Santo Antao (the track to nowhere)

Everyone in Mindelo was telling us how stunning the neighbouring Island of Santo Antao was so in the morning we took our bikes to the ferry. The day before we had been given a price for bikes but now the lady said “no bikes!”. Panic! But we have a local Mr Fixer who basically blocked the ticket counter until we had bike tickets and were on the ferry.

From the ferry the cobblestone road went uphill. Not just a bit. Non-stop up. 1100 meters uphill through a desert. No houses. No people. No animals. Just up. And cobblestones all the way.

At about 1100 meters vegetation slowly appeared and goats and donkeys and then people. But it was still another 300 meters uphill until we reached our guest house. At the top of the volcano we reached the edge of the crater and looked down in to a perfectly flat, fertile, patchwork of fields. It was just like a scene from “the land that time forgot”.

The guesthouse is a farm with restaurant and a few rooms. Basic but luxurious after a days cycling. Tea on the verandah, a shower, dinner and life was good.

On the second day we cycled down in to the crater and around the inside before taking a track downhill. The start was a flowy track slowly losing height through the bushes. A little further on the trail got smaller, steeper and rocky. Lots of pushing and carrying. Once we had dropped about 500 meters we entered a gorge and the path disappeared. Before us was just a scree slope and an impassable cliff.

So, with no other choice, we climbed back up, pushing, pulling and carrying our bikes. Five hundred meters up a stony, loose desert trail with a bike is “character building” but when you don’t have any other choice you just have to “do it”.

Back at the top we returned to the guest house for more water and asked if there was a later ferry. We were sure we had missed the four o’clock ferry but there was one an hour later. It had taken us four hours to cycle up the cobblestone road. We made it back down in 35 minutes! Our hands felt like jelly but we caught the four o’clock ferry with five minutes to spare.

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