I have a German friend, Elena, teaching in São Tomé for three months so I asked for this flight, a great excuse to visit this beautiful island! Since I already have the right of travel facilities (aka take friends at special prices), my friend Mariana decided to accompany me. The flight is long, almost six hours to Accra, one more on the ground where passengers leave and enter, and another hour or so to São Tomé. The crew was great and being all day flying I got on very well with one from the colleagues, Adele, who accompanied us on our trip the next day.
The goal was to reach Praia-Piscina, a beach at the southern tip of the island, for many people the most beautiful in São Tomé. We left early in the morning because the trip is long – although it does not reach 75km, the state of the roads from Pico do Cão Grande on is so bad that it’s almost faster to walk… but it’s totally worth it!
Elena asked her students where we should stop on the way and they gave us some good suggestions. The road itself is of interest, especially to the European eye, unaccustomed to how everything in Africa is transported on top of heads, to chickens and pigs crossing the road in a near suicidal trend, among other things. The first suggestion, already seen last time, but on the move, was to stop at one of the several bridges above water lines filled with women and children washing clothes in the river and drying them under the sun.
Shortly afterwards we arrived at Roça de Agua Itzé, a farm built in the years 1910-20 and famous for having belonged to the main owner of black origin – João Maria de Sousa Almeida. This farm was the headquarters of the Ilha do Príncipe Company as one of the largest and important agricultural units of the archipelago. As we were afraid to stop the car in the middle of this “roça-city” – although the island is safe, four white girls with cameras draw too much attention – we climb to the top, where the old hospital is and from where we can have a beautiful view. I was sorry that we did not venture far into the roça because I’ve seen some pretty pictures of it…
Less than five minutes away from Roça we find a rocky formation on the coast that’s called Boca do Inferno (Hell’s Mouth). A kind of fissure through which the waves enter, which can reach high heights by the rapid bottleneck to which they are subjected. Just like the one in Cascais, we are always waiting for a hell of a name, but expectations are alway too high. Still the view to the sea touching the rocky pebble beach and all the tropical and abundant vegetation are breathtaking!
We continued our journey, on a road still in great shape, our next destination was Roça de São João dos Angolares. I dined here last year, but we arrived after sunset so we could not see the view. This time it was possible and well worth it! They were preparing the tables for lunch, but it was still too early to think about food so we went on.
We arrived at the road facing the enigmatic Pico do Cão Grande. We were going to take pictures when we saw that there was something like a metal roof reflecting the sun and that was ruining the photographs. We moved beyond this roof, a little stool full of locals trying to sell everything and more to tourists. But in doing so we realized that they were in the ideal spot for photographs, and impossible to avoid. We decided that we would then take photographs on the way back, but it was inevitable to stop a little further, where the Pico was framed by a beautiful water line.
Then began the horrible part of the road, holes the size of the world, pebbles instead of tar or earth… Elena thought twice if she would ever want to return to the south of the island, I do everything for good photographs so I come back without problems. We finally arrived at Praia-Piscina!
With the warmth and humidity being felt, any beach or see would do but this one was indeed wonderful! Fresh water, at that perfect temperature between not complaining when entering and immediately refreshing! The tide was very high, so the pool was full of water and ripples. I got very curious to see it at low tide, when the pool is in fact a pool!
We took some food for a picnic because we were going to the end of the world, where there are almost no roads and much less restaurants, but when we got there we realized that a friendly couple grills fish and even have a table on the beach, making groups rotate as the lunch of one or the other is ready.
We wanted to stay longer, but a two-hour return journey awaited us and we wanted to avoid driving after sunset as much as we could, as there is no public illumination and there are people and animals on the road that are not easy to see, except when we are already on top of them. One of the disadvantages of Ecuador is that either if it’s summer or winter the sun always sets at the same time: too early!
We had the way to photograph, now bathed in the wonderful golden hour light, and make the promised stop at Pico do Cão Grande, where there was almost no one left.
It was a wonderful day that ended with a dinner at Dona Teté, a famous restaurant in the city of São Tomé where the food is really great! On the second day we explored the center of the island, story for the next post 😉