A FEW PRACTICAL INFORMATIONS
(Hiking in Cabo Verde (Santo Antão) - Nov 22 /Dec 4 2010)
How to reach Santo Antão?
Not very easy, from France...
The Cabo Verde islands are located west of the African coast, not far from Mauritania. It is then possible to go there through Dakar, but one must then be prepared to submit to the african health regulations : some vaccinations are necessary.
We went through Lisbon, from where there are direct flights to Praia, in the island of Santiago. From Praia, the other islands may be reached by boat, but this takes time, and the schedules are not guaranteed.
To go to Santo Antão, the best is then to fly to Mindelo, and take the ferry to Porto Novo (Ponta do Sol's airport, on the north side of the island, is not used any more - and it is clear why : the tarmac is next to the sea, on the most windy side of the island...).
Be cautious : it is said that airplane connections between the islands may be disturbed in case of bad weather. Yet, we had no problem, and our flights were perfectly on schedule.
To get around Santo Antão, the easiest is to use taxis. The prices are reasonable, and the drivers reliable : they always honored the meeting times and places we had agreed upon.
The island being essentially a steep mountain, the easiest way to visit is to be driven to a high point, and walk down using the well-designed footpaths (A paved road crosses the island).
There is an excellent hiking map, to the scale of 1/50 000, showing all the best hikes in the island. The map is printed in Germany, and is available locally. It may also be ordered directly. (http://www.reisetraeume.de/kapverden/individuell/reisetipps/en/bookshop.html).
The references given in the main page are to hikes shown on this map.
A few practical comments about our trip.
(There is a chapter on Cabo Verde in the Lonely Planet West Africa guide, which may be purchased separately and downloaded from the LP site).
Probably the best source of information is the site of Mindelo Infos (in French !) , where the webmaster Mic Dax will bend over backwards to find an answer to your questions !
Thank you Mic !
In the first place, we would like to thank the Capeverdians for their kindness !
Many Capeverdians live and work in foreign countries (mostly Europe and USA), but they frequently come back to their islands during the vacations (watch out : the planes may be full during those periods).
Many speak French or English : it is easy to get around even when not speaking Portuguese.
They are very interested in the countries of the visitors, and ask a lot of questions.
"We have nothing to offer, except hospitality", a restaurant owner told us, as he was driving us in his own car (not a taxi) to the airport after we had dinner in his restaurant in Mindelo...
Few tourists visit these islands. Yet, hikers have found about the fantastic views of Santo Antão and Fogo. The lodging facilities are then fairly light, and it is recommended to make reservations in advance, particularly during the vacation period. We were there in the low season - but we had made reservations in advance.
- Praia on arrival : no other option than the waiting room at the airport, since our plane from Lisbon landed at 2 a.m., and the flight to Mindelo was leaving at 6 a.m....
- Mindelo : Residencial Jenny, on the heights above the city. Very clean and nice. A.C. in the room.
- Vila das Pombas : Aldeia Jerome. In a banana plantation, next to a field of sugar canes. Superb ! A paradise !
- Ponta do Sol : Residencial Betty. Very nice lady, but standard room. The shower was cold - but it was so hot in Ponta do Sol that we did not mind... Note that there is free wi-fi on the main square of the little town, and an Internet cafe near by.
- Praia on the way back (2 nights) : Holanda, a modest hotel in a rather poor area. But the owner is very nice (he even drove us to the restaurant, on the night we left, so as not to let us walk in the streets he considered unsafe at that time of the day...).
- a nice restaurant in Praia : O Poeta. Excellent food, great view on the city, and very friendly service.
In Mindelo and on the north coast of Santo Antão, we always felt safe, but one must certainly be cautious in Praia, and in the crowd around the ferry landing in Porto Novo (problems have been reported to us).
One must absolutely taste the grogue, a sugar cane alcool manufactured locally. It is excellent - and very cheap (but one cannot find it in France, or at very high prices).