A Travellerspoint blog

Evening Roadtrip

Around the coast


View In search of the Hairy Coo - Scottish Highlands 2018 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Evening road trip

As it is still early (and light out), we decide to go for a wee drive this evening (see how I am getting into the local lingo already?)

Before going anywhere, we check out what is at the bottom of the lane leading downhill from the cabin.

large_61c6b5a0-927d-11e8-88ad-6986f9091436.jpg
Little Lock Broom

Before we even reach the end of the lane, we spot something moving in the long grass in the field next to the road.

large_71580000-927d-11e8-88ad-6986f9091436.jpg
Red Deer

Then we spot another – can you see it?

large_7c567bd0-927d-11e8-88ad-6986f9091436.jpg

Further down in the field is yet another one, this time a sika deer – the first time we have seen one in the wild.

large_8950eeb0-927d-11e8-88ad-6986f9091436.jpg

There are further red deer in the far field, separated from the others by a couple of stone walls and wire fences.

large_934b4b80-927e-11e8-9c89-233daebbbea6.jpg

large_f21c84d0-927e-11e8-9c89-233daebbbea6.jpg

Is she going to try and jump?

large_90bbd190-927f-11e8-860a-bde044ad57ec.jpg

I get very excited at the prospect and am poised ready with my camera, but all this deer wants is to fill her belly.

large_d8f29ac0-927f-11e8-860a-bde044ad57ec.jpg

Maybe...?

large_70653430-9280-11e8-860a-bde044ad57ec.jpg

Yes!

large_d66ff210-9280-11e8-88ad-6986f9091436.jpg

She leaps effortlessly and gracefully to the next field.

large_38a0d120-9281-11e8-88ad-6986f9091436.jpg

She is now one step nearer her two mates.

large_7cb39320-9281-11e8-88ad-6986f9091436.jpg

As she contemplates the next fence, I make sure my camera is ready to catch the action again. I won't get a second attempt at this.

large_13225120-9282-11e8-88ad-6986f9091436.jpg

large_9fa032c0-9282-11e8-88ad-6986f9091436.jpg

large_e4dd9210-9282-11e8-88ad-6986f9091436.jpg

Reunited at last.

large_211425e0-928e-11e8-95cf-59db8f5e8997.jpg

We leave the deer to do their own thing and continue to the water's edge, where we see a couple of Harbour Seals basking on the rocks. Another first for us.

large_81763860-928e-11e8-aa88-576d35818d21.jpg

large_89fcd660-928e-11e8-aa88-576d35818d21.jpg

On our way back up the lane we see a barn swallow on the line, preening himself.

large_29a0c1e0-928f-11e8-9b56-dbbf82b89369.jpg

large_ad3404d0-9295-11e8-bd34-59a00c861b5a.jpg

From here we head out to the main road to make a small circuit around the coast.

large_7527a6d0-9297-11e8-bd34-59a00c861b5a.jpg

One of the things about the cabin is that there is no mobile signal. Wanting to phone my dad, we stop in a lay-by where our lane meets the main road to make the call once we get a connection. It's not a bad view from here over Little Loch Broom.

large_a53e2330-9297-11e8-bd34-59a00c861b5a.jpg

Being on a mission to find a 'hairy coo' (long haired highland cattle), I am disappointed to see that the cattle in the field here are not what I am after. They are quite cute though.

large_e16c7aa0-9297-11e8-bd34-59a00c861b5a.jpg

The scenery along the way is nothing short of stunning, with new, exciting vistas around every bend.

large_7edeeab0-9299-11e8-bd34-59a00c861b5a.jpg
Fish farms on Little Loch Broom

“The light is amazing!” soon becomes my mantra this evening (and for the rest of the trip) as the low sun lights up the already beautiful scenery.

large_b25e1810-929a-11e8-bd34-59a00c861b5a.jpg

large_fe6c0b80-929b-11e8-ad6e-d58a78d6481f.jpg

large_ee99f220-929c-11e8-bad6-9d24bf85763c.jpg

large_f8dd0d30-929c-11e8-bad6-9d24bf85763c.jpg

large_02778c30-929d-11e8-bad6-9d24bf85763c.jpg

Horses

We stop for me to photograph a couple of black horses in a bright yellow field.

large_d7959fd0-92a0-11e8-bad6-9d24bf85763c.jpg

large_e1310930-92a0-11e8-bad6-9d24bf85763c.jpg

One of them is obviously convinced that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.

large_ee9428f0-92a0-11e8-bad6-9d24bf85763c.jpg

Little Gruinard Beach

Scotland has some beautiful beaches, and this one looks very inviting, especially from a photographer's point of view, with its water-filled ridges reflecting the fading light. Did I mention the light is wonderful here in Scotland?

large_d109b440-94ac-11e8-a7bf-db4fed34b32a.jpg

large_db9215b0-94ac-11e8-a7bf-db4fed34b32a.jpg

large_ed7195d0-94ac-11e8-a7bf-db4fed34b32a.jpg

large_f97d62f0-94ac-11e8-a7bf-db4fed34b32a.jpg

large_08c3e8b0-94ad-11e8-a7bf-db4fed34b32a.jpg

large_16150710-94ad-11e8-a7bf-db4fed34b32a.jpg

large_2ad5d530-94ad-11e8-a7bf-db4fed34b32a.jpg

large_3768aca0-94ad-11e8-a7bf-db4fed34b32a.jpg
Little Ringed Plover

large_477f0580-94ad-11e8-a7bf-db4fed34b32a.jpg

large_57af00e0-94ad-11e8-a7bf-db4fed34b32a.jpg

large_7a2331a0-94ad-11e8-a7bf-db4fed34b32a.jpg

We continue on our planned circular trip, although after a while we realise that it is not going to be just a 'quick drive after dinner' as planned, the route is very much further than we realise.

large_21f5a480-94b8-11e8-95c1-cb2adf7418c0.jpg

large_306c3010-94b8-11e8-95c1-cb2adf7418c0.jpg
Traffic jam, Scottish style

large_41929960-94b8-11e8-95c1-cb2adf7418c0.jpg

large_4a7009f0-94b8-11e8-95c1-cb2adf7418c0.jpg

We see very few other cars, and are a little taken back when we spot these temporary traffic lights. They seem so out of place with the rest of the route.

large_723a5940-94b8-11e8-95c1-cb2adf7418c0.jpg

Despite spending the first 15 years of my life in Norway, which is at an even higher latitude, I am rather surprised to find how light it still is at 22:30 at night.

large_e26233a0-94b8-11e8-95c1-cb2adf7418c0.jpg

Although there may still be a reasonable amount of light, there is not enough to get a decent photo of the deer alongside the narrow lane as we make our way back.

large_49e560b0-94b9-11e8-95c1-cb2adf7418c0.jpg

We reach the cabin over three hours after we left for a 'quick evening drive'. We go to bed tired but very content.

