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Cape Verde: Ponta do Sol to Chã de Igreja

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Ponta do Sol to Chã de Igreja | Cape Verde | Africa

[Visited: October 2014]

We had just arrived on Santo Antão, we ready to explore the countryside, and decided to go for a relaxed start by walking west from Punta do Sal, which would be our base for four days. Right from the town, a stony track leads west and up: there is no way you can get lost on this hike. Soon after leaving the last houses and pigsties behind us, we found ourselves quite high above the waves below us, and had steep, barren, rocky mountains dropping straight into the Atlantic right before us. We watched an old male goat trying to get onto a small female one, which proved out of reach because of the length of the rope tied to his horns, before we reached a bend leading a little inland.

Picture of Ponta do Sol to Chã de Igreja (Cape Verde): The rugged coastline of northeastern Santo Antão is best appreciated on a hike on its beautiful stony paths

From here, we had a view of Fontainhas, spectacularly sitting on a narrow, steep ridge on the slopes of a mountain, with terraces just below it. Some of the houses had an abyss right below their walls. After walking through this incredible place, the track narrowed: there is no traffic beyond Fontainhas. We reached another ridge, with bizarre remains of a wall of volcanic rock sticking straight into the air. The stone track now took us down to the next village, Corvo, through switchback after switchback. To our left, a green ribeira, or valley. Corvo has a handful of houses, and from here, the track led us to nearby Formiguinhas, after which it sticks to the coastline. We now walked for an hour and a half on an undulating path, always the sound of crashing waves coming from below, and the spray of the sea hanging like a fog against the steep cliffs.

Picture of Ponta do Sol to Chã de Igreja (Cape Verde): Black sand beach west of Cruzinha da Garça

The bends in the track gave us always new views of the coastline, back and forth, and ahead. We passed another ribeira, with a deserted village of a few ruins without people but with a lonely goat, before working our way up yet another steep mountainside. After seeing small beaches below us, we reached a wide one with black sand. It was irresistible, and I walked down and on the beach with my bare feet in the waves. At the end of it, I could not resist the temptation, laid my clothes on a rock, and walked into the wild waves, before working my way up the steep mountain to the trail again. Soon after the beach, we reached Cruzinha da Graça, a real village, and from here, the dirt track followed the coastline for another while before leading us inland in what reminded me of a wadi with high, sharp peaks seemingly in reach. A steep path took us to Chã de Igreja, where we were lucky to quickly find transportation back to Ribeira Grande. A ride in the back of a pickup truck with fantastic views all around, of jagged mountain ridges, green valleys, terraces, and small villages. Our first day on the trails of Santo Antão had been spectacular, and we longed to see more of it.

Picture of Ponta do Sol to Chã de Igreja (Cape Verde): Looking west along the dirt track close to Cruzinha da Garça
Picture of Ponta do Sol to Chã de Igreja (Cape Verde): The wild mountains seem to fall into the Atlantic just west of  Punta do Sol
Picture of Ponta do Sol to Chã de Igreja (Cape Verde): Spectacular volcanic wall between the villages of Fontainhas and Corvo
Picture of Ponta do Sol to Chã de Igreja (Cape Verde): Terraces below the mountain village of Fontainhas
Picture of Ponta do Sol to Chã de Igreja (Cape Verde): The rugged coastline at Corvo
Picture of Ponta do Sol to Chã de Igreja (Cape Verde): Volcanic wall at the top of the stone trail between Fontainhas and Corvo
Picture of Ponta do Sol to Chã de Igreja (Cape Verde): The trail west of Punta do Sol runs along the wild coastline
Picture of Ponta do Sol to Chã de Igreja (Cape Verde): Looking into the green valley of Corvo
Picture of Ponta do Sol to Chã de Igreja (Cape Verde): The path along the coastline in the north of Santo Antão
Picture of Ponta do Sol to Chã de Igreja (Cape Verde): A track close to Chã de Igreja
Picture of Ponta do Sol to Chã de Igreja (Cape Verde): One of the switchbacks in the coastal path on the northeastern shores of Santo Antão
Picture of Ponta do Sol to Chã de Igreja (Cape Verde): The path along the wild coast of Santo Antão
Picture of Ponta do Sol to Chã de Igreja (Cape Verde): The road to Fontainhas is stony and grassy

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