Santo Antao’s most famous attraction is Ribeira de Paúl, and that’s where we headed the next day. From our lodgings at the top of the mountain, we descended through an extinct volcanic crater (yessss!), hopped over the other side to the head of the valley, and then began the steep descent into Paúl.
This valley is the greenest we saw on Santo Antão. It has a permanent stream, and the valley is broad and full of cultivation. Of course, this being Santo Antão it’s still ridiculously steep and all the farmland is situated on terraces. Irrigation canals are built into the cliffs all around the valley, and we saw water moving all around as we hiked. It seems like every available inch of land is terraced, with kana (sugarcane) being the most popular crop. The kana is used to make the grogu (rum) that (in addition to scenery) makes Paúl famous.
Our path switched back and forth down the valley until we met with the road (also cobblestone, but made for vehicles). From there, the road was much less steep, and it was a short walk to the very famous ‘Grogue and Cheese Place’ for some… grogue and cheese of course! Delicious, but overrated. We got to see the cheese curing under hoop screens out back. We continued on to our hotel, which was nestled near the valley bottom, up a ways along a steep footpath on the opposite side. The hotel was a collection of little houses, each with its own patio. Ours was sheltered by banana trees and it was a great place to sit and enjoy the late afternoon breeze. Banana trees make a very nice, calm sound in the wind.
The next day we did a second hike in Paúl. This one was far better than the previous day’s descent along the road because this trail led through the agricultural fields. We got to see the terraces up close and we passed by people in the midst of the day’s work cutting, pressing or carrying kana, or irrigating fields. Our hike led up to a small peak right in the midst of the valley (which may have been Santo Antão’s Pico d’ Antonia, although I’m not sure). From there we got a view of all the terrain we had traversed in the past two days. From there we descended again to the road and caught a car to the beach at Praia da Curraletes, a ways south along the coast. We were the only souls on the beach… until some goats showed up to snack on the sand. We took a few refreshing dips and then headed back home for showers, cold beers, and dinner.