Posted by Grete Howard 08:07 Archived in Scotland Tagged road_trip horses scenery deer seals plover badluarach red_derr harbour_seals little_loch_broom little_gruinard_beah little_ringed_plover Comments (1)

Carlisle - Badluarach

We've finally arrived at The Wee Barn


View In search of the Hairy Coo - Scottish Highlands 2018 on Grete Howard's travel map.

We decide to forego the full English breakfast at the Premier Inn this morning, and just make do with some fresh fruit from Tesco. Cheaper and better for the diet.

After yesterday's traffic jam, we have some very pleasurable motoring today, and we soon find ourselves entering Scotland. Damn, I forgot my passport!

large_90289130-90dd-11e8-a2bf-d703fd2fb1c3.jpg

large_98a989e0-90dd-11e8-a2bf-d703fd2fb1c3.jpg

Look at these empty roads! What a change from yesterday!

large_b82c8e20-90dd-11e8-a2bf-d703fd2fb1c3.jpg

large_c2fb4760-90dd-11e8-a2bf-d703fd2fb1c3.jpg

On the way I spot a couple of amusing road signs.

large_dcf75910-90dd-11e8-a2bf-d703fd2fb1c3.jpg

large_e5dd7c30-90dd-11e8-a2bf-d703fd2fb1c3.jpg

Arria

The 10 metre high sculpture, nicknamed "Angel of the Nauld", overlooks the M80 just north of Auchenkilns. The female sculpture's large swooping arcs from her hands to her dress are based on the Gaelic name for Cumbernauld, “comar nan allt”, which translates as “the meeting of the waters”. Not quite sure how that follows, but so the story goes. The sculpture, created by Andy Scott of Kelpies fame, is part of the Cumbernauld Positive Image Project's aim “to create a distinctive image of Cumbernauld; increase residents’ pride in their town; raise awareness across Scotland of Cumbernauld’s attractiveness as a destination to live, work and play; create a sense of place and provide a positive statement about the town. Again I am not sure how this sculpture plays a role here, but she is pleasant enough to look at as we glide past on our way further north.

large_Sculpture.jpg

Pitlochry Dam and Fish Ladder

We park in the centre of Pitlochry town and follow the signs to the dam and visitors centre on foot. The road leads through the town, down a hill, under a bridge, along a narrow lane, up another hill and down a slope before it gets to a dedicated car park for the visitors centre. Doh. At least we get a little bit of exercise rather than driving to the nearest car park. We have spent enough time in the car the last couple of days.

I am officially intrigued by the Fish Ladder, as although I do understand that it facilitates salmon to travel upstream during breeding season, I have never actually seen one.

large_ca048570-90e3-11e8-a2bf-d703fd2fb1c3.jpg

But first we stop for coffee and cake in the modern visitors centre overlooking the hydroelectric plant.

large_e23b1960-90e3-11e8-a2bf-d703fd2fb1c3.jpg

large_eea3d390-90e3-11e8-a2bf-d703fd2fb1c3.jpg

We walk across specially constructed walkways from one bank of the river to the other (not the one shown in the photo below), and although the power plant is certainly impressive, it's the reflections in the loch that first and foremost grab my attention.

large_3bed8f70-90f2-11e8-8688-4d223678df04.jpg

large_483b95b0-90f2-11e8-8688-4d223678df04.jpg

large_62dc24c0-90f2-11e8-8688-4d223678df04.jpg

Hydro-electricity is produced using the power of running water to turn the turbines in the power station.

large_02fabe80-90f3-11e8-8688-4d223678df04.jpg

large_216db250-90f3-11e8-8688-4d223678df04.jpg

Once we reach the fish ladder on the opposite bank, I have a feeling we have seen something similar before, possibly in Madeira in 2003. Either way, it is a pretty cool idea.

large_64d1bdc0-90f3-11e8-8688-4d223678df04.jpg

This is how it works: each of the 34 tiered pools has an opening below water level to allow fish to swim through to the next level. The ladder is even equipped with a fish counter (the sort that counts each fish, not sells fillets) so they can monitor the success of the ladder. Some 250,000 salmon have climbed those stairs since the ladder was first opened in 1952. That is very impressive.

large_eea566f0-90f3-11e8-8688-4d223678df04.jpg

I continue taking photos of the dam and surroundings while David goes back into town to collect the car. He's a good man.

large_726b1340-90f4-11e8-8688-4d223678df04.jpg

large_7daefc80-90f4-11e8-8688-4d223678df04.jpg

large_8b0a7b20-90f4-11e8-8688-4d223678df04.jpg

large_a590a460-90f4-11e8-8688-4d223678df04.jpg

Cairngorms

We head for the hills of the Cairngorms (a mountain range and national park in Scotland) to find somewhere to have our picnic.

large_3b4d0380-910f-11e8-aea6-3f94b2c6eff2.jpg

large_32c18380-910f-11e8-aea6-3f94b2c6eff2.jpg

large_4cb1d560-910f-11e8-aea6-3f94b2c6eff2.jpg

large_5f2c8410-910f-11e8-aea6-3f94b2c6eff2.jpg

large_74466eb0-910f-11e8-aea6-3f94b2c6eff2.jpg

large_83525c70-910f-11e8-aea6-3f94b2c6eff2.jpg

large_8fb411c0-910f-11e8-aea6-3f94b2c6eff2.jpg

large_9d515450-910f-11e8-aea6-3f94b2c6eff2.jpg

This will do for a picnic

large_ae36bd00-910f-11e8-aea6-3f94b2c6eff2.jpg

Not a bad view

large_c4866880-910f-11e8-aea6-3f94b2c6eff2.jpg

large_da661420-910f-11e8-aea6-3f94b2c6eff2.jpg
Cowboy Caviar (mixed bean salad) with chicken and Southwest Sauce

large_f1c078e0-910f-11e8-aea6-3f94b2c6eff2.jpg

We are fascinated to find, as we make our way even further north on smaller roads, that each layby is identified by a number. I have not seen that anywhere else. There are plenty of them too, something that we come to appreciate a lot as the week goes on.

large_ffecb500-910f-11e8-aea6-3f94b2c6eff2.jpg

large_0cec09e0-9110-11e8-aea6-3f94b2c6eff2.jpg
Hmm, but not today...

Highland cattle

As you may have noticed, I have called this blog “In search of the Hairy Coo”. 'Hairy coo' is of course the local slang for the adorable long-haired Highland Cattle. There are two reasons for this – I was tasked with getting some photos of me petting a highland cow by my friend Kay; and also because it reminds me very much of my first visit to Scotland in 1974 with my parents. My mum adored these cute bovine animals and used to call them 'hippy cows'.

large_e3aa38f0-9113-11e8-aea6-3f94b2c6eff2.jpg
'Pretend' Hairy Coo at the Ralia Highland Gateway Centre where we stop for a pee break.

large_17b3c170-9114-11e8-aea6-3f94b2c6eff2.jpg
Apparently, cuddling a metal coo doesn't count.

