When examining the map, we realized that there were two paths that allowed us to go from Porto Novo, the capital, to the second city.
One of them, Estrada da Corda, was inland and towards the mountains of Santo Antão. The other followed northeast and flexed northwest, always by the seaside no less dizzying.
Equipped with a powerful pick-up, we decided to make our debut for Rope Road.
Even if demanding, in terms of driving, one of the most incredible rewards of the route proved to be the steep descent from the top of Delgadinho to Povoação, which is like saying Ribeira Grande.
Ribeira Grande, as a Visual Reward of Estrada da Corda
Gradually, through successive ones, increasingly tight, the boardwalk passes to the northern slope of the mountains. Curve after curve, reveals an unexpected multicolored houses.
Let's place it over the entrance to the valley. Over the alluvial delta in which, after the rains, the streams of Ribeira da Torre and Ribeira Grande are found, the latter, which since 2010 lends its name to the city, neighboring Ponta do sol.
It is inaugurated by a strange stream of buildings, some with the characteristic gray of the plaster, alternating with neighbors of their colors. As we glimpse them, they seem to hover over the deep blue Atlantic.
The approach ends up revealing them crowning the mountain crest of the Penha de França neighborhood that, to the west, seals the city from the sea.
We continued down. From the Segundo Espelho hill, towards the sandy bed, above countless improvised roofs and terraces.
From that perspective, they looked like an experimental lego composition, blessed by the crosses and towers lost in the polychrome whole.
A last U of the road, leaves us side by side with the last meters of Ribeira da Torre, and overlooking the bed, then dry, of volcanic gravel.
We walked along the riverside. We parked next to a service station near the central roundabout in Povoação.
The Pedestrian Discovery of Povoação (Ribeira Grande)
Let's untangle the legs. We switch to a long-awaited pedestrian mode.
On foot, we look for the urban core of Terreiro, one of the six well-demarcated areas that make up Ribeira Grande, which is home to the institutions that make Santo Antão work:
the bank, the post office, shops and small shops, some of the ever-present Chinese expats, warehouses, grocery stores, the occasional tavern, the Chierry boutique, on the ground floor of a dark yellow building that matches the light blue, crowned with a cross, from the Church of the Nazarene.
Between the two, there is also a Parisian-style lamp, like the ones that abound in the distant former Portuguese metropolis.
Ribeira Grande: the Pioneer Village of Santo Antão
The island of Santo Antão was discovered in 1462, uninhabited, like the rest of the Cape Verde archipelago. The first attempt at colonization only took place in 1548.
And the settlement that would give rise to Povoação dates back to the XNUMXth century, carried out with people from the islands of fire and Santiago which were joined by settlers embarked in the north of Portugal.
The choice of the area through which we continued to roam followed an unequivocal logic of water abundance and soil fertility. In this context, Santo Antão has its bipolar aspect.
Most of the slopes facing south and located further south, in the shadow of the great elevations, are arid and inhospitable. There, where colonization was outlined, a fortuitous combination of advantages, from an early age, augured success.
The north coast of the island retained the humidity blown, continuously by the Alísios. As if that were not enough, the settlers dictated to Povoação over the double mouth of two of the main streams of Santo Antão.
At the time, according to the tides and the direction and strength of the wind, the sea rose more or less along its beds and formed an inlet. Over time, it is estimated that during the XNUMXth century, the mouth of the streams silted up.
Only almost during the rainy season, in August and September, the Grande and Torre streams reach the Atlantic with a flow worthy of the wide and deep gorges through which they flow.
This dryness and fluvial parsimony allowed that, over time, Povoação spread across a large part of the alluvial delta.
From Penha de França to Terreiro and Tarrafal da Ribeira Grande
Always on the historic and perpetual boardwalk, we explored more of other areas of the city. We crossed a bridge to the neighborhood of Tarrafal, which the width of the dry bed of the Tower keeps isolated.
At that time, a fierce match takes place over the Santo Crucifixo Futebol Clube's naked game, which, behold the strangeness, has, a few meters away, the company of a certain "masturbation bar".
The lack of space trapped the field between the houses, the gravel of the stream and the exit road to the northeast coast of the island.
The naked was located so close to the basaltic sand that any strong and misdirected kick, delivers the ball to the ocean.
There, too, we get lost in the charm of Ribeira Grande.
Four young people hang out at the entrance of another bar, all with flip-flops on their feet, two boys in hats, two girls with hair in different Creole styles.
The Lush Murals That Decorate Ribeira Grande
On the other side of the street, another group of older residents sits on benches at the base of one of the large murals that adorn the city.
Several of them are authored by Ozmo, heteronym of Gionata Nesti, an Italian street artist who has left impressive works to the world, including those in the western reaches of Cape Verde.
We come across other of his paintings. Some, we are inspired by photos in which we make them interact with the residents, in which we make them living elements of the old Ribeira Grande.
A group of kids have fun posing against the profile of a honey-eyed Creole who rests with a Cape Verdean kingfisher (Passarinha) perched on one arm.
With the afternoon in the middle, we perceive the shadow taking over the respective wall. We decided to return to the pick up and venture up the Ribeira Grande bed.
Along Ribeira Grande Acima, towards Fajãzinha
In the image of the Ribeira da Torre valley, this one also reveals itself to be wide, sculpted by millennia in which the water flowed there in torrents and much more abundantly.
At spaces, we find plantations that fill in careful terraces, in the middle of slopes that rise with serrated peaks that seem to tear the sky. We pass under an aqueduct built in a curve where the valley narrows in the shape of a gorge.
Around it, sugar cane, cassava, corn and beans abound, key to Cachupa, the Cape Verdean national dish.
The valley opens up again. It forces us to climb to higher lands and into the mountains, along a little road that, lost in such wrinkled monumentality, could be called “Insignificance”.
On the opposite side of the slope, sheltered from the Alísios, the soil dries up again. The twilight seizes the back of the thalwegs. In one of them, the silhouette of a mini-forest of coconut trees cuts the ocher-green face of the cliffs.
Unexpectedly, the path reveals one or two fearless villages. In one of them, there is a grocery store with conscientious owners who, by way of warning, christened it “As far as possible".
We pass Coculi and several Bocas, where tributary streams, in the case of Chã de Pedra, coming from further up the mountain, join the Grande. First, the Boca de Corral.
Then, the Boca de Ambos Ribeiras.
At that time, we felt the geological heart of Santo Antão throbbing. Its roar is so strong that it makes us intimidated.
In the vicinity of Garça de Cima, a wide meander of the road sends us back to the top of the island. We bend towards its northeast coast, along the deep canyon of a third main stream, that of Garça.
We find it already in the last third of its steep 8km route, starting at 1810m from Lombo Gudo.
As with the other streams of Santo Antão and, throughout the Macaronesia island of MadeiraFrom an early age, the settlers developed a complex system of levadas that, as the name implies, allow them to carry water wherever crops and livestock need it.
It was, to a large extent, this system that enabled the formation of remote settlements of considerable size, surrounded by smallholdings, such as Chã de Igreja and neighboring Fajãnzinha.
Despite the imminence of the jagged mouth and, once again from the Atlantic, dusk and pitch forced us to decree Fajãnzinha the final destination of the day.