Fogo, the volcano-shaped island

We asked António Pedro Moreira - Pedro On The Road - to tell us about his recent trip to Fogo Island in Cape Verde. Pedro traveled from Lisbon to Praia, on Santiago Island, where he was picked up by a boat heading for S. Filipe, a town on Fogo Island. His words reflect an experience that creates unforgettable memories, even for an experienced traveler and writer.

"This place is ours," I imagined the inhabitants of Chã das Caldeiras shout at the planet, which seemed intent on ousting them from there by spewing what it had been holding for millions of years. They were faced with two options. Get up and leave... or hold the line and show the planet that for all its magnificence, it had not yet been powerful enough to expel them.

In 2014 the earth's heart roared, as it likes to do. It roared in thousands of places around the world, and one of these places was Fogo Island, Cape Verde. The bowels of this planetary sustenance of ours could not hold it and they too wanted a little light. The people of Chã das Caldeiras, in the crater of the volcano, helplessly watched as the lava showered down upon their houses, roads and vineyards, looting a few thousand liters from the annual production of the peculiar wine which was emerging there.

That beat from the heart of our planet, with this subsequent hemorrhage, did not steal the heartbeat from any of the stoic people living in this seemingly inhospitable place, so they resiliently refused to move.

My trip began at home. A whole year stuck in this seaside country was becoming more than I could bear, and I needed to dream a little. So, although I left only two months later, my trip began when, sitting on the couch one evening, I found a cheap flight to Cape Verde. From that moment on, there were occasions in which only my skin was moving in Lusitanian territory; my thoughts were already exploring a yet unknown archipelago. So unknown that my ramblings were vague and diffuse. Go where, do what? Before I went there, if somebody had told me that Cape Verde had only three islands, I would have said, "Okay." Because I knew very, very little... And I couldn't predict this day.

I started down here, in the friendly town of São Filipe, which had shown me, for the first time in my LIFE, a black sand beach, surrounding the entire island, like the tip of the skirt of a cheerful dancer. A dark yet bright mantle that perhaps only there added beauty rather than erasing it. I had strolled through its sands as I watched, in the distance, twenty-eight people playing a strange football match with fourteen players on each team, and then ventured through the town alleys, where people sat by the door and greeted me, each choosing a different European language to do so. "Ça va?"

The buildings and houses picked up the brightest colors in the palette, and I could not help but notice the extremes: the buildings either fully embraced the passage of time and broke connections with the paint that dressed them, or, in their vanity, would not tolerate the slightest impudence from the years passing by, always donning the impeccable look of someone who knows their time has not yet passed. But as much as I enjoyed strolling around with no direction, I felt that the capital was only the preface of the story I was yet to experience there. Everywhere there was a street that went up, and I had to climb it to the end.

Pico do Fogo, the father of that island, awaited me.

I met Papinha, my guide for that day, and we left São Filipe in the morning. The Hiace truck struggled its way up the road, stopping every once in a while to drop passengers or deliver parcels to people living in the most remote locations. When we arrived at the crater, I was overcome by a strange feeling of surreality.

That lava, which had once again, thousands of years later, invaded the crater, had crystallized in a nonchalant manner, and its carelessness would almost seem ugly if it did not offer me a distinct feeling of witnessing something unique. If uniqueness does not always translate into a smile in our eyes, in this case it was one of several aspects that allowed me to feel good for being there.

On the one side, high up there, Bordeira protected us I don't know against what; on the other, Pico do Fogo was telling me not to be afraid. Behind me, the place where I had come from. In front of me, the place where I would go the next day, on a long walk until I returned to the tip of the skirt of that lady dancer, materialized in the town of Mosteiros.

We dropped our backpacks at José Doce's lodge, a dozen bungalows made out of the lava that could be seen everywhere, and started our journey, initially on flat ground, walking past other inns and, occasionally, small trees with small apples, which we ate. Although the volcano had invited me several times and in several ways, I had never assumed it would be easy. We zigzagged our way through its black sands and I struggled not to stop, until I realized that I did not have to compete with myself and was allowed to take a break from time to time. I could sit down and look back. Down below, the volcanic plain was surrounded in three areas by hills just like the one I was climbing now, but, from one side, it offered something like an eternal pathway to the horizon, with its floor replaced by a layer of thick, beautiful clouds.

And there I was, gasping, watching that, glad to be there.

Reaching the top gave me the satisfaction of knowing that I had made it. I was at the tallest peak on the island and, from there, I could see everything but what my imagination could not touch. We circumvented it and then ran down, oblivious to those small pyroclasts which filled our socks as we trampled on them.

We ended the afternoon drinking a beer outside Sofia's Café, while the sun bode adieu and brought us a darkness which, although usually unwanted, was fully accepted there. For there the darkness brought a silence that, rather than sepulchral, was a temple within which we could appreciate the serenity of... being there.

By António Pedro Moreira / Pedro On The Road

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