Sat Nav

Mid afternoon the Sat Nav dies, meaning we have to revert to the old fashioned way of finding our way using a map. Those of you who know me well, will realise that it is not a good idea to leave me to do the navigating while map reading. Not only do I get my lefts and rights mixed up, my sense of direction is so poor that I can get lost in my own back garden.

Let's hope we make it to the cabin this evening without too many detours and without having a major falling-out.

large_fdafd530-918f-11e8-b07b-ab02e4c908ed.jpg

Love the roads and the scenery!

large_1a60a6a0-9190-11e8-b07b-ab02e4c908ed.jpg

large_27ccee20-9190-11e8-b07b-ab02e4c908ed.jpg

large_31721b80-9190-11e8-b07b-ab02e4c908ed.jpg

large_3e3fd910-9190-11e8-b07b-ab02e4c908ed.jpg
Loch Droma

large_4992b670-9190-11e8-ace2-098191884081.jpg

The further north we get (and nearer our cabin), the narrower the road gets.

large_8c945690-9190-11e8-ace2-098191884081.jpg

We find the turning off the main road without any major drama, despite me map reading, although I fear the credit has to go to David, who has a photographic memory when it comes to maps: once he has seen the route on a map, he can drive there.

large_fe9abf80-9191-11e8-b07b-ab02e4c908ed.jpg

The Wee Barn

I booked this holiday on a whim a few weeks ago. We have been talking about visiting Scotland for a while now, but no actual plans, and certainly not this year. I thought I would just do an internet search to give me some idea of costs, and then I saw The Wee Barn and fell in love. Ten minutes later I had booked it.

large_3d6942a0-91a5-11e8-9cec-4b641b7aceb1.jpg

The Wee Barn is in what you could safely call a remote location. Some two miles down a single track road with a handful of other houses, a post box and telephone kiosk, It is situated down the lane leading to the landing where ferries take passengers across Little Loch Broom to the smattering of houses the other side. Surrounded by countryside on three side and water on the fourth, the setting is idyllic.

large_4bef5e90-91a5-11e8-9cec-4b641b7aceb1.jpg

large_9e892610-91d5-11e8-8872-27ea9b15637c.jpg

The cabin itself is small, of course (there is a huge hint in the name), but more than adequate for us, with a living room / dining room and a very well equipped kitchen.

large_5bca5c20-91a5-11e8-9cec-4b641b7aceb1.jpg

large_65637b90-91a5-11e8-9cec-4b641b7aceb1.jpg

large_6f1c7f10-91a5-11e8-9cec-4b641b7aceb1.jpg

As well as a bedroom and bathroom, the entrance hall has a comfy chair and a well stocked bookcase.

large_7a3d4ff0-91a5-11e8-9cec-4b641b7aceb1.jpg

Once we have unpacked, I whip up a quick dinner of cold Black Forest ham, scrambled eggs and roasted tomatoes.

large_b30dd660-91a5-11e8-9cec-4b641b7aceb1.jpg

After dinner a settle down to relax, but David has other ideas, and suggests going out for a short drive. I shall make that the subject of the next blog entry however.

Posted by Grete Howard 04:16 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland salmon road_trip sculpture seal deer motorway highland_cow pitlochry cairngorms road_signs premier_inn arria angel_of_the_nauld auchenkilns cumbernauld andy_scott power_station hydro_electric fish_ladder hary_coo sika_deer red_deer harbour_seal Comments (3)

Home - Carlisle

A slow start to our Scotland Adventure

-50 °C
View In search of the Hairy Coo - Scottish Highlands 2018 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Although we booked this trip some months ago, it wasn't until the very last minute (two days before departure to be exact), that we actually decided we were going to go. As many of you will know, my dad was very poorly recently, and we were unsure whether we were going to be able to get away at all.

Anyway, here we are, setting off for the long drive to Bonnie Scotland.

Apologies for the quality of today's photos, they are all taken with my mobile phone.

Motorway Madness

It doesn't start well. Just outside Birmingham we hit the first traffic jam. We see two fire engines, an ambulance and the Incident Manager go past. Oh dear, I hope it is not serious. At least we are just delayed, we are not involved in the 'incident'.

large_231f4a30-89b1-11e8-a8a2-adafd8f1d068.jpg

Without notice, the traffic starts to move again and within seconds we are up to normal speed, with no sign of the incident that slowed us to a stand-still in the first place. How very odd.

It doesn't last long, however, and soon we are slowing right down again. This is when motorbikes come into their own – we see the whole chapter of Satan's Slaves go past, some 50+ bikers, weaving their way in and out of the lines of slow-moving cars.

Leaving the M5 and joining the M42, we arrive into another stationary traffic jam.

large_3f602650-89b2-11e8-812b-b7650482b8ed.jpg

Once we're on the M6, the story is the same – another load of slow moving traffic! There is one benefit: we may not be going anywhere fast, but at least we are getting in excess of 75 miles per gallon.

large_c9f48770-89b2-11e8-812b-b7650482b8ed.jpg

Picnic lunch

The plan was to come off the motorway to find a small, rural place to have a leisure lunch in the countryside, but as we are making such slow progress, we are concerned about the distance we still have to travel, so pull into a Motorway Service Station where we have a car-picnic in the car park. Not quite the same.

large_3ebe72a0-89b3-11e8-812b-b7650482b8ed.jpg

Without notice the Sat Nav decides to give up the ghost, forcing us to get out an old-fashioned map. Thankfully, the further north we go, the less traffic there is, and David is a master navigator anyway, with a non-rivalled memory for routes.

large_ea1c13a0-89b3-11e8-812b-b7650482b8ed.jpg

Premier Inn and Beefeater at Carlisle

large_Beefeater.jpg

Finally, after over eight hours on the road (the journey should have taken us 4½ hours), we eventually arrive at our overnight stop in Carlisle, where a very welcome drink awaits the driver.

large_928098e0-89b4-11e8-812b-b7650482b8ed.jpg

I ask for a pint of Morgan's Spiced and Coke (four measures topped up with Diet Coke). It goes down well.

large_9e020050-89b4-11e8-812b-b7650482b8ed.jpg

We both have fillet steak, mine with a salad and David's with chips.

large_fd0b60a0-89b4-11e8-a8a2-adafd8f1d068.jpg

I'll drink to that!

large_4584b110-89b5-11e8-a8a2-adafd8f1d068.jpg

So much for being good and only having a salad with my steak: a churros sundae with a large Tia Maria isn't going to do my diet any good!

large_8f193580-89b5-11e8-a8a2-adafd8f1d068.jpg

When it comes to paying, we are really pleased when the waitress lets us use a discount code from an out-of-date voucher that doesn't even include steaks! Double success!

