There are 2829 meters, those of the Fogo volcano.
We ascend them and then descend them, for the most part, on rough lava or sand and volcanic ash where every two steps upwards gave rise to a slide. This setback was compounded by the altitude factor and the effect of the sun's rays, which were much more exhausting than at sea level.
As happens all too often, the constancy with which we interrupt the ascent and descent to contemplate the surrounding scenarios and their photography, caused a serious delay in arriving at the village, two additional hours, seven instead of the usual five, four used in the ascent, three in the descent.
We returned in ecstasy for all that had meant and provided that new achievement. Also exhausted by the effort we put into it.
It was, therefore, unsurprising that the night we spent at the Home Adriano, in Bangaeira, proved to be the one with the best sleep of many in Cape Verdean lands.
Dª Filomena had prepared a lunch for us in time for a normal meal time. Instead, we had lunch after three in the afternoon. Until sunset, we wandered among the buried houses and lived with families from Portela and Bangaeira.
Half an hour after the sun sets west of the island, we return to the shelter of the Montronds.
We drink anything hot. At nine in the evening, we surrender to fatigue.
We slept until seven in the morning. Shortly after dawn and devoured breakfast, we resumed the discovery and photography of Chã and its caldera, denuded as it was, despite more than an eruption of the capricious Fogo.
Around eleven, with the sun almost at its peak, the light turns out to be too harsh for our taste. It was the solar stimulus we were waiting for to get us on our way.
Exit from the Great Caldera of Fogo Volcano
The journey to Mosteiros went through the internal stretch between Bangaeira and the eastern exit of the caldera. Even on a Sunday, the people of Chã were forced to guarantee their livelihood.
In this space, we come across the last homes of the Caldeira. One of them displayed a small craft display by the wayside. A green articulated table, covered with volcanic sand, suggested coffee bags, houses and other sculptures created with lava, huts and other materials, especially vegetables.
We had already bought dozens of these traditional houses from residents we found at the opposite entrance to the boiler, next to the sign that welcomes those who enter the Fogo Natural Park. We limit ourselves, therefore, to contemplating the careful arrangement of the pieces and moving on.
A few hundred meters later, we came across a lady in dark robes and light eyes, with a large bunch of stone beans on her head.
Little by little, we made our way between a colony of large eucalyptus trees and a sea of lava propagated by one of the dozens of eruptions of the volcano, everything indicated that it was in 1951.
We said goodbye to Fogo, its hill enveloped in a hot, dry mist that reduced it to an almost conical silhouette, increasingly diffused against the whitish sky.
Passage from Chã das Caldeiras to Monte Velho Forest
We've reached the edge of the border. The path leaves the lava stronghold. Enter the Monte Velho Forest Perimeter.
Out of nowhere, a blue pick-up truck emerges from a meandering track. It comes loaded with wooden beams, essential to the reconstruction effort that the people of Chã das Caldeiras were forced to do after the last eruption of 2014-2015.
During our passage, the ranger is absent from the post. Embarrassed by the duty to charge tickets, he reaches us in a hurry. We paid you the 200 escudos due. The boy hands us the respective note and thanks, after which he goes back to the tasks that kept him away.
We continued on the descent. Eventually, an opening in the vegetation reveals a surreal scenario.
Between the plane of the treetops and the blue sky that served as the vault for everything, a great front of white clouds challenged the falling but solidified flow of the overwhelming flow that we had been following for a long time.
As white as it seemed to us, this almost tangible front of the famous Cape Verdean dry mist contained moisture.
It raised and irrigated the east-northeast bush of the island of Fogo, a vegetation at the top, old and leafy but that would soon surrender to different miraculous plant expressions.
Another farrusque sign identified villages and places reachable by the branching of a fork: Montinho, Piorno, Campanas Cima and R. Filipe on one side. Centro Monte Velho, Coxo, Pai António and Mosteiros Trás, on the other. We knew that by taking the second one, we would be on the right path.
The Semi-Vertiginous Descent Flanked by Agaves
Before long, the almost unpaved road gives way to a narrow, steep and winding path, flanked by hundreds of verdant and sharp agaves.
So pointed that any distraction and fall would result in serious injury. Steep as it was, the trail quickly took us under the blanket of “dry mist”. revealed to us one World gradually more fertile.
On both sides of the agave hedge, the slope was filled with coffee groves that give rise to the prestigious Fogo café. Also banana plantations. And papaya trees. Here and there, some plantations lost among others.
Dairy cows grazed on makeshift, sloping pastures, furrowed by a network of old walls that marked properties.
The Municipality and the Village of Mosteiros. Between the Agricultural Fields and the Sea
The slope we were descending included Mosteiros, a county-municipality with almost ten thousand inhabitants and a growing population since at least 1980. at the foot of the volcano and at the exit of the trail we were trying to complete.
Almost all the inhabitants of Mosteiros live and depend on the rural environment, the main reason why we saw the slope cultivated even in strongholds so overhanging that they rejected terraces.
They plant them, keep them and harvest them with the help of small donkeys but powerful enough and resistant enough to carry their owners and large loads uphill.
Once again the vegetation opens up. It forms a natural window framing the vast lava slab at the northeast foot of the slope.
From there, among the foliage, we glimpse the half-finished block houses of Vila de Mosteiros, the seat of the homonymous county, in practice, a cluster of small, remedied villages inhabited by around four hundred souls.
Agriculture aside, many of its people from Fogu still enjoy the fishing livelihood that the Atlantic guarantees them.
Two hours had passed. The sun fell west of the Fire.
For reasons that only the “dry mist” knew about, it only affected the village. It brightened the houses and made it contrast with the desolate blackness in which it sat.
The Musical Foreshadowing of Pai António. And the End of the Railroad.
With the knees in intense complaining, to the sound of an unexpected and festive batuque, we make ourselves to an improvised staircase. From its beginning, we could not see what was further down, but we suspected that it signaled the end of the route.
Finally, the staircase detaches us from the trees. The first steps show us a distant fort of houses from which huge papaya trees projected. The following ones reveal to us a pavement of Pai António Fundeira and the unmistakable Cape Verdean life scene that took place there.
The music came from a small grog bar with a hut roof, where a woman from the village stood in the shade and at the counter. At the side, between fierce table football matches, two countrymen discussed loudly, so at ease that not even the batuko it drowned out their arguments.
In front of him, Edilson, our “official” taxi driver on the island of Fogo, despaired of our delay. “Ah, there you are, at last.
I could see they were lost!” He greets us, therefore, with the confidence that we had from both sides, gained in good-natured conversations on other paths.
There, we completed 11km of arduous descent. The water we were carrying hadn't completely quenched our thirst. In agreement, we sat on the wall drinking a beer and a juice, chatting with the locals who, without waiting, welcomed us. There followed a drawn-out return to the capital São Filipe.
And a few more days in the warm Fogo de Cabo Verde.