Idea #737 – Traveling the famous Corda route on Santo Antao Island in Cabo Verde
Santo Antão, Santu Anton or Sintanton in Cape Verdean Creole, is the largest of the Barlavento Islands. It is located west of São Vicente Island, north of the Cape Verde archipelago. The island was discovered by the Portuguese navigator Diogo Afonso on January 17, 1462, who named it Santo Antão Island, after the saint whose feast was celebrated on that day. Following the signing of the Treaty of Tordesillas on June 7, 1494 between Portugal and Spain, the island became a Portuguese possession. The settlement of the island did not begin until 1548 but the difficulty in establishing a road network because of the mountain and unsafe anchorages hindered the development of the island despite an excellent climate and sufficient water. The first migrants, from northern Portugal and the neighboring islands of Fogo and Santiago, founded Povoação at the current location of Ribeira Grande. In 1724 the island was sold to the English but it was returned shortly after to the Portuguese.
The island, totally of volcanic origin, is divided in two by a mountain range long considered impassable. These slopes offer a very different aspect due to the prevailing winds and incoming sea: while the north is green and covered with terraced crops, the south is mineral and desert!
The northern slope of the island, exposed to the trade winds, benefits from green landscapes. In addition to many fruit trees and food crops growing on the terraces, there are baobab, cheese, dragon tree. The dragon tree, a tree with a characteristic shape reminiscent of a parasol, is an emblematic tree of Cape Verde of which only a few specimens remain on the island. It appears on the country’s banknotes. A Canarian pine and eucalyptus forest was successfully planted in the 19th century on the heights around Pico da Cruz to reforest the island.
The much more arid southern slope, with the central mountain range acting as a barrier, offers only meager stunted vegetation when it is not completely absent. Endemic plants are rare on the island. These are most often woody plants similar to those found in the Sahel.
In the 1960s, the Estrada da Corda (Road of Corda) was built, a road drawing many bends and entirely covered with cobblestones linking the new port of Porto Novo to Ribeira Grande by taking the ridge line that separates the valleys of Ribeira Grande and Ribeira de la Torre. Until 2009, before the paved road section linking Porto Novo to Janela was built, it was the only communication route between the two largest cities on the island. The road also makes it possible to reach the highest peak of Pico de la Cruz. Some localities are still inaccessible by road. Only a track leads to the small port of Tarrafal de Monte Trigo in the south of the island.
Where is it ?
Santo Antao Island, Cabo Verde