16 December 2016

Sao Joao and Porto Alegre

After a night in São Tomé, we made our way south to Sao Joao dos Angolares. The Angolares are reputedly descended from Angolans who made their way to shore from a shipwrecked slaving ship, but more likely were part of a community formed by escaped slaves who proceeded to lead raiding parties against plantations to emancipate enslaved people still under control of the Portuguese plantation owners.

Freshly extracted cacao beans.
Dried beans ready for export.

Given the relative dearth of public transportation, paired with a desire to check out an old plantation and natural feature (Boca do Inferno) en route, we agreed to our host's suggestion to hire his friend's driver Lady to take us down to Sao Joao. We took an impromptu tour of Roca Agua Ize, an old plantation that still grows and dries cacao for export. N.B. Roca (or plantation) is pronounced "rosa."

Machinery at Roca Agua Ize.

The colours of Lady's car complemented those of Roca Agua
Ize's warehouse quite nicely.
Boca do Inferno, where water spouts through holes eroded
through the rocky coastline.

Sao Joao is a pleasant town, and we enjoyed our stay at the Mionga
Hotel. This is our view out towards a small river and then the bay beyond.
Charming decor at the restaurant owned by the
"diminutive Pepe" (per the Bradt guidebook).

We stayed for a couple of nights, visiting the beach at Praia Micondo and visiting the grounds and having dinner at the pricier accommodation in town – Roca Sao Joao. Sao Joao has WiFi in its town square, which meant that there were quite a lot of people hanging out there to take advantage of the bandwidth, not just wait for transport.

Sliced pawpaw "jam" with sugar and syrup.

Tasty lunch shared with us by Karen and her family at Praia Micondo.
She was visiting from French Guiana and met up with her daughter's
family, who came over from Angola for a joint holiday. Breadfruit,
grilled and boiled plantains, salad, fish.

Bathtub bench at Roca Sao Joao.

Main house at Roca Sao Joao. The condition of plantations varied depending
on their current use - whether as still-functioning cacao plantations, hotels
for visitors, or house for Sao Tomense.

There wasn't much onward transport, but we were able to get a lift with a bus from the Pestana hotel in the capital, which was driving workers and tourists down to visit the Pestana resort on Ilha das Rolhas. I had an interesting chat with Waldimar, who lived in Santana but worked at the Pestana resort six days a week. The driver, Manuel, stopped frequently so that we and the other tourists could try to take photos of the Cao Grande formation.

A partially obscured Pico Cao Grande.

Once we reached Porto Alegre, where the other tourists continued to Ilha das Rolhas, we met up with the fisherman/tour guide who had been referred to us by a gentleman in our guidebook. An island visit, with services limited to those provided by the Pestana resort (many locals were relocated to the main island) didn't particularly appeal to us. Nevo and his friend Bruno took us out on Nevo's pirogue for a whale watching ride. We only saw one whale (an early morning jaunt would have been better), but we saw several spouts of water and had nice views of São Tomé island and Ilha das Rolhas. Nevo and Bruno said we could have stopped on the island to see the Equator mark (it's apparently off by a couple of hundred meters), but our boat ride sufficed.

Crossing the equator! Not once, but four times
(we looped around Ilha das Rolhas twice).
View from the south of Sao Tome's main island.

Cao Grande from the sea.

We then took a couple of motos to Praia Jale Ecolodge, just around the southwest corner of the island. We walked onwards to another beach, Praia Va-Inha, before having a tasty octopus dinner. Praia Jale's eco-friendliness comes in turtle care. Once turtles have laid their eggs (a December or January visit would allow viewings of this), the eggs are transferred to a holding pen where they are protected from dogs, birds and humans. The hatchlings are then released en masse, with a better chance of replenishing the population.

Praia Jale.

Door hanging with common features of life on Sao Tome and Principe:
coconuts, fish, turtles, octopus, boats, breadfruit.

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