Once we docked at Porto Novo on the island of Santo Antão, we called our little hotel which had arranged for us to ride in an alugar to Ribeira Grande. Our driver was a very popular driver, as the alugar was jampacked (people sitting on wooden seats), no seatbelts, and a bouncy, windy road ahead of us. Stéphane and I were split up, both sitting next to strangers.
Our itinerary for the next day was to hike the long, steep descent through Paúl Valley. We got an alugar up the mountain (paid a little more for speed since we woke up late), and started at Cova de Paúl, a giant volcanic crater that is now a beautiful farm. There were workers in the valley, and a forceful mist streaming over the peaks and dissipating as it reached the ground.
Up and out of the crater, we were greeted by a cold wind and more fog, but it was clearing out. Below us, a steep, windy dirt path that reminded me of the road in Morocco. We could see the beginning of Paúl Valley far below, and a few other trekkers making their way (mostly) down. Step by step, the fog and clouds cleared. They revealed sharp, craggy peaks to our right side, and terrace upon terrace with cows, donkeys, and banana plantations. Walking down, we often passed right by peoples’ front yards that opened onto the dirt path.
There was a point where we hit the main cobblestone road, with narrow houses and alugars passing by. We turned left and continued down it until we hit the ocean. Along the way we passed a church and several abandoned properties, including one that looked like it was once magnificent. We dined at O Curral restaurant which had a great selection of food, including vegetarian. I ordered a Stela beer, and we gazed out the open windows and rested our feet.
Rural valley turned into small town and then, finally, we hit the busy coastal road. We found a small cafe near the crashing waves, ordered a local drink, and looked back up the valley where we had come, as the sun was starting to set behind the palm trees.