Full of good food and drink, we retire to bed ready for another long drive tomorrow.

Posted by Grete Howard 12:45 Archived in Scotland Tagged map cider birmingham steak sat_nav beefeater carlisle traffic_jam premier_inn churros_sundae tia_maria morgan's_spiced Comments (1)

Obo Nat. Park, then Accra - Lisbon - London - Home

Homeward bound


View São Tomé and Príncipe 2018 - the Lost Islands in the Centre of the World on Grete Howard's travel map.

Having set the alarm last night for 6 o'clock this morning, I get up in order to do some bird watching before breakfast.

The first thing I notice, however, is what looks like a rat's tail under the patio door.

large_f557b8e0-8f2c-11e8-a68b-df7d44fb1fa0.jpg

I try poking it with a stick. Nothing. I try again. Still nothing. It is obviously not alive. I shove it along a bit so that I can examine it, and it does indeed look like a tail from a rat. Not sure how I feel about that. Where is the rat? How did it get its tail stuck under the door? Did it chew its own tail off in order to survive (or have I been watching too many horror movies)? Did we do the damage when we closed the door last night? Was the rat in the room?

large_222aa300-8f2d-11e8-a68b-df7d44fb1fa0.jpg

I open the door and tentatively walk out onto the balcony and look around. At first glance I can't see any evidence of a dead rat or one without a tail but with massive gnashers dripping with blood.

I feel a little foolish when I do spot the owner of the tail: an innocent, harmless lizard. Awww.

large_13f82550-8f2d-11e8-a68b-df7d44fb1fa0.jpg

Although being without his appendage doesn't seem to impede him, I do hope I wasn't instrumental in him losing his tail, poor thing.

Anyway, back to the bird watching.

large_5c50f570-8f2d-11e8-a68b-df7d44fb1fa0.jpg
Village Weavers

large_6aa94aa0-8f2d-11e8-a68b-df7d44fb1fa0.jpg
Vitelline Masked Weaver

large_7a8d48e0-8f2d-11e8-a68b-df7d44fb1fa0.jpg
São Tomé Prinia

large_88c089e0-8f2d-11e8-a68b-df7d44fb1fa0.jpg
Village Weaver with its impressive nest

After breakfast we arrange for a late check out and then head for the hills.

large_0872b020-8f36-11e8-96d6-a5b43d3b5796.jpg
Hotel reception

Nova Roça Coffee Plantation

We stop to look at the rows and rows of coffee plants. These are the berries of the Robusta coffee, one of two beans grown here – the other is Arabica.

large_360a97f0-8f36-11e8-96d6-a5b43d3b5796.jpg

large_408f28d0-8f36-11e8-96d6-a5b43d3b5796.jpg

large_4fef7820-8f36-11e8-96d6-a5b43d3b5796.jpg

large_590cb0d0-8f36-11e8-96d6-a5b43d3b5796.jpg

Obo National park

Our destination for today is São Tomé's only national park, Obo.

large_3756dc20-8f38-11e8-96d6-a5b43d3b5796.jpg

Covering 290 km² (nearly 30% of the land area), the park is characterised by a wide range of biotypes, from lowland and mountain forests to mangroves and savannah areas. The park spans parts of both islands. This area, the high altitude rainforest, is popular with hikers. There is even a walker's café at the start of the trail.

large_41e1d5a0-8f38-11e8-96d6-a5b43d3b5796.jpg

David and Agostinho are setting off on a serious trek, to Lake Amelia. I stay in the extensive botanical gardens and the shade of an old plantation house, now used as the park headquarters.

large_4e082fa0-8f38-11e8-96d6-a5b43d3b5796.jpg

large_5b2a00a0-8f38-11e8-96d6-a5b43d3b5796.jpg

Botanical Gardens

large_007fe650-8f39-11e8-96d6-a5b43d3b5796.jpg

large_b5955ce0-8f3a-11e8-96d6-a5b43d3b5796.jpg

large_f40ccbe0-8f38-11e8-96d6-a5b43d3b5796.jpg

large_0b74ec40-8f39-11e8-96d6-a5b43d3b5796.jpg

large_17afdfb0-8f39-11e8-96d6-a5b43d3b5796.jpg

large_26a14090-8f39-11e8-96d6-a5b43d3b5796.jpg

large_6b8200f0-8f39-11e8-96d6-a5b43d3b5796.jpg

large_75118370-8f39-11e8-96d6-a5b43d3b5796.jpg

large_c055e550-8f3a-11e8-96d6-a5b43d3b5796.jpg

large_c90010e0-8f3a-11e8-96d6-a5b43d3b5796.jpg

large_d1b64a60-8f3a-11e8-96d6-a5b43d3b5796.jpg

large_daeb29c0-8f3a-11e8-96d6-a5b43d3b5796.jpg

large_e5fa9580-8f3a-11e8-96d6-a5b43d3b5796.jpg

large_eee30290-8f3a-11e8-96d6-a5b43d3b5796.jpg

large_f8424d50-8f3a-11e8-96d6-a5b43d3b5796.jpg

David comes back, several hours later, absolutely exhausted. That was some serious hike Agostinho took him on!

large_df6ca420-8f43-11e8-9524-a7f811899679.jpg

large_e9b871c0-8f43-11e8-9524-a7f811899679.jpg
The disappointingly dried out Lake Amelie

After a well deserved rest and a packed lunch, we set off again to explore a little more of the national park.

Cascata São Nicolau

With a drop of around 30m, this is São Tomé's highest waterfall.

large_1a9e9d60-8f48-11e8-8a23-77e12d8f9c4f.jpg

It's in a lovely setting, a horse-shoe=shaped cove, covered in vegetation, and a set of steps lead down to the wooden bridge crossing the river just below the falls.

large_25c2c9a0-8f48-11e8-8a23-77e12d8f9c4f.jpg

The area all around is full of the gorgeous flame trees too.

large_2fc6b8d0-8f48-11e8-8a23-77e12d8f9c4f.jpg

large_38458ea0-8f48-11e8-8a23-77e12d8f9c4f.jpg

The beginning of the end

It's back to base for us, have a shower and change, check out of the room and wait in the lobby for Nino to pick us up for the last journey here in São Tomé: to the airport for our flight home.

large_ea152900-8f49-11e8-88eb-874c6e314268.jpg

São Tomé Airport

I am not sure why we are picked up at 16:30 for a 20:35 flight, especially as the airport is a mere 15 minutes or so away from the hotel.

