Cape Verde has its times. The arrival of the ferry “freedom” from Praia City, Santiago island, accumulated three hours of delay.
“No need to go to the port now. They stay here on the terrace enjoying the view and having a drink. When they see the boat appear behind the south of fire, then go downstairs, without haste."
The advice of the owners of the Xaguate hotel spares us a desperate wait. He did not spare the intense swaying of the ferry in most of the navigation between São Filipe and the fishing village of Furnas.
As a result of successive mishaps, we disembarked at Brava at almost half past eleven at night. We felt tired to match.
When we discover that, without having asked for it, we had a Hiace from the inn waiting, the unexpected ride calms us down. Already installed, we take advantage of the momentum of the "freedom” in the back of minds. We fell asleep in a flash.
With dawn, we resume the Hiace saga. As much as we looked, there wasn't a single car for rent in all of Brava.
The guy at the reception tells us that his uncle Joaquim could get us out. Twenty minutes later, Mr. Joaquim shows up with an old van. Hiace, of course.
Until then, we had driven a little bit of everything in Cape Verde, at one point, with preference for the powerful pick ups that, since the almost forced debut, in Santo Antão, we had become adepts.
We recognized the popularity of the Hiaces in Cape Verde. They had spared us several too long walks. What we didn't count on was to become conductors of one, for more, elderly, full of stubbornness.
And in the morning.
When confirming the lack of alternatives, we accept. We installed ourselves, half lost in the excessive cabin, afraid that the car's brakes would give way on one of the island's successive steep slopes.
From the Nova Sintra "Capital" to the Discovery of Brava
we leave Nova Sintra, the capital, for later.
In a first phase, in full rise of the slopes that succeed Cova Rodela, we see the capital's houses extending along the gentle slope to the east, submissive to the majesty of the fire volcano mountain.
The houses of Brava, Nova Sintra and the rest are white, adorned by banana trees, papaya trees, agaves and vegetation related to those confines of the Macaronesia in which the birds flutter and bounce.
They are homes made of white walls, of baked clay tiles, like those in so many hamlets and villages in the ancient metropolis.
In the middle of the XNUMXth century, mainly Minho arrived from there. Madeirans accompanied us, also enticed by the even more unknown Atlantic.
They weren't the first islanders, far from it.
At the end of the XNUMXth century, Portuguese discoverers and traders were already using Brava as a slave post, complementary to the main one in the region. Ribeira Grande, current Old Town of Santiago.
The Portuguese Discovery of Ilha Brava
It gained enough supporters to popularize the idea that Dja Braba it was found on June 24, 1462, by Diogo Afonso, squire of D. Fernando, adopted son and heir of Infante D. Henrique and one of the sailors in the service of the Navigator.
Near the end of September of the same year, D. Afonso V sealed a royal letter that read “asi and by the guise that we have given to the other seven islands that Diego Affomsso, his squire found through Cape Verde".
More than eighty years passed without the island of São João being colonized in an organized way. In 1489, however, some adventurers already inhabited it.
The Intensified Settlement with the Forced Migration of Fogo Island
One of them was Lopo Afonso, squire of D. João II. THE "Principe Perfeito” donated to him and to his heirs any and all mines of gold, silver, copper or sulfur existing there, as a reward for the many services rendered by him.
Precious metals were something that Lopo Afonso and his descendants never found on the island. And they abandoned her.
Two decades later, D. João III, granted its exploitation for the cultivation of cotton, as long as they guaranteed the protection of the cattle that proliferated in the mountains and humid valleys, grazed by some of the slaves that, in the meantime, the island started to traffic.
At one point, Brava had more than two thousand heads of cows, goats, sheep and horses. As much as they grazed, little or nothing affected its almost luxuriant look, the look that takes us back to the christening of the capital.
To the Highs and Lows, in Search of the Escaping Fajã de Baixo
On tiny Brava, the great grassed and walled boardwalk forks. To the north, sharp edges of the island crept in, marked against the indigo of the Atlantic that the dry winter mist ceiling made foggy.
Somewhere between the northern outline of Brava and the horizon, the Grande, de Cima, Secos and Rombo islets dotted the ocean.
Bifurcation generates indecision in us. The relief and the blue appeal of the sea end up seducing us. We continue to the right, in the direction of Sorno, which the road never reaches.
When we conquered one of so many meanders, among sharp agaves, we came across an unexpected duo.
A resident walked side by side with a donkey loaded with drums of water.
Our passage, in the Hiace of which I certainly knew the owner, gives rise to a surprise that I prefer to hide. “Are you going to Fajã?” ask us. "It's beautiful, that over there."
On an island with a mere 67km2 it would be difficult for us to miss one of its must-see spots. We would go down there.
In the meantime, an overhanging white house with blue frames and shutters catches our attention, also flat against the matching background of sky and sea.
