10 February 2017

Northwest Sao Tome

On to the northwest coast of São Tomé, in August 2016.

Main house at Roca Monte Forte ("Strong Mountain").

That's our room up there!
After our van arrived in Neves we took a longer than expected walk to Roca Monte Forte, a plantation outside town. Our stay was a very pleasant one, with tasty fish and chips for dinner, a nice old building (our room made it into the ST&P tourism board's official guidebook), and friendly staff. In fact, when we left the next day for the ecolodge down the road, the São Toménse manager Senhor Jeronimo said, "I wish you happiness and good luck. Boa viaje."

Official Bulletins of Sao Tome & Principe, sharing laws,
cacao production data, etc.

From the Mucumbli ecolodge we went on a couple of walking tours with Ildou. Ildou previously worked on Mucumbli's grounds as a gardener who also work on craft-making (our Portuguese and his French were not strong enough to get the full details). He said that there's sufficient tourism that he can work as a guide year-round.

Walking along the national highway outside Neves.

Donkeys need their images and treatment rehabilitated through Africa
("Donkey!" was a common insult in The Gambia).
Hills around Neves.
Our first hike took us through a couple of small communities based around former plantations. I confess to forgetting the name of the first one we passed through once we were dropped off, but we didn't tarry long.

Fishermen off the north shore of Sao Tome island.
Next was Ribeira Platacao Obo. Ildou noted that in the 1940s many Cape Verdeans from Portugal's other, drier, island colony came to work on plantations on São Tomé island. On an unrelated note, palm trees were introduced here from Liberia.

A charcoal-making pit.
Cacao pods mature twice a year.

Cacao seeds on a dryer.
Cacao care tips. The interval between breaking open the cacao pods and
putting the seeds in the fermentation box should not exceed five hours.

"We can carry out quality drying of cacao and earn more money."
After plantation Ribeira we continued back down the hill to a nice vantage point of Neves. From there we could see the oil containers for fuel delivered from Angola, STP's longtime ally (during the Angolan civil war, São Tomé received oil from Gabon).

View of Neves fishing boats and oil storage. 80% of Neves residents are fishermen.

Sap-sap fruit. Very tart.
The next day we went with Ildou on a hike around the aqueducts that power a hydroelectric plant that provides electricity to Ponta Figo, Neves and even the parliament and hospital in São Tomé town.

Sao Tome & Principe's parks are all called Parc National Obo,
since obo means forest.
The aqueducts were built by the Portuguese and made for nice cool water tunnels to walk through. We saw a number of bats and a beautiful waterfall.
Walking through the forest and onwards into an aqueduct!

Bats in the tunnel.

Some old machinery and a waterfall!

Strewn about near forest paths were large quantities of snail shells,
snails being a popular source of protein here as in Cameroon.
After returning to São Tomé town, we made a day trip to Guadalupe where we visited the former Rio do Ouro ("Golden River") cacao plantation, rechristened Roca Agostinho Neto, in honor of the Angolan independence leader who supported São Tomé and Príncipe's independence movement and fledgling government.

Relief of Agostinho Neto at the eponymous plantation.
The vast plantation now resembles a small town, and many parts of it are in disrepair. While the old buildings are certainly charming even in a dilapidated state, some might consider their current condition unfortunate.
View of Roca Agostinho Neto from above.
A storehouse.

While I'm sure lovingly restored or well-maintained buildings and grounds may be more attractive, I wonder whether São Toménse should feel any particular affinity for these old plantations. After all, they represent a long era of slavery and indentured servitude. São Tomé and Príncipe only became independent in 1975, so a lot of these experiences (foreign control of the plantations and natural resources) are recent and within people's lifetimes. With that backdrop, it's understandable that people in São Tomé may not be so inclined to preserve these buildings and lands.

Roca Agostinho Neto, with a renovated church to the right.

Buy cacao and gum here.

African grey parrot at restaurant in Guadalupe where we ate the
traditional Sao Tomense dish of calulu - a sauce comprised of fish, greens,
okra, onion, tomatoes, eggplant and spices. It was delicious!

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