We spend a lot of time sitting on a low wall as there are no seats outside, and the terminal building is not open yet. A self-appointed airport official (methinks there are some mental issues...) takes our passports and tickets and goes in to talk to the staff on the security desk just inside the door. Nothing happens. Some 20 minutes or so later he shouts “Go! Go! Go!”, but we only get as far as the door opening anyway. We chat to a couple from Austria/Germany while we wait, as more and more people arrive and join the queue behind us.

large_fb1a9cd0-8f49-11e8-88eb-874c6e314268.jpg

Our 'facilitator' keeps holding his outstretched palm up towards us and saying “wait”. As if we are going to storm the building or something. More and more staff stroll in, and eventually, after about an hour of waiting outside in the heat , we are allowed through. Our passports are checked on the door and the check-in is very smooth and easy. One step nearer.

Security, however, is not ready to accept passengers, so we join another queue and wait for them to open. Immigration on the other hand is manned and ready and they show us straight through.

Departure Gate

We are pleasantly surprised to find the lounge complete with comfy seats, efficient A/C, free wifi and a bar selling beer!

large_2bcc6ed0-8f4a-11e8-9524-a7f811899679.jpg

The journey home via Accra and Lisbon is uneventful, apart from the fact we are delayed in Ghana as two passengers 'forget' to get off in Accra.

The End

And that brings our São Tomé adventure to an end. We have thoroughly enjoyed this small, laid back country, with a reasonable infrastructure, beautiful scenery and friendly people.

Not so much a 'lost world', São Tomé is just slightly mislaid. Or as someone said: “STP has not been forgotten, it has never actually been discovered by mainstream tourism”.

Thank you so much to Undiscovered Destinations for bringing us here, and looking forward to arranging another adventure through this great little tour operator in the future.

large_03e24600-8f4b-11e8-ae27-5be166c1cd92.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 13:14 Archived in Sao Tome and Principe Tagged birds gardens flowers trek plants walk hike tail trail lizard birding path coffee national_park botanical_gardens plantations bird_watching sao_tome miramar_hotel missing_tail nova_roca robusta coffee_plantations obo obo_national_park Comments (1)

Rolas Island - São Tomé Town

Heading back to the main island


View São Tomé and Príncipe 2018 - the Lost Islands in the Centre of the World on Grete Howard's travel map.

After having enjoyed a relaxing couple of days here on Rolas Island, it is time to move on, travelling back to São Tomé Town for our last night in this small African island nation.

large_f821bb30-8b43-11e8-b689-67befb6c223b.jpg

large_86413450-8b43-11e8-b689-67befb6c223b.jpg

large_d1bec410-8b43-11e8-b689-67befb6c223b.jpg

large_db9f9ae0-8b43-11e8-b689-67befb6c223b.jpg

large_e3d35df0-8b43-11e8-b689-67befb6c223b.jpg

large_94f82440-8b43-11e8-b689-67befb6c223b.jpg

All the luggage travels first, again on the smaller, open boat. We are a little concerned that once they reach the other end, our bags are going to be mixed up with those of the big party travelling with the Pestana bus (which is basically all the other passengers). Pestana owns three hotels on the islands and a shuttle bus ferries tourists between them.

large_c3db9ee0-8b43-11e8-b689-67befb6c223b.jpg

large_03f11b90-8b44-11e8-b689-67befb6c223b.jpg

The luggage boat goes off and the passenger vessel arrives.

large_0e09f250-8b44-11e8-b689-67befb6c223b.jpg

We are grateful that it is not raining for our boat trip across to the main island.

large_378aa430-8b44-11e8-9fb0-4d2e6a8df67a.jpg

This time we sit near the front of the boat to avoid getting soaked from the spray like we did on the way over. It may not be raining, but it is quite windy and the water is rather choppy.

large_43010f20-8b44-11e8-9fb0-4d2e6a8df67a.jpg

large_4e1f6f00-8b44-11e8-9fb0-4d2e6a8df67a.jpg

Once we approach the bigger island, we see lots of fishermen, with their nets out trying to catch today's lunch and dinner. Most people in São Tomé live from day to day, just catching enough fish to feed their family.

large_75d57300-8b44-11e8-a13b-937115a4a43b.jpg

large_7f907250-8b44-11e8-a13b-937115a4a43b.jpg

Spotting Nino (our driver) on the jetty with a firm grip on our bags, we relax and realise our concerns were unfounded. It is comforting - and rather impressive - to know he remembered what our cases look like.

large_ba66dae0-8b44-11e8-a13b-937115a4a43b.jpg

The Pestana bus is picking up all the other guests coming across from Rolas island, as well as bringing more tourists from the main island to take across to the resort. This, of course, means the entertainers are here again, singing their hearts out.

large_e8f1fc50-8b44-11e8-a13b-937115a4a43b.jpg

large_f356a920-8b44-11e8-a13b-937115a4a43b.jpg

Having reunited with Nino and our bags, we offer a couple of the workers a lift to the next village. The extra manpower comes in handy when we get stuck on an uphill section of the gravel road with the wheels just spinning and spinning.

Pico Cão Grande

Translated from Portuguese as 'Great Dog Peak', this finger-shaped pinnacle is a volcanic plug. Created as magma hardened within a vent on an active volcano (now extinct), over the years erosion has worn away the surrounding rock, leaving this distinctive shape behind.

large_58535260-8b45-11e8-b689-67befb6c223b.jpg

The peak rises dramatically over 370 m (1,000 ft) above the surrounding terrain and the summit is 668 m (2,175 ft) above sea level. It is well-known within the rock climbing community, its near-vertical walls having first been conquered in 1975. It is quite a landmark and can be seen for miles around.

large_635306b0-8b45-11e8-b689-67befb6c223b.jpg

Palm Oil Plantations

Like many other places, these palm oil plantations have ruined the local agriculture: while other trees have a symbiotic relationship with fruits and vegetables growing amongst them, nothing will grow underneath these palms. The result is that local people, who were previously more or less self-sufficient, are now unable to grow their own produce and have to pay for a taxi to travel to the market in town to buy (much more expensive) vegetables.

large_b8ffdb60-8b45-11e8-b689-67befb6c223b.jpg

large_c3cce6f0-8b45-11e8-b689-67befb6c223b.jpg

Another Laundry day

Every day is laundry day somewhere in São Tomé, and we stop to photograph people doing their washing and absolutions in a small inlet along the coast.

large_0642c1d0-8b46-11e8-b689-67befb6c223b.jpg

large_0fb48320-8b46-11e8-b689-67befb6c223b.jpg

large_1d4cbca0-8b46-11e8-9fb0-4d2e6a8df67a.jpg

large_277d6120-8b46-11e8-9fb0-4d2e6a8df67a.jpg

large_3470a810-8b46-11e8-9fb0-4d2e6a8df67a.jpg

large_3d54a850-8b46-11e8-9fb0-4d2e6a8df67a.jpg

large_4588b980-8b46-11e8-9fb0-4d2e6a8df67a.jpg

large_4e8a53e0-8b46-11e8-9fb0-4d2e6a8df67a.jpg

Hotel Miramar, São Tomé Town

Back in the same town, the same hotel and the same room – it's a bit like coming home after a holiday. We take lunch on the outside terrace, ordering from the bar menu . For someone (me) who is trying to cut out simple carbs, the choice of burgers, pasta and pizza doesn't really offer a lot of options.

large_ce321380-8b46-11e8-9fb0-4d2e6a8df67a.jpg

large_d7e91b30-8b46-11e8-9fb0-4d2e6a8df67a.jpg

I soon find out that the burgers were not a good choice in more ways than one, and spend the rest of the day in the room to be near a toilet.