We noticed movement on the terrace that completed it. We decided to investigate. When we got there, a group of young people from Brave were talking in the sun.
From time to time, they snuggle two newborn goats. Tito, Daniel, Vitinho and Jim bring grass that the adult goats devour in three stages.
The heat refracted by the walls helped to soften a chatter that the boys didn't count on, but which they fed with a curious shyness.
We understand how important goats and goats were for their survival, as was the shaggy donkey that looked at us askance, attached to an old water tank.
A few minutes later, we reached the slope overlooking Ponta Cajau Grande. After a tight and excavated that in the rocky slope, we have the inaugural view of Fajã.
Descent to the Sheltered and Warm Cove of Fajã de Baixo
First, that of the craggy cove at its top.
Farther down, from the terraced bottom, dotted with palm trees and coconut trees standing out above the houses. We complete the zigzags for the marginal that separates it from the sea.
Protected from the trades by the configuration and depth of the bay, Fajã was warming up. Even in the middle of winter, the kind of greenhouse we found there justified the proliferation and health of tropical vegetation.
It also served to explain the fact that the waterfront was almost deserted.
It must be nearly two in the afternoon. Hungry, we probed the nearest restaurants and bars, Flowers of the Bay, Bar dy Nos. And others.
We were longing for a grilled fish, a cachupa, a Brave or Cape Verdean meal.
Finally, someone appears from the dark interior of an establishment. "At this time? We only have drinks. If they had called here before leaving Nova Sintra, we would have prepared something.
We only make food when we have guaranteed customers. And you are arriving at a very low season.” We're back to conforming. We thank you and order drinks to go.
We walked along the coast to the old Esperadinha airport, opened in 1992, closed in 2004 when it was realized that the winds that were whipping that north of Brava were too treacherous.
We return to the heart of Fajã. By that time, some fishing activity is already in the bay.
We accompanied a group of men struggling against the waves, anxious to deposit a small artisanal boat on the dry, non-rolling basalt pebbles.
And we see others laying out a net in the vicinity of a sailboat at anchor there.
Return to the Highlands of Ilha da Brava
With the sun about to disappear behind the western slopes and with so much of the island to be cleared, we return to its summit.
Again through the lands of Cova Joana, we continue along the road that we had previously rejected, towards Nª Srª do Monte, through the heights of Pico das Fontaínhas (976m) that no other point on the island surpasses.
We pass by Escovinha and Campo Baixo. A few additional kilometers in effort from Hiace, we enter Cachaço.
Where the road ends.
Cachaço's goat chin is famous.
Much more notorious than the house where the natives claim that the Brave poet Eugénio Tavares took refuge to compose the mornas that Cape Verde continues to hum.
Eugénio de Paula Tavares has written that “from Brava to any point, the winds are always forward, the sea is always choppy, the currents are always contrary, the sky is always cloudy and full of threats. But the return is the crack, the sea is roses and the winds are good.”
For the residents of Cachaço, the fog that threatened to veil the village, no longer bothered them at all.
They receive us with a strangeness that turns into unbridled chatter, with a group of them sitting in front of a house, for a change, greenish and with a duo of cheerful peasants who give a thirsty donkey something to drink.
Finally, the hanging mist takes over the village and the hills.
Afraid of having to complete it blindly, we anticipated the descent to Nova Sintra, the capital thus named due to the alleged similarities with Vila Saloia.
Lively late afternoon in Nova Sintra
In Nova Sintra, its usual joviality was renewed and celebrated.
On Valentine's Day, under the bronze mustaches of Eugénio de Paula Tavares, shameless teenagers stole flowers from the public garden. And, a few dozen meters from the place of the crime, they were offered them to the better halfs.
Carnival was at the door. Not even the flowery romanticism of the day spared the teenagers the daily rehearsals for the parades in a few days, animated by bass drums, drums, strange rectangular tambourines and masks carved from coconut shells.
On the fringe of this commotion, we devoured a cachupa, poor but providential, in the restaurant next to the bandstand in the center. Ecstatic, surrendered to the darkness that had settled in, we took refuge in the inn's bar.
There, we gave ourselves to an international game by Benfica that attracted an enthusiastic audience. João Gonçalves, the “Jiji” at the reception, is intrigued by our integration.
When we noticed it, we discussed with the host the adventures and misadventures of colonization and decolonization in Cape Verde: “But, given the strong connection that we still maintain, do you think that a solution like the one in the Azores and Madeira made sense? ”, we questioned him, challenged by the context.
Jiji is not with half measures. “No, the bad thing that happened in Cape Verde and Guinea was never comparable and it was too much for us to admit something like that.”
Glorioso won 1-0 over Borussia Dortmund. That night, we all drank ponchas. We all celebrated the complex Portugality.