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La Team MyAtlas
In this article, you can discover my week on the amazing island of Santo Antão, Cabo Verde, West Africa.
Du 12 au 20 janvier 2020
9 jours
Partager ce carnet de voyage
J1

For my very first trip of 2020, I decided to go to a sunny (and warm) destination: Cape Verde! 😀

Cape Verde, or Cabo Verde in Portuguese, is an archipelago of ten volcanic islands in the central Atlantic Ocean. It is located off the coast of Senegal, Northwest Africa. The Cape Verde archipelago was uninhabited until the 15th century, when Portuguese explorers discovered and colonised the islands. Ideally located for the Atlantic slave trade, the islands grew prosperous throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, attracting merchants, and pirates.

The end of slavery in the 19th century led to economic decline and emigration. Cape Verde gradually recovered as an important commercial center and stopover for shipping routes. The islands continued to campaign for independence, which was achieved in 1975.

You are probably used to my travelling solo... well, you will be surprised, this time, I was travelling with a French travel agency called Terres d'Aventure. We were a group of 15 people, from 26 to 74 years old.

On the left: the flag of the Cape Verde, and on the right: our trip

On the very first day of our holiday, i.e., Sunday 12th of January, we met at 4.30 am at Paris airport. Aoutch! 😉 I am not used to waking up that early... We took a direct flight (6 hours) from Paris to Mindelo, on São Vicente island. I had no neighbour and thus managed to sleep a couple of hours! 😀

From Paris to Mindelo 

As soon as we landed, we discovered a very welcoming country. The best way to characterise Cape Verde and its inhabitants? "No stress", for sure! 😀 Our guide for the whole week, Tatiana, was waiting for us at the airport. We took a minibus to check in and drop our backpacks at the hotel - note I got fairly lucky as I ended up in a single room! Eight of us then walked to the beach and ordered a delicious grilled fish.

Top pics: lunch with a view! Bottom pics: I was almost alone in the water, which was rather freezing 😉
A little video: me having fun with my new GoPro 😉

I then went for a little solo walk in the city of Mindelo. A couple of things surprised me: 1) streets were extremely clean, and 2) people were very respectuous and nice, despite my being a white woman alone (you can read my old articles about Cuba, Ghana, and Morocco, to better understand what I mean...).

In the streets of Mindelo 

São Vicente is one of the Barlavento islands, the northern group of islands within the Cape Verde. Due to its lack of water, the island was initially used only as a cattle pasture.

Mindelo is a port city, located in the northern part of São Vicente. The city is home to 93% of the entire island's population, and is known for its colourful carnival celebrations. It was also the hometown of the famous singer Cesária Évora, nicknamed the "barefoot diva".

In the evening, we went all together to a little family restaurant. I got to chat a little more with the other members of my group, and also to taste the traditional cuisine, made of fresh fish, vegetables (including carrots, cabbage, manioc, sweet potatoes...), and rice. Every single plate was delicious. We also got to taste the homemade "arranged rum", Cape Verde being host of many sugar cane fields. Yummy yummy! 😀 The whole dinner was accompanied by a small band playing traditional music, such as Cesária's songs.

A little overview of our evening 

We spent the night at Residencial Raiar, offering nice and clean rooms, and located only a few minutes walk from the beachfront. Breakfast was very good and pretty varied as well.

J2

Monday 13th of January. Early alarm at 5.45... But it was totally worth it! We reached Mindelo harbour to catch our ferry towards Porto Novo, on Santao Antão island - or: the island where we spent the week - and we saw the beautiful sunrise on the ocean. Crossing lasts about an hour between the two islands.

Sunrise on Mindelo harbour
Me having fun with my GoPro (again)

Once we reached Porto Novo, we met our driver and his brand new minibus, which took us around the island for the whole week. We drove about 30 minutes to reach Ribeira da Patas, the starting point of our hike. But, before that, we stopped a couple of times on the road to admire the new landscapes! 😉

First point of view 
Second point of view 

Three things before starting to hike: 1) we filled in our water bottles, 2) we spread the picnic in the backpacks (I received two goat cheeses, yay!), and 3) Tatiana showed us the path on the map. Ready? 😀

Ready, steady, go! 

We stopped for a well-deserved (😉) lunch under a massive tree, and enjoyed the fresh bread, tuna, cherry tomatoes, coriander, goat cheese, homemade papaya jam, bananas and apples we carried with us.

Advanced picnic 

Back to walking! Until we reach the little village of Chã de Morte, after a 4-hour hike (elevation +: 380m, elevation -: 490m). As you can see on the pictures, the landscapes were very dry and arid. No rain here...