I do make it for dinner, but don't eat a lot. In fact, the highlight of my evening is this amazing model car that our waiter has made, complete with a steering column, moving wheels and opening doors. All created from wood. He is obviously a very talented man.

large_65265530-8b47-11e8-9fb0-4d2e6a8df67a.jpg

Thank you yet again to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip to São Tomé for us.

large_89731680-8b47-11e8-9fb0-4d2e6a8df67a.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 04:26 Archived in Sao Tome and Principe Tagged boat burgers washing laundry plantations singers boat_trip ablutions sao_tome hotel_miramar rolas_island pico_cão_grande volcanic_plug great_dog_peak palm_oil palm_oil_plantations Comments (1)

Rolas Island

Wedding anniversary


View São Tomé and Príncipe 2018 - the Lost Islands in the Centre of the World on Grete Howard's travel map.

Happy 41st anniversary to my best friend and favourite travel partner, the love of my life: David.

large_938b5ed0-8a88-11e8-b47d-959797303df8.jpg
Map of Rolas Island

We lie in bed this morning listening to the rain. Heavy rain. It rains when we walk to breakfast. We watch the rain from the restaurant. Heavy rain. It is still raining when we walk down to the bar. Then more rain as we make out way back to the room. We spend most of the morning sitting on the balcony watching – and photographing – the rain.

large_7dbcc0b0-89b8-11e8-812b-b7650482b8ed.jpg

large_ff833610-89c2-11e8-a96d-2fa72e7da953.jpg

large_0c152320-89c3-11e8-a96d-2fa72e7da953.jpg

large_16e42a80-89c3-11e8-a96d-2fa72e7da953.jpg

large_5c6a0480-89c3-11e8-a96d-2fa72e7da953.jpg

large_661c9f60-89c3-11e8-a96d-2fa72e7da953.jpg

large_70af12f0-89c3-11e8-a96d-2fa72e7da953.jpg

The hotel grounds are pretty 'free range', with all sorts of animals wandering around freely: pigs, goats, chickens, dogs and cats. And of course birds.

large_53583880-89fa-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg

large_5e7fe730-89fa-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg

large_694c7d90-89fa-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg
Cattle egret

large_7828a8c0-89fa-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg

large_86a304e0-89fa-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg

large_8c775420-89fa-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg
Common Waxbill

large_9c7f7c30-89fa-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg

large_a7703c60-89fa-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg
Yellow Billed Kite

Infrared

A few weeks ago I bought a second-hand camera converted to Infrared, and have been looking for a chance to put it though its paces. A grey rainy day is certainly not the best condition for successful infrared photography, but I wander around the grounds with it all the same.

large_0ce0dd20-89fb-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg

large_226ac7a0-89fb-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg

large_33645490-89fb-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg

Instead of lunch we take a long siesta, and when we wake up again, the rain has stopped so we head for the pool.

large_67c265b0-89fb-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg

large_74619930-89fb-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg

large_7fdfa540-89fb-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg

large_8a49d050-89fb-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg

It starts to rain once more, making the water quite chilly, so we go back to the room and change, then head for the bar.

large_b9104d10-89fb-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg

Tonight's buffet is extensive, and there is something for everyone.

large_d916d930-89fb-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg

large_e263ad60-89fb-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg

large_f62ed0e0-89fb-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg

large_4bced450-89fc-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg

large_5501def0-89fc-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg

large_5eabee50-89fc-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg

large_68972560-89fc-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg

large_73feea50-89fc-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg
My 'minute steak', cooked to order

We finish the evening off in the bar with a last drink of the day.

large_a892ff90-89fc-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg

large_b2cad000-89fc-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg

Happy anniversary!

Thank you Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this tour of São Tomé for us.

large_ea824550-89fc-11e8-8f00-15f54250f506.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 12:43 Archived in Sao Tome and Principe Tagged animals rain africa dinner bar wine photography drinks swimming_pool infrared sao_tome rolas_island infrared_photography infrared_camera pool_time Comments (3)

São João dos Angolares – Rolas Island

Rolas Island: The Middle of the World


View São Tomé and Príncipe 2018 - the Lost Islands in the Centre of the World on Grete Howard's travel map.

As we go for breakfast this morning, we are given a message from our agents that the rain has caused havoc with the roads, so they are going to be half an hour late picking us up this morning (Nino, the driver, and Agostinho, the guide, went back to São Tomé Town yesterday after lunch).

When we walk into the restaurant, we see two girls sleeping on futons in the bar. I can only assume that the hotel was full last night and they arrived late without a reservation.

Breakfast

This morning's breakfast consists of bread, home-made jam, cheese, chocolate cake, biscuits, star fruit, bananas, papaya and guava.

large_3753e5d0-7b77-11e8-bf58-6dd35ffd1f1a.jpg

large_b51cac40-7b77-11e8-bf58-6dd35ffd1f1a.jpg

large_bdb41320-7b77-11e8-bf58-6dd35ffd1f1a.jpg

large_f0147f80-7b77-11e8-bf58-6dd35ffd1f1a.jpg

large_1a23b5c0-7b78-11e8-bf58-6dd35ffd1f1a.jpg

As it turns out, Nino and Agostinho are only about 20 minutes late, by which time we are in reception with our bags, ready to go.

The road south from here is very bad in places, with large potholes and huge chunks of the road eroded away by the rain.

