Two islands, both arid and brown just like everyone told us they would be.
The third, Santo Antao, looked like more of the same until we passed a small forest with a confused personality; pine, jacaranda, mimosa, cypress. Trees you wouldn’t normally find sharing the same hillside.
More greenery crept in in the form of tended fields in a large caldera. It was a typical farming landscape in every way, except for the fact it was in a volcanic crater; a hidden valley surrounded by sharp, ragged walls.
Our path climbed to a saddle, a spot which wasn’t so intimidating to get to as most parts of the wall.
And then it all changed.
The Belgian boy looked up from his iPhone just as a woman wearing flip flops on her feet walked past. Balanced on her head was a cane basket filled with fruit and vegetables. She was walking miles to the next village to trade her wares.
The boy shook his head.
“So sad to see such poor people. They have nothing and yet they still smile.”
The guide laughed.
“When she is hungry, she has fresh fruit and vegetables to eat,” he nodded at the phone. “Will that fill your stomach when you feel hunger? Tell me, who is the richer person on this path?”
The thing about walking along the rim of an ancient volcanic crater rising over 2400m above sea level is that at some point you have to descend.
After an exhilarating and challenging 17km trek, our moment to descend arrived at what looked like a rock bob-sleigh run that cut straight through the ridge and sort of disappeared.
The path looked as though it just fell away. I stood looking at the rock exit, almost unable to compute that if I wanted to continue I was going to have to show some faith and step through the gap into who knows what.
With sweaty palms and reluctant legs, I entered the rock channel, stepped through the opening and…
And… well I’m here to tell the tale so I clearly survived. But I won’t say any more in case you ever happen to find yourself on that same ridge looking down the same furrow in the rock. Nobody likes spoilers.
We were suppposed to hike to a lunar landscape but torrential rain spoiled play. So we walked to a bodega instead where they plied us with fruity reds, crisp sweet whites and the darkest rosé I’ve sipped.
Thank you rain for spoiling our original plans.
The walk ends in the old town where it started. It wasn’t a long walk, about 10 kilometres, but it was sweaty going, straight up the hillside on a rocky old trading route that ran parallel to a solidified lava flow which had engulfed the town three centuries earlier. Then, after skirting the ridge for a brief section, it was back down again by a different path, another trading route, which snaked its way along the green slopes to return us to the town.
The aroma which greets us as it dances through the old streets identifies exactly what our reward will be; seafood. Lapas to be exact, washed down with an icy beer.
I don’t eat nearly enough of these grilled limpets drizzled with a mix of olive oil, garlic, cilantro and white wine. And to think on the island I grew up on we used these as fishing bait. What a waste.