Afternoon walk 

We reached our accommodation fairly early, where our driver and backpacks were waiting for us. After a nice (yet cold) shower, some of us went to the local bar for a beer (or peach juice, for me 😉).

Apéro 

Very important note upcoming.

Too many non-Frenchies do not know the concept of "apéro", whereas it is an integral element of our life. I am now going to answer an existential question: how much does the traditional apéro really mean to French people? Apéro, short for apéritif, is sacred in France: an hour or so before dinner where you can unwind over a cocktail (or two) and a few snacks. It is not about getting drunk: it is about spending time together. Alors, on prend l'apéro ?

We then had a quiet evening (with no music) at our guesthouse, with more delicious traditional food.

• • •

You might want to note that all the pictures in this article were taken by my smartphone, and not my camera, contrary to what you were used to... This could explain a slightly lower quality than usual! 😉

J3

Before starting our second day of hiking, we drove an hour to reach the Cova crater, a volcanic caldera in the eastcentral part of Santo Antão. The diameter of the caldera is about one kilometre, and forms a part of Cova-Paul-Ribeira da Torre Natural Park. The Cova formation dates from between 1.4 million and 700,000 years ago. Our driver stopped a few times on the way for us to do like the Japanese tourists! 😉

Stop "à la Japonaise" 😀

Once Tatiana explained to us the flow of the day, i.e., about 4 hours of hiking, with an elevation + of 400m and an elevation - of 450m, we started to walk in a pine forest. The landscapes were completely different than those of the first day, yet very nice as well. The weather was perfect for hiking, as the sun was hidden.

Morning walk 

A few of us were starving past noon, but I would say that Tatiana chose the perfect spot for us to have lunch. We indeed stopped at the top of a hill, with an amazing and peaceful view. As for the picnic, we all carried a box of rice salad, with a few vegetables (and coriander), which was very good. We also had fruits.

What I like to call: lunch with a view 

Our afternoon walk was surprisingly short, and we were (almost! lol) ready to keep on with walking before getting on the minibus. We drove along some scary roads, with extremely steep and dangerous hills. The point of views were impressive, but even the ones who did not have vertigo did not feel comfortable! 😉

Wow 

After a short drive, we reached the city of Ribeira Grande and our guesthouse for the coming couple of nights. We discovered a small city coloured with street art, as well as a tiny bar where we had apéro! 😉

In the streets of Ribeira Grande 

For dinner, we went to a local restaurant where we had - again - some delicious grilled fish, some fresh veggies, some rice, some French fries, some perfect dessert, and some homemade arranged rum... 😀

J4

After a good night of sleep, a full breakfast, filling in the water bottles, and a briefing of the coming day, here we are! Ready for our third day of hiking along Ribeira Grande and its cultivated terraces of bananas, sugar canes, manioc, and sweet potatoes. Five-hour hike, elevation +: 650m, elevation -: 750m.

And yet we discover some completely new landscapes on this small but surprising island of Santo Antão...

Intense morning 

No picnic for lunch today, but maybe even better???... Let me show you in pictures! 😀

Lunch and nap 

Chop chop, we still have a few kilometres to walk! And we got to chat with some locals on the way.

Post-lunch pictures (not many, was I too lazy?) 

Talking about locals... I would like to take a little break in my story, and introduce some very beautiful portraits taken by Pascal V., a photographer - and member of our hiking group. Thank you Pascal! 😀

Portraits by Pascal V. ©

Back to our story... Our driver took us back to the guesthouse for a warm shower, and it quickly became apéro o'clock again! Yes, yes, everyday, you got me! In the evening, we went to a restaurant for dinner: the Divin'Art. I completely fell under the charm of the handsome singer/guitarist... but I was too shy to flirt! 😉

Boa noite 😉
J5

I had a very good night of sleep and, good news, my thighs and calves do not hurt anymore! 😀 Also, as you may have noticed on the previous pictures, I borrowed some hiking sticks from Claudine as she was not really using hers. After checking out from our guesthouse, we drove towards Cruzinha, a little fishing village. But, before that, we stopped for a few pictures! How cute do I look with my knee plaster??? 😉 lol

Morning preparation and picture stop! 

The plan for the day? A 15-km hike along the coast! Elevation +: 640m, elevation -: 680m. Let's go! 😀

Morning 

I really enjoyed the landscapes (you might know that I am a big fan of the ocean), and it was great to not suffer from muscle aches anymore. For lunch, we stopped at a little restaurant, once again with a great view.

Lunch with a view 

Let's play a little game! 😀 On the last picture, you need to find 3 things: me, a cat, a dog.

The afternoon hike was fairly intense. We indeed walked along a Way of the Cross, going higher and higher, in the sun. It fell like it would never end... The landscapes totally worth it, though! After a few hours, we started to see the city of Ponta do Sol, our destination for the night. In total, we walked 5-6 hours.

