Agricultural Hike on Santo Antão
Our second hike took us inland, into the area of The Three Valleys. Each of the valleys offer a different experience, with different types of agriculture practiced in each. It is a few kilometres inland from our B&B, Casa D’Mar, in Ponta do Sol. We were dropped off in Boca de Coruja, a small village just at the edge of a low, terraced hill. From here, we entered the valley of Chá de Pedras, descending into a large corn field. The fields were tended to by the people who lived on them. Small, stone houses from which classic Cape Verdean morna was heard, dotted the area. The valley was alive with Cesária Évora’s clear, powerful voice.
As we walked through the village of Ribeirão, we saw a strange, headless statue carved from stone. Our guide, Mar, told us that it was sculpted by someone from the area, and that there were a couple of them to be found among the plantations of corn and cassava. This hike was a relatively easy one, with most of the route paved, or on flat dirt tracks.
Although there was less of the gob-smacking, jaw dropping vistas, like the ones from the coast or the Paúl Valley, the hike provided an insight into the huge variety of produce grown on the island. Mar was also very knowledgeable about the plants grown in the area, and there was plenty of time for her to tell us all about them.
Popular produce grown include corn, cassava, sweet potatoes and bananas. There were also coffee plants grown on the steeper hills, and fruit trees like mangoes and papayas. Santo Antão is one of the five islands where conditions are suitable for crop growing, and most of its produce is consumed domestically, within Cape Verde.
Ironically, although agricultural activity seems to be very prominent on the surface of the islands, it only accounts for a small percentage of the islands’ annual income.
During our visit, conditions seemed on the surface to be absolutely perfect, an idyllic agricultural paradise, where times are simple and there is food aplenty. However, the truth is that, despite multiple efforts to strengthen Cape Verde’s food sufficiency, because of droughts, overgrazing and other natural and man-made problems, the islands still have to import most of their food. None of this was apparent to us during our hike.
The weather had been amiable the weeks prior to our visit and fields and orchards were bursting with vegetables and fruit. I felt that we were experiencing the valley at its most beautiful.
After the hike, we were picked up and driven back to the coast, where we had a delicious lunch. Everything tastes good on the islands, probably because all of it is grown and ripened under the tropical sun.