more. However, this goes with the territory. The ‘pioneer’ label is deserved. Some hotels have unusual shortages. The schedule had to be changed when the ferry to Santo Antao was full. Two walking days on Santiago were still in the discovery phase.
Probably the most unusual experience I had during the holiday was at the village of Ribeira da Barca on Santiago. I was collecting cowrie shells on the beach accompanied by a family of pigs!
Be warned that the strong sun means that you will feel very hot; expect to eat a lot of fish; and pack light – lots of carrying required.
Thanks to the group for their companionship and to Kath Benson, our enthusiastic leader.