The Way of the Cross 

Fairly sad news when we reached the city, there was a problem in our guesthouse and the water was not working! We had all dreamt of a warm shower after this intense day... 😉 Luckily enough, we all managed to use Tatiana's shower, one by one. For dinner, we got a delicious chocolate cake as it was Christine's birthday.

Nice evening in Ponta do Sol 

What a day! 😀

J6

Friday 17th of January; our fifth day of hiking. The day too many for me. Maybe because I was not used to hiking, or maybe because the path was hard (a lot of elevations and rolling stones), or maybe because I was tired, or maybe because of the sun. Maybe a mix of everything. But let me go back to the start of the day.

Ribeira de Paul

The first part of the morning hike went very well. The landscapes were amazing, and again very different from the previous days. We stopped a first time for a few pictures with Tatiana, and a second time to taste some fresh guavas with a few locals. It was sunny and nice, as you can see from my above pictures.

Pictures and guavas 

The second part of the morning did not go as well for me - and for Caroline. I first had a little hypoglycaemia when going up, and then were nauseous when going down. The path was completely unstable, I had trouble to focus. Caroline fell down and broke her little finger. We had a short coffee break.

Second part of the morning 

I was relieved when we eventually reached our lunch place, but something weird happened to me: I started to shiver, I felt extremely tired, and I was freezing. I put on my jumper, and Paul gave me his. I did not manage to warm up in spite of the 25 degrees, nor to feel any better. The food appeared tasteless to me.

We still had a few kilometres to walk after the lunch, for a total of 4 to 5 hours, with an elevation positive of 520m and similarly in negative. And this is when I sprained my ankle... Again... 😉 But, to be fair, I got lucky because I had very good hiking shoes and the sticks when it happened. It was thus only a small sprain.

Afternoon encounters 

It was quite hard for me to finish the hike on that day, and I cried a little on the way. I felt tired and hopeless. But, I made it to the bus, Tatiana waiting for me, and Paul carrying my backpack. On the way back, we stopped at a rum distillery, where we got to taste a few different rums. Very good for the ankle! 😉 In the evening, we went to a local market and party in Ponta do Sol, with a very good atmosphere.

Rum distillery and local fiesta 

Glad I brought my peppermint essential oil and my ankle support... 😉

J7

Saturday 18th was supposed to be our last day of hiking, but I decided not to join the group given the state of my ankle. To be honest, it was barely swollen, but it was painful to walk on it. So, we packed and left Ponta de Sol and drove to a tiny village. There, we found a wheelbarrow and I had fun with Alain... 😉

Wheelbarrow hike 

I spent the day at a local bar, with local music, reading my book, the feet in the swimming pool.

The hard life! 

The others met me around 2 or 3pm, after their hike. Our driver took us back all the way to Porto Novo, where we took the ferry to head back to Mindelo, on São Vicente island... In the evening, we went for dinner at the exact same place where we went on our first day, and we stayed in the same hotel. It felt like nothing had changed, yet everything had changed. We were now bonded thanks to a great week of hiking.

Back to Mindelo 

We were ready for (what we thought was) our last night in Cape Verde.

J8

Wait, did I write "what we thought was our last night"? Let me explain... 😉 We were indeed supposed to fly back to Paris on Sunday 19th of January. We packed our stuff one last time (or not), we checked out from the hotel, and said goodbye to the Belgians and to Claudine and Michel (who were staying a couple more days).

Ciao ciao Mindelo 

We drove to the airport, checked-in our luggage, and... after waiting for 4 hours at airport, we learnt that our flight was canceled due to weather conditions! What we absolutely did not understand at first, as it was sunny and warm. We thus drove back to our hotel, and went for another lunch and swim... 😉

Top pictures: at the airport, bottom pictures: back to Mindelo (again) 

In the end, we took off 24 hours later, and reached Paris a few minutes before 9pm on Monday 20th. I then got extremely lucky because Marie and Bruno, who were driving to Brittany, offered to drop me off in Le Mans around midnight so that I did not have to book a hotel in Paris and take the train of the next day!

• • •

Conclusions of the week...

- I discovered a very beautiful country, both in terms of landscapes (as you saw in my pictures) and way of life (diversified culture, music, welcoming inhabitants, etc).

- I enjoyed traveling with a group and a guide (an amazing guide, shall I say!), me who is used to traveling on my own - as you might have seen in my other articles.

- It is very nice to travel to a sunny and warm place in January, for a real Winter break!

That's it for now, dear readers! Probably no new articles coming soon, as I am moving to Lyon (South-East of France) in a few weeks, for a new beginning (new job, new flat, new life). Wish me good luck! 😀