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Mindelo - Santo Antão
-- 27th November to 7th December 2011 --
While the Busy Mindelo is bustling with flocks of yachts getting ready to sail over, on the other side of the channel everything is quiet on the high green mountains of Santo Antão.
More pictures of steep slopes and clever goats on the page "Photos"".

We sailed 0 miles but walked quite a few !
Still 4803 miles since the start
We stopped in : Sao Vicente – Mindelo (anchorage)
27th to 29th November, Mindelo
Here we are in Mindelo, last stop before the big jump to the other side, and also first city since Santa Cruz in Tenerife (Dakar doesn’t count, we would not have walked there alone for too long...). Back to civilization: there is free wifi on the square by the church (sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t...), a few supermarkets (selling butter in cans when you’re lucky to find them on a good day), restaurants serving fishes and grilled crayfish, markets with fruits and vegetables, even a launderette !!
Fishing harbor in Mindelo, fishes are drying in the sun in the city center

Coming from Santa Luzia we caught : 3 mahi mahi and 1 caranx ! Our homemade « poulpi » can be proud...
Our social life has never been so busy. We are anchored just a few meters away from “Ster Vraz” and “Cupidon” (the latest member of our club “less than 30 years old sailing on less than 10 m”). The fishes caught on the way here made a very nice diner for 6, despite a disastrous attempt to serve them fried in doughnuts (the dough was so liquid it turned into crepes for the next breakfast). Yet nobody seemed to complain... as we were enjoying our meal, all 6 around the table speaking of the weather forecast and gossiping about the new-comers at the anchorage, some uninvited guest turned up: a pair of antennas and six legs from above the kitchen... aaaahhh! We were so proud of our cockroach-free boat!!! Now it’s over, we’ll never be alone again onboard... (as per coincidence Cupidon saw their first 6-legged crew member on the next morning – sounds like it’s contagious!)

Philippe from Aumadatroi is here too. He and his crew are invited to lunch on Saltimbanque one sunny – just long enough for them to appreciate the comfort back on there big catamaran!
The anchor does not move, stuck in sand and mud. Excellent holding in the bay. And that’s better, as windgusts are extremely strong here, day and night (but mainly from the same direction North East). Just to be extra safe we drop a second anchor alongside before leaving our floating home for a couple of days to explore the island next door by ferry (anchorage there is almost impossible, and certainly not sustainable).
30th November to 2nd December, Santo Antão
It’s an early start to catch the first STM Lines ferry from the day, crossing the channel for a 1 hour ride to the sister island Santo Antão. Landing there in Porto Novo, we are planning to head West for a first day in the least touristic part of the island – not too many buses going there, yet we find the right “aluguer” which dirves us all around town before dropping us around noon at Curral das Vacas.

Mindelo Bay in the early morning light
The starting point of the path is not so easy to find, even if you have a detailed trekking map of the island (which you MUST have if you don’t want to stay on the two main tracks – for sale in the info booths of Mindelo and Santo Antão). We ask the shop-keeper along the road. This elderly lady, white hair tied in a bun, white apron, gets out of her neat like shop to show us the mountain and the pass. In a carefully slow Portuguese mized with the few words of French she learnt centuries ago at school she asks where we are going, checks that we have enough water with us and explain where we can refill and stop for the night on the way, in case of need – all this with a bright smile. Another island, same friendly helpful people!
So let’s go! We look up at the cliff... alright, on that plateau up there through that pass she said??? It looks like a 800m high wall! But there is a small path winding up indeed, and we start on it under a hot midday sun... 2 hours and 3 liters of water later we reach the top, exhausted but thrilled by the view!
The valley of Curral das Vacas

Tope de Coroa
After this hike up it’s only strolling downhill, on the plateau. The forms and colors are completely different here, all round and curvy, warmer and redder. There you can see the highest summit of the island (Tope de Coroa, unfortunately accessible only with a guide because of poor paths). On the way we meet lots of goats and chicken, some papaya trees and banana trees, sugarcane fields... and nice peasants yelling at us from the distance when we are about to get lost (scores of small paths run between the scattered houses and the fields, there is no sign anywhere).
Then we reach a steep slope down to Ribeira da Cruz. It’s so steep for so long that our legs are hurting. But farmers run around there as well, there loads on the their head and shoulders, climbing across the steep terrace fields on the slopes... we feel very humble and spoiled here...

