When we drive the last stretch of road up the mountains towards Bom Sucesso, we take a turn to visit the São Nicolãu waterfall. It has started to rain badly - only that same morning, we left the west coast which had not seen rain for months. Even on small São Tomé island, there are a lot of different climates. Four girls stand at the roadside, soaked: we give them a ride to their small village, before making a brief stop at the waterfall; at the end of the dry season, it is not spectacular. We drive further up to Bom Sucesso, and while it had seemed the rain was getting less, it is raining hard when we arrive at a small building. It is open, a machete is standing against a wall, but no one is in. We are wondering what to do, and when someone shows up, he tells us up front that the rain will probably not stop any time soon. We decide to first do a tour of the Botanic Gardens, directly behind the building, to finally have some explanation of all the tropical flowers we have seen on the island.
Even though the gardens are quite small, there are so many trees and plants on display - the famous porcelain rose which is symbol of the country, is only one of them. Our guide enthusiastically tells us a story about every flower, plant and tree we see, together with their usage for ailments. After the tour, the rain has not stopped, but it is not even too bad, and after negotiating the price, the guide and I set off for a quick climb up the cloudy mountain. The first stretch is very slippery, and it is a small miracle that I don't fall. I learn to be flexible, and let my feet glide every now and then. We hike through agricultural fields, where all kinds of vegetables are grown, greet the few farmers who are braving the rain, and continue on the trail up the mountain.
After entering Obô National Park, the primary rainforest is protected. It is wet, but the forest gives us cover, and after the turnoff to Pico de São Tomé, the highest peak of the country, the highest point of our hike is not far away. We pass through a patch of bamboo forest, the viewpoint from which Lago Amelia should be visible is totally in the clouds, and after a pretty steep descent in which I use branches and roots to break, we jump over pools of water, past the largest begonias on the planet, to reach a layer of thick, spongy grass. The guide invites me to walk to the middle of the lake. A strange sensation: the soil seems to move as if I were walking on water. But I am not Jesus: according to the guide, there is a deep lake under the layer of grass and soil, and to prove it, he has a stick in the middle of the crater lake, which can be pushed down: the water pushes it back up again. Walking on this layer of soil and grass is a great feeling: too bad it is not sunny and dry - I would love to just lie down on it: one big waterbed. Clouds are still hovering above us, the rain is not as bad as it was an hour ago, and the primary rainforest looks mysterious from here. Once back in Bom Sucesso, we wash off the mud, but the memories of a unique lake cannot be washed away, and are here to stay.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Lago Amelia (São Tomé and Príncipe). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Lago Amelia.
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