Yesterday Ian and I hired a van to take us about an hour through the hinterlands and deposit us back on the coast, at a town called Cruzinhas, the other end point for the northwest coast trail which passes through Fontainhas and back to Ponta do Sol.
We blithely assumed, based on our guide book, that we would have a longish but relatively gentle and level stroll. It was suggested that we begin the 4 1/2 hour trek in Ponta do Sol, as the steeps in the 1/3 of the trail leading to Fontainhas and Corvo, the following village (and familiar from our 2010 trip), were much more extreme than the ones in the 2/3 of the trail from the Cruzinhas end, which were described as "undulations". It was suggested we hit the steeps first when we were fresh and energetic. As we are staying in Ponta do Sol, however, we wanted to stick our feet directly into cool water in our teeny tub at the end of the day; not try to negotiate multi-leg, sparse, and unpredictable transit back home.
The walk set out in the guide book included Chã da Igreja, a small, picturesque village with a lovely steepled church, up on a plateau above the ribeira that ends at Cruzinhas. We passed through Chã da Igreja in the van, however, cutting a couple kilometers and some elevation off the distance we'd be walking. From Cruzinhas we could actually see Ponta do Sol, which made it seem quite close.
It was windy yesterday at 11:30 when we began walking, and the landscape near Cruzinhas is quite different from the Ponta do Sol end, with sand and scrubland and a very "Wild West" feeling, as Ian put it. One expected to see tumbleweeds, but what we of course saw instead was a well-maintained dirt soccer pitch.
For our first 40 minutes or so in this desert, it felt like Exfoliation Alley. At one particularly sand-blasty point early on, where fine black grit was blowing sizeable drifts across the rising cobbled trail, I pulled off my hat to protect my camera, and tied the extra headscarf I'd brought tightly around my nose and mouth, squinting to keep gritty eyes at a minimum. Fun!
We quickly discovered that "undulations" has a different definition from what we thought. To my mind, "undulations" refers to something no more extreme that the rolling hills of the Palouse in Eastern Washington at the outside, albeit stonier in this application. What "undulations" actually meant in this application was "regular, steep losses and gains in elevation, from sea level to several hundred feet above, along a mostly cobbled, but occasionally collapsed, narrow trail clinging to mountainsides, above precipitous drops to wave-battered boulders below. For about five miles, before it really gets hard for the last two."
We had brought along fresh cheese and delicious, chewy rolls, lots of water and some electrolyte pellets, a couple granola bars, and a couple pieces of fruit, and when we reached what at first appeared to be the only completely abandoned settlement we've seen here, noted as Chã de Mar on the map, we wedged ourselves into a sliver of shade next to a roofless stone house and enjoyed a delightful meal on a plain above the crashing sea. Up the ribeira from the five stone structures, however, was an ant-sized man tilling a green terrace under a small cement-block structure, and a couple minute tethered goats sending occasional bleats drifting down toward the shore.
The map shows a dotted line between Chã de Mar and a settlement we'd driven by on our way to Cruzinhas, up the ribeira and over a narrow, high saddle between soaring peaks--so, no easy way to any civilization in any direction--meaning, everything you use that is not rock must be carried in, either by hand or, if you're lucky, by donkey. Later in the afternoon, at the third village past Ponto do Sol, and the second past where the drivable "road" ends in Fontainhas, we saw two tween girls each carrying a 24-pack of soda into their home village (one balancing her cardboard flat of cans on her head and chattering away on her cell phone). The village, Formiguinhas, was probably 3 kilometres and several hundred feet of elevation gain and loss from Fontainhas. I am continually awed by where Cabo Verdeans stake their claims.
We eventually made it to Corvo and had cold Sprites and, in Ian's case, a shot of grogue, then struggled our way up the last steep pinnacle and over to Fontainhas, and then dragged our sore, stinking bodies and bedraggled feet back home just after the sun sank into the sea. Granted, I had paused to take about 600 pictures, but still--we were on that trail for more than 7 hours.
A mild and serendipitous migraine this morning (mine), and sunburned calves (Ian) convinced us that today would be best spent lounging on our bed in our cool, breezy room, revelling in our complete lack of responsibilities.
Besides, we know we'll be back here someday.
one-fingered on my phone