The trades, always the trades.
There is no escaping them in Cape Verde. On the crossing from São Vicente to Santo Antão, the waves they generated made the ferry sway like a nutshell. On the flight between Santiago and São Nicolau, we felt them on our skin, in the form of goose bumps, every time the TACV plane jumped in their gusts.
The final approach to Preguiça Airport, in particular, turned out to be a short film of true aeronautical horror. As it aligned with the direction of the runway, the wind hit the sideways plane. Make him go down without warning.
Time after time, to the amazement of passengers, like us, newcomers to that route and we began to doubt that the aircraft would not crash onto the runway, instead of landing on it. Finally, the pilot gives Embraer one last big jump. It completes braking in a flash and with stability that gives us confidence.
While we wait for the baggage, conversation is conversational, we unburdened ourselves with an airport employee. This one tries to confirm to us the extremism of the flight. “Because friends, as a rule, cancel us when they register 40 knots. Today, there were 36 but no wonder they caught more than 40 gusts.”
The bags arrive. In good time. Even in a humorous way, the confession had taken away our desire to investigate further. We already knew, rather than appreciated it, how much the Alisios contributed to the harshness of St. Nicholas' life.
From the airport, we take a short trip to Ribeira Brava, the largest village on the island. There we settled. For the remainder of the day, we resolved the necessary logistics around the planned tour.
As had happened in Santo Antão, we rented a robust pick up. Afterwards, we had lunch at the bar of a well-off expatriate Italian on the island.
The Tone of Pastel Charm of Ribeira Brava
Recovered from the tribulations of flight, refreshed, we wandered to discover the nooks and crannies of Ribeira Brava.
As its name shows, after the decline of Preguiça, the village before the protagonist, has adapted to the intermediate meanders of a stream that, in rainy weather, flows with great fury along the slopes of the island's highest point, Monte Fat (1312m) below.
We were months away from this Atlantic monsoon. Both Ribeira Brava and the village lived a blessed peace. Blessed to double or not the city was now the proud seat of the diocese of Cape Verde.
We point to the central square. From the end of the alley we descended, we could hear the Creole of taxi drivers chatting by their twin Hiaces.
And, on the opposite side, in the sun that falls on the yellow, brown and white church of the Rosary, another group of elderly people, we would say retired, with time to lose themselves in the affairs of the day.
At this hot hour, the garden that extends from the cobbled crescent moon in front of the church, between the old pillory and the half-slope where the library has been arranged, belonged only to the stone wading bird that crowns the dry fountain there.
We have a look at classic family grocers, with antique wooden furniture, very solid, and a panoply of colorful packaging and products, most of them imported from Portugal and, as such, familiar.
All that afternoon, we continued to wander the gray sidewalk of the village, alley after alley, soothed by the multicolored constancy of the pastel houses.
The Musical Motto Heard in “Banana Secca”
With the inevitability of the night, fatigue and the last series of hunger of the day, we took refuge in a restaurant “Banana Secca”. There we devoured a new enriched cachupa and a peas, sweetened by puntches strong and the inevitable mornas, coladeiras, funanás and other rhythms of the islands that warm Cape Verde and the world.
Sometimes it sounds like "soda”. A different version of the one that the barefoot diva Cesária Évora immortalized. The lyrics again frame the theme in São Nicolau. We were in the urban heart of the island. Eager to explore it in search of the quintessence of sea, lava and love for others that it cost so many Sanicolauans to leave.
Saturday dawns sunny. For one or two of its morning hours, it gives us the impression that the Alísios had moved to other places. It's short-lived sun.
With the pick up ready to pick up, we left for the island.
The Monumental Ascent to the Heights of Monte Gordo
The inevitable ascent to the top of the valley into which Ribeira Brava expanded, reveals to us the whole of its houses, accommodated at the base of a hill, almost plateau, with a slope filled with lush bushes.
We reversed course to a much higher peak: that of Cachaço.
When we arrive at the earthen churchyard of Nossa Senhora Monte Cintinha Chapel, the Aliseu gale resurrects, more powerful than we had ever felt it.
We ventured onto the rocky, agave-covered promontory in the vicinity of the little church, from which, the further ahead, the more unobstructed it was revealed over the thalweg at that green height that descended towards the almost town from which we had departed.
The gusts shake us as if they wanted to stop us from photographing such beauty. With extra care and a tiny bit of unconsciousness, we stabilize our feet and legs on boulders.
Enough to fulfill the mission. We return to the path.
We revere the geological exuberance of the Monte Gordo Natural Park and the imposing dragon trees of the Fajã valley.
We are surprised by the duo of lost coconut trees, below, on a profusion of corn and other crops, against the capricious outline of the ridge around Covoada.
On the way to the North Coast
As much as we had traveled and climbed, we were still in the vicinity of Ribeira Brava. With the morning sinking into the mist that irrigated that north-facing stronghold that was the most luxurious in São Nicolau, we were forced to continue our journey towards the west coast, instead, summer to a degree that made it virtually desert.