After a while we turn off the main road onto an unmarked, much smaller track, as we head for the jetty.

large_1cfe8830-7b85-11e8-b0a1-39b69cdab0a5.jpg

The ferry to Rolas Island

We arrive at the jetty where the ferry is going to take us to Rolas Island in plenty of time for the boat. In fact, the boat is not even here yet. A small band of performers are waiting to greet tourists, and two young French girls also waiting.

large_6d8cfde0-7b8a-11e8-bdec-9f1c9878004f.jpg

A small, open boat arrives, and all four of us are quite sure it is the one taking us across to the island. The girls are filled with trepidation. “I have known worse, much worse”, I reassure them, “at least it is not raining”. “You travel a lot?” one of the girls asks. “This is our 140th country” we explain. She is totally dumbstruck and keeps repeating incredulously “140 countries...?”, over and over again.

large_8344d630-7b8a-11e8-bdec-9f1c9878004f.jpg

When a large bus belonging to the Pestana Group (who own the hotel on the island) arrives, the musicians and singers burst into performance. This is a little too touristy for my liking.

large_9a7c5430-7b8b-11e8-bdec-9f1c9878004f.jpg

.

Soon afterwards, our boat arrives, and it is bigger and with roof cover.

large_a2e610d0-7b8a-11e8-bdec-9f1c9878004f.jpg

It seems the smaller, open boat is for staff transport.

large_8e105b20-7b8a-11e8-bdec-9f1c9878004f.jpg

As soon as we have all piled on board, we are off. Some people, including the two French girls we spoke to earlier, are just going to the island for the day. Most people, however, are staying for a week, we are here for two nights.

large_f275b0f0-7b8b-11e8-bdec-9f1c9878004f.jpg

large_fb73c8e0-7b8b-11e8-bdec-9f1c9878004f.jpg

large_f8cb6000-7b9d-11e8-9aa9-1569a75176b1.jpg

large_ec260f20-7ca7-11e8-b237-9b75d7fce8c5.jpg

Rolas Island

The ferry ride is quite short, and soon we can see the jetty on Rolas Island. By the time we arrive, however, we are absolutely soaked: one of the problems of sitting at the back of the boat, being drenched in sea spray.

large_2d8f5c00-7ca8-11e8-b237-9b75d7fce8c5.jpg

As I said before, the whole operation is quite commercialised and touristic, and on arrival at the island we are giving a welcome drink while we wait to check in.

large_7a6d8d30-7ca8-11e8-b237-9b75d7fce8c5.jpg

We watch the 'staff boat' arrive with all the luggage on board, and hope they don't drop our bags over the edge as they unload.

large_a86b14a0-7ca8-11e8-b237-9b75d7fce8c5.jpg
Our bags made it safely to dry land

Rolas island is a small islet, an ocean paradise with swaying palm tress and beautiful sandy beaches. Apart from this one hotel, there is not much else on the island.

large_57869610-7cab-11e8-b237-9b75d7fce8c5.jpg

large_61001f90-7cab-11e8-b237-9b75d7fce8c5.jpg

The rooms are all spread around the large grounds, with blocks of four rooms in each wooden cottage, offering plenty of privacy.

large_cadaaa20-7cab-11e8-b237-9b75d7fce8c5.jpg

large_20131220-7cac-11e8-b237-9b75d7fce8c5.jpg

We have a small covered balcony with a couple of lounging chairs.

large_9ce1c120-7cac-11e8-b237-9b75d7fce8c5.jpg

large_cb161a90-7cad-11e8-b237-9b75d7fce8c5.jpg

Complete with our very own lizard.

large_603d6470-7cae-11e8-ba57-b774c1fc69ec.jpg

The rooms are nice and big, all dark wood, with an efficient A/C unit, large wardrobe, a couple of chairs and some cosy mood lighting.

large_210aea30-7cad-11e8-9283-0daba28e2ab1.jpg

large_4a9b5380-7cad-11e8-9283-0daba28e2ab1.jpg

large_8f4aa3a0-7cad-11e8-9283-0daba28e2ab1.jpg

The hotel pool is said to be the largest in West Africa, and it is certainly impressive.

large_cc94d5e0-7cae-11e8-ba57-b774c1fc69ec.jpg

large_1a0471a0-7caf-11e8-ba57-b774c1fc69ec.jpg

Several bridges connect the patios, grassy areas and the islands in the free form pool, with the two 'islands' representing the islands of São Tomé and Principe. The pool comes complete with a pool bar, with a swim up area featuring underwater bar stools.

large_71cb51d0-7d61-11e8-b8ba-0b99d854711d.jpg

large_cb3e7d50-7d61-11e8-b8ba-0b99d854711d.jpg

large_3eeb11a0-7d62-11e8-b8ba-0b99d854711d.jpg

large_aca7d6d0-7e0f-11e8-acff-9b44fb6b4b0a.jpg

large_719220b0-7e22-11e8-9d4d-3dd2f8039757.jpg

large_4ba48b30-7e23-11e8-a237-c1307317b0ad.jpg

large_b20ba7a0-7e28-11e8-9d4d-3dd2f8039757.jpg

large_e5698b00-7e21-11e8-9d4d-3dd2f8039757.jpg
The restaurant and bar on the hill behind the pool

large_34435dc0-7e25-11e8-a237-c1307317b0ad.jpg
The bar

large_4130b140-7e25-11e8-a237-c1307317b0ad.jpg
The bar

large_4ff312e0-7e25-11e8-a237-c1307317b0ad.jpg
The bar

Lunch

This being a resort hotel, lunch is buffet style, with the usual selection.

large_845a0830-7e26-11e8-a237-c1307317b0ad.jpg

large_92bb0ff0-7e26-11e8-a237-c1307317b0ad.jpg

Equator

There isn't much here outside the hotel. A path leads through the jungle-like interior to the biggest draw of the island – the Equator marker.

large_4a32c400-7e29-11e8-9d4d-3dd2f8039757.jpg

large_2112b3c0-8921-11e8-9579-314acf932621.jpg

large_718ff9a0-7e29-11e8-9d4d-3dd2f8039757.jpg

large_cc523a60-7e29-11e8-9d4d-3dd2f8039757.jpg

large_f777ec00-88e5-11e8-a4ee-9121386c036a.jpg

This small island is the nearest landmass to the point where the Equator meats the Meridian – here we are 0° south and 6° west.

large_739e9b30-88e6-11e8-a4ee-9121386c036a.jpg

large_ee41bad0-88ea-11e8-a4ee-9121386c036a.jpg

large_8e962e70-88e7-11e8-a4ee-9121386c036a.jpg

large_9887c390-88e6-11e8-a4ee-9121386c036a.jpg

.
Agostinho points out a blowhole and gets soaked in the process.

large_611660b0-8922-11e8-9579-314acf932621.jpg

large_6bec1ed0-8922-11e8-9579-314acf932621.jpg

There is some spectacular coastline too.

large_751cb870-8922-11e8-9579-314acf932621.jpg

large_ce8c3a70-8922-11e8-9579-314acf932621.jpg

Pool time

The beach is deserted, and as it doesn't look overly inviting with its rocky approach and underfoot in the ocean, we opt for an afternoon in and around the pool.

large_13898880-88ec-11e8-a4ee-9121386c036a.jpg

.
Crabs on the beach

large_63752750-8919-11e8-9579-314acf932621.jpg

large_c01da250-891b-11e8-9579-314acf932621.jpg

large_b5a23930-891b-11e8-9579-314acf932621.jpg

large_cd277e80-891b-11e8-9579-314acf932621.jpg

large_da5ed350-891b-11e8-9579-314acf932621.jpg

large_e60db360-891b-11e8-9579-314acf932621.jpg

large_f0556250-891b-11e8-9579-314acf932621.jpg

large_fdbf5fe0-891b-11e8-9579-314acf932621.jpg

Wine for Dinner

As the afternoon draws to a close and the rain starts to come down, we grab a bottle of wine and head for the terrace of our cabin, where we stay for the duration of the evening with another bottle of wine replacing the first one. We miss dinner completely, preferring to chill with a drink and snacks, watching the rain from our balcony.