It’s only down from here

On the slope the tiny dot below the house is a farmer, yes it is !
On that day we are lucky, it’s a holiday in the village. They celebrate Saint Andrew. On the main square a big tent shelters a dance floor and powerful speakers shouting some dance music mixed with local tunes that echoes on the cliffs and in the valleys around. Everybody is also reasonably drunk when we get there and we have no trouble finding a drink in a little wooden booth leaning on the wall by the road. Food doesn’t seem to be a top priority though... the lady being the counter giggles every time we open our mouth, she doesn’t understand a word of our basic Portuguese and that seems very funny. Yet she’s extremely helpful and runs in to prepare some food. 5 minutes later, diner is served and we are invited in the shelter to sit at the table (one plank on two bricks, the chairs being water jars). A delicious meal of rice with vegetable stew is in our dishes. “Have you eaten already?” we ask. “Yes yes but we made some more, in case someone else would be hungry”. We eat, happy, under the friendly supervision of the lady, her husband and three sons, all smiling at us.

We would have been invited to stay the night at their place, but we might as well help a little local businesses and we end up in the “pousada” (1500 escudos for a double room). We sleep in a wide, stable bed for the first time in 6 months! We just loved that day in the Western part of the island, less touristic, more authentic and offering stunning wilderness.

On the next days we get back on the beaten tracks and join the Eastern part of the island. Hiking down from the Covoa de Paul to Janela is nonetheless a superb walk, starting some alpine forest on the edge above the clouds, then crossing the clouds towards the steep, green, exotic valley. Once down in Paul itself we push the door of the oldest “trapiche” around (= where they make rhum from cane). The press is still powered by bulls!

Afterwards we struggle a bit and catch the last “aluguer” towards Cha da Igreja. This little farming town is now the starting point of the most popular walk on the Northern coast and people are used to seeing groups of white folks sticking around their guide. Kids come to you “money, pencil, sweets”, the hostels are overpriced. In the end we stay in some local home by the brother of the guy running the kiosk on the main square and negotiate 1500 escudos for a dirty room. The guy is nice though and share his diner (cachupa – fries – fried eggs) with us.

On the next day we walk the path to Ponta do Sol. Nice hike, impressive at points, yet almost dull compared with the previous days...

The Valley by Paul

Fontainhas, charming village along the coastal path.
Back to Porto Novo to catch a ferry home. Yet before boarding, we remember that our “cellar” onboard is empty and that we have a few empty plastic bottles in our bags that just need filling... this island is known for its grog (=rhum), the best in the Cape Verdes... asking around small shops leads us to walking to a small white house, pushing a door ajar... an elderly lady walks to us from the garden and asks in some quick and low-voiced creole what we want. Luckily we know just enough to survive here: “Me want grog”, and we show our empty bottles. “No problem, how many liters?” she takes a plastic jerry-can and a funnel out and starts pouring. 6 liters of grog and a small bottle of pontche (that’s on the house) for less than 23 euros... 4 euros per liter for an authentic local rhum, we can’t beat that! (and the good news is, you can also use it for cleaning, burning, killing fishes...)

