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Cape Verde: Tarrafal

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Tarrafal | Cape Verde | Africa

[Visited: October 2014]

After hiking the ribeiras of the east of Santo Antão for a couple of days, enjoying the spectacular volcanic landscapes, our legs deserve some rest, and we decide to head west. We take a private aluguer from Ponta do Sol to Porto Novo along the amazing old road, and book a place on a pick-up truck to Tarrafal. The road is famous for being bad, and regular aluguers do not make it to Tarrafal. When we sit down in the back, it looks perfect: being outside in the sun, with full view of our surroundings. But of course, by the time we leave town, 5 more passengers have joined us, and together with the many bags and cargo in the truck, we are struggling to find a way to sit. After a small detour to deliver some car parts, we are on our way up. I wonder how high we will go. I also wonder how to stay in the truck. With a young mother next to me, I have decided to stand, also to enjoy the views, but I can only hold on to the bags, which turn out not to be tied too well to the vehicle, and it feels like I am slowly falling backward. When we reach the highest point, we are much higher than I ever anticipated: it is chilly, and to my surprise, the Nigerian trader in our truck stays behind, with as many bags as he can carry. I seriously wonder how he is ever going to sell his stuff here, in the middle of nowhere.

Picture of Tarrafal (Cape Verde): The mountains above Tarrafal, with the Topo da Coroa in the background

Now, we still have a long drive down, and there is an endless succession of curves and bends. The road is pretty bumpy and dusty, and all of us in the back look like we have walked through a sandstorm. The Africans look white, the young guy seems to have white hair, and when we finally arrive at sea level, we just feel like jumping into the ocean. We have arrived in a fishing village, and where on the east side of the island we were always planning new adventures, here there is less choice of things to do. My plans to go diving - the underwater volcanic landscapes are supposed to be unique - are thwarted because of unclear reasons, so we swim, relax on the beach, and explore the village itself. The next day, I accidentally walk up the Ribeira do Tarrafal de Monte Trigo, a surprisingly green oasis, considering the fact that this part of the island is much drier than the east. At the end of the valley, I reach a waterfall, strip, and have a natural shower.

Picture of Tarrafal (Cape Verde): Waterfall in the valley east of Tarrafal

The next day, we cannot resist the temptation, and join two other foreigners on a hike north, up the west coast of Santo Antão. The trail is easy to follow, and goes up and down on the slopes of mountains that rise directly out of the Atlantic. On our way, we only meet a herd of goats, and at the end, a family of donkeys with a couple of very cute young ones. Otherwise, the landscape is rugged, with volcanic formations, and most of the time, the Topo da Coroa volcano is visible just ahead of us. Monte Trigo village turns out to be a small settlement with more fishermen - we imagine that Tarrafal must have been like it before it was discovered as a destination by travellers. After lunch, we take a boat back to Tarrafal, allowing us to views of the coastline we have just walked, and the volcano rising up behind it. We stop at one point for snorkeling, and continue our way back to Tarrafal. The pick-up trucks for Porto Novo leave early, and even though there are open seats inside, I prefer to stay in the back. The truck quickly fills with men who mysteriously jump in from the dark on our way up - but to my even bigger surprise, they also all jump off at points where there does not seem to be anything to jump off for. Even the women who had been there since Tarrafal, get off in the middle of nowhere, and I am all alone with the stars above my head on the way up. Especially the descent is very cold, but the view of sunrise over São Vicente island makes me forget the cold and concentrate on the beautiful. The journey might be bumpy and dusty, but we are very glad we decided to head west and see a totally different face of Santo Antão. So much diversity packed on such a small space!

Picture of Tarrafal (Cape Verde): The rugged westcoast of Santo Antão with the Topo da Coroa in the background
Picture of Tarrafal (Cape Verde): Volcanic landscape with the Topo da Coroa, the highest mountain of Santo Antão
Picture of Tarrafal (Cape Verde): The bends in the road to Tarrafal
Picture of Tarrafal (Cape Verde): The valley east of Tarrafal has extensive agriculture
Picture of Tarrafal (Cape Verde): Morning view over Tarrafal
Picture of Tarrafal (Cape Verde): Trail to Monte Trigo with the rugged western coastline of Santo Antão
Picture of Tarrafal (Cape Verde): Topo da Coroa volcano dominating the west coast of Santo Antão
Picture of Tarrafal (Cape Verde): The valley east of Tarrafal, a green oasis
Picture of Tarrafal (Cape Verde): Street in Tarrafal with houses and trees
Picture of Tarrafal (Cape Verde): The trail between Monte Trigo and Tarrafal
Picture of Tarrafal (Cape Verde): Black stone beach at Tarrafal
Picture of Tarrafal (Cape Verde): Goats on the slopes of a mountain on the west coast of Santo Antão
Picture of Tarrafal (Cape Verde): Fisher boat on the beach of Tarrafal

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