From the green and fertile minifundia, we descend along one of the several arid ridges that furrow the west. Several kilometers of that dusty and ocher vastness later, we see the gray-cement and white houses of Tarrafal, stretched along a long Atlantic shore, enclosing a slope too irregular to be built on.
The road makes us cross the houses from top to bottom. It takes us to Avenida Assis Cadorio and the Baia do Tarrafal, which it acts as a marginal.
We stopped, seduced by the gaudy fleet of fishing boats, some in dry dock a few meters from the sea, others anchored on almost mirror water, more like a lake than a sea, the ocean.
We are in this contemplation when a sudden fishing frenzy takes over the cove.
Tarrafal. Party Interrupted by a School of Passengers
Remember that it is Saturday. At lunchtime, young fishermen from Tarrafal would fraternize at a well-watered party, taking place on the other side of the avenue, amid conversation, snacks and casual dancing. The revelry evolves at a good pace when the sea ahead summons them to work.
Despite the fun, two or three of them spot a school of fish simmering and glowing above the blue of the bay. With their lives dependent on the amount of fish, they are not begging.
They run to a large green net, little by little, helped by some kids determined to prove its usefulness, they roll it up tightly. And they deposit it on the stern of the “Viviano”, one of the most handy boats.
This preparation takes them a good quarter of an hour. But contrary to what they wanted, the school is passing through. In this lapse, they see him moving away to the high seas.
Enough to justify the return to bash at the expense of fishing.
Not everyone does it right away. Our unexpected presence and the arrival of another boat from the sea give rise to moments of interaction with some newer elements, who pose as a group on the heap of the net and show us newly caught flying fish and acrobatics cushioned by the sand.
The Fishing Genesis of Tarrafal
This time, the fish escaped the nets. However, it was fishing that put Tarrafal on São Nicolau's map. During the XNUMXth century, the village's quiet cove became a whaling harbor. It was later complemented with a fish processing unit.
These structures and the jobs they gave rise to were at the base of the promotion to a status equivalent to that of Ribeira Brava, even if with almost half of the population.
We continued to circle the island, counterclockwise, along the seafront that the imposing geological veins of the slopes did not reach. We pass Ponta do Portinho, Ribeira das Pedras and the old, weather-stained lighthouse in Barril. The road bends north.
Then it curves inland, towards the wetter heart of the island we had crossed after climbing Ribeira Brava.
The vastness we were traversing remained parched, lined with an almost shallow straw that gilded the flaps on our right. We entered the almost ellipse we were traversing on the map.
Top de Matinho, A Dazzling Expression of the Orography of São Nicolau
At a certain point, the trajectory reveals a steep forest of acacia trees and similar shrubs. And, far above, the sight of two sharp peaks, side by side, like brothers.
In the process of circling them, we saw a distant village, dispersed in more than a nucleus, part at the foot of the duo of hills, another part, higher up.
Without warning, the black sidewalk puts us in front of a portico perfectly framed with the double peak, Top de Matinho, we are later informed that it was called.
Pillars made of squares of basalt, supporting a beam with a rusty panel. A treble clef of the same material decorated the right pillar.
Despite the rust having invaded the letters on the top panel, we were able to decipher “land of sodad".
Feelings apart, even though it was already somewhat distant from the seafront, we were at the entrance to Praia Branca, the largest village in the northwest of São Nicolau. We stopped the march to photograph him.
In the process, a native of those stops passes by. Curious about the activities of outsiders, he approached us. “It was beautiful, wasn't it? You know why this is there, right?”
Praia Branca: Terra di Sodade and Its Controversy
Cesária Évora sang “Sodade” until her death and the song's eternal fame. Since 1991, the authorship of the theme has been the property of the musician duo Amândio Cabral and Luís Morais.
That was how it was until, in 2002, Armando Zeferino Soares came to demand the creation of the theme, supported by the musician Paulino Vieira.
Even if at different times, both Armando Zeferino Soares and Paulino Vieira were born in Praia Branca, the dazzling town that we had before us. Proud of the merit of Zeferino Soares, who died in April 2007, aged 77, and of having been the birthplace of “soda”, Praia Branca erected the evocative and commemorative portico “Terra di Sodad”.
But how was born "soda”? We go back to the 50's, in the middle of the Salazar era in the colonies of the Ultramar, Cape Verdeans in need often migrated to São Tomé e Príncipe where they found work in the cocoa and coffee fields.
Once they moved there, many of them stayed forever and are part of a substantial part of the São Tomé population. It was in this context that Armando Zeferino Soares composed “soda".
The year was 1954. With no great alternatives and some hope, four Sanicolau residents: José Nascimento Firmino, José da Cruz Gomes and the couple Mário Soares and Maria Francisca Soares formed the pioneer group of migrants from São Nicolau to the islands of Ecuador.
At that time, it was tradition for the countrymen who stayed to say goodbye to the music of those who left. The lyrics of “Sodade” convey the pain of seeing them leave without knowing if they would ever see each other again.
Over the years and the auditions, the genuineness and intensity of the emotions of the departure and migration from São Nicolau made him “soda” the hymn to Cape Verdean emigration.