Back to Mindelo we find our tender still moored at the marina (that’s a relief) but with the propeller stuck in a rope and the tank empty... at that point, we can share our opinion of the marina (that’s our personal opinion of course, no absolute truth): no service for the price. If you anchor outside you have to pay 4 euros / day to moor at a crowded pontoon where you get zero service, not even the access to the garbage bins and the showers. Internet is expensive. The showers are cold, you have to pay for water on top of the rest. A place at the berth is as expensive as in France or even more, it’s windy and the security if not optimal (boats have been “visited” while we were there). It might as well be the only marina in the Cape Verdes, we find the anchorage still better!
3rd to 7th December, Mindelo, getting ready for the big jump
Back to the harbor we get two days of Harmattan: this warn wind blows hard from the East and brings dust from the Sahara. The wind goes up to 30 knots, the air is thick and the town covered with dust. The sky turns grey, it even starts raining at some point – rain, you know, those little drops of fresh water falling from the sky in some unlucky northern countries... The anchor holds strong in the gusts but going ashore with the tender is difficult. Yet the friends anchored around find their way to Saltimbanque and share some drinks and snacks: Ster Vraz is there as always, but also Traou Mad (arrived only 2 hours ago) and Cupidon, that had left to cross already but had to turn back after one day because of a problem with their batteries...
On the next morning we will go and wave Philippe goodbye on Aumadatroi. He’s a bit tensed before setting the sails up for so long... don’t worry Philippe, everything can also turn alright!

8 around the table of Saltimbanque, easy !!
Eager to practice kitesurfing Laure wants to try out the beach of Salamanza. But the waves are too big for a beginner, and after 10 minutes on the board she quits, the kite rolled on once again in the 2 – 3 meter high waves breaking on the shore...

Then that’s the last run before the start: we fill all the tanks (water, fuel, food) and all the batteries, we clean everything, turn the boat inside out, check up on the mast and scrub down under the hull... a couple of little reparations are quickly made (some sail to sew, some rope to replace, some screw to clue...). We are still waiting for our “battery isolator” sent by Laure’s father 4 weeks ago. At the post office they keep saying to come back on the next day, we wait and hope (it’s the same word in Portuguese, “esperar”).

The whole city seems to be getting ready for something big. Decorations and lights are blossoming on the street, plastic Christmas trees grow in the shops, songs fill the air speaking of snow and cold... how odd under this blue sky shining above us since we left, like an everlasting summer! We are reminded that time flies by nonetheless and that there’s no escaping from the cycle of the seasons... we think of our family and friends in Europe: have a Merry Christmas!! We will miss you as we sail in the middle of nowhere...

Laure getting ready to hit the waves in the Caraibean
More than anything we talk about the weather and the planned routes, the respective destinations. Every day some boat is leaving, everyone starts on a 2 to 3 weeks trip. An Tarz left already, 3 Gouttes is finetuning the forestay, Cupidon is shopping for batteries, Ster Vraz checks the frontsail...and Traou Mad is wandering around on Santo Antão, away from all that mess! We loved the Cape Verdes. The climate is tough and the ground doesn’t offer much to the inhabitants working hard on it. Foreign money is essential. Foreign aid seem to be well used and not lost in corrupted administrations. This is the first country to upgrade from “developing” to “moderately developed”. Indeed we too would like to give back and help this friendly population, proud of their home and “terra”. Nothing’s perfect of course, strong alcoholic is a drama, mass tourism has perverse effect on the relationship to white people, violence is spreading in the cities, inegalities are growing between the joggers listening to their ipod and clubbing at night and the countryside working like in the middle ages... We only scratched the surface of this cute little country, but when it´s time to leave we shall leave, see you on the other side of the ocean, let´s sail to French Guyana !

PS: during these 3 next weeks we will be only reachable by Iridium. You are more than welcome to send us text messages for free via Internet: just go on the Iridium website (http://messaging.iridium.com), enter our phone number (8816 315 11 398) and zrite your message (160 letters maximum)

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Your messages:

saltimbanque par iridium - 17/12/2011 16:27:20

saltimbanque par iridium - 14/12/2011 16:41:16

saltimbanque par iridium - 11/12/2011 14:21:25

la mamou - 08/12/2011 10:04:07
l'album photo est à couper le souffle !!!
sur le maxi grand écran du salon .....ça va être étourdissant !!!

Kariine - 07/12/2011 23:05:20
C'est génial !
je pense très très fort à vous et tenez fort la barre de votre rêve! C'est magique quand même de vivre dans un rêve :o)

Sylvia - 07/12/2011 21:57:05
Good luck girls! Go for it!

Nadia - 07/12/2011 17:46:33
toujours émerveillée par vos photos et vos récits ! quelle belle aventure !

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