And so ends another day in São Tomé, as perfectly arranged by Undiscovered Destinations. Thanks again guys, you rock!

large_72e26030-891f-11e8-9579-314acf932621.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 01:04 Archived in Sao Tome and Principe Tagged rain coastline wine crabs chilling swimming_pool equator blowhole meridian roca são_joão_dos_angolares rolas_island west_africa's_largest_swimming_ swim_up_bar middle_of_the_world postana Comments (1)

Mucumbili - São João dos Angolares

A day full of variety

-50 °C
View São Tomé and Príncipe 2018 - the Lost Islands in the Centre of the World on Grete Howard's travel map.

We wake to the sound of the waves and the chirping birds this morning, and sit on the balcony for a while just taking it all in.

large_a1d9ec50-6e76-11e8-ba2e-73d4c558dbe1.jpg
Laughing Dove

large_2d434190-6e33-11e8-8ee4-8b90ba444579.jpg
São Tomé Prinia

large_3ba44950-6e33-11e8-8ee4-8b90ba444579.jpg
Fishermen going out for the day's catch

large_51e21a80-6e33-11e8-8ee4-8b90ba444579.jpg
São Tomé Speirops

large_6a4b0910-6e33-11e8-8ee4-8b90ba444579.jpg
An endemic subspecies of the Vitelline Masked Weaver

large_4a225220-6e37-11e8-9c52-c9eaa8ad3d72.jpg
Newton's Sunbird - another endemic

large_5d6ef6d0-6e37-11e8-9c52-c9eaa8ad3d72.jpg
Yellow Billed Kite

large_91863c50-6e76-11e8-ba2e-73d4c558dbe1.jpg
Pin Tailed Whydah

large_b15e8c80-6e76-11e8-b184-d312ba4563ab.jpg
São Tomé Thrush - the endemics are out in force today, adding to my life list.

large_a2809720-6e77-11e8-ba2e-73d4c558dbe1.jpg
Bronze Mannikin

large_c6e39830-6e7a-11e8-ac8c-61e045375d9a.jpg
Bronze Mannikin

The leaves are still wet from the overnight rain and the birds are using the raindrops for bathing.

large_04c1fe50-6e33-11e8-8ee4-8b90ba444579.jpg

large_a1bcc2d0-6e33-11e8-8ee4-8b90ba444579.jpg

large_acefe330-6e33-11e8-8ee4-8b90ba444579.jpg

large_3310b360-6e7d-11e8-ac8c-61e045375d9a.jpg
Evidence from last night still sits on the balcony table

The fishermen are out in force now, and from our elevated lookout point, we can so easily see where the shoals of fish are congregating.

large_b65af8b0-6e7e-11e8-8542-71195f00aff4.jpg

large_c1e20570-6e7e-11e8-8542-71195f00aff4.jpg

large_d2ee08f0-6e7e-11e8-8542-71195f00aff4.jpg

large_dbf68120-6e7e-11e8-8542-71195f00aff4.jpg
Cattle Egret

large_e957cc20-6e7e-11e8-8542-71195f00aff4.jpg
Southern Cordon Bleu

large_f832bed0-6e7e-11e8-8542-71195f00aff4.jpg
Beautiful bougainvillea close to our balcony

large_15277710-6e7f-11e8-8542-71195f00aff4.jpg
Odd looking flowers

large_289649c0-6e7f-11e8-8542-71195f00aff4.jpg
Some sort of a tomato?

large_411e0af0-6e7f-11e8-8542-71195f00aff4.jpg
Vitelline masked Weaver - an endemic subspecies

large_cf987fe0-6e7f-11e8-8542-71195f00aff4.jpg
Yellow Fronted Canary

large_7a217650-6e81-11e8-9f93-4fd6e733c81e.jpg
Yellow Billed Kite

large_f3477330-6e82-11e8-8542-71195f00aff4.jpg
I have no idea what they are, but they are pretty

large_039dbb40-6e83-11e8-8542-71195f00aff4.jpg
Southern Cordon Bleu

We reluctantly tear ourselves away from the birds to go and have some breakfast.

large_b7b62f90-7176-11e8-a80d-7711e2e61072.jpg

large_c701e570-7176-11e8-a80d-7711e2e61072.jpg

large_d6654200-7176-11e8-a80d-7711e2e61072.jpg
Water melon

large_e1aef7a0-7176-11e8-a80d-7711e2e61072.jpg
Omelette

I would love to stay here for another couple of days and just sit on the balcony watching the birds and listening to the waves; but we have places to go and things to see.

Neves

Our first stop is in the small settlement of Neves, which is a town of two parts, one of which is known as 'beer central' as it is the location of the country's beer factory, Rosema.

large_df0370b0-7268-11e8-a431-f953526cf6b2.jpg

A collection of ramshackle but charming wooden houses make up this small town, and I make friends with a few children – and adults – as I walk through and 'talk' with them using sign language and a lot of smiles.

large_351596e0-7269-11e8-a431-f953526cf6b2.jpg

large_4401a090-7269-11e8-a431-f953526cf6b2.jpg

large_4e8bfdd0-7269-11e8-a431-f953526cf6b2.jpg

large_58ec3dd0-7269-11e8-a431-f953526cf6b2.jpg

large_60fbb000-7269-11e8-a431-f953526cf6b2.jpg

large_6aeb05c0-7269-11e8-a431-f953526cf6b2.jpg

large_74ea12f0-7269-11e8-a431-f953526cf6b2.jpg

large_80ca3c30-7269-11e8-a431-f953526cf6b2.jpg

large_8a178590-7269-11e8-a431-f953526cf6b2.jpg
Even the pigs are cute

large_979cac40-7269-11e8-a431-f953526cf6b2.jpg

large_ae88e5e0-7269-11e8-a431-f953526cf6b2.jpg

large_a37a1660-7269-11e8-a431-f953526cf6b2.jpg

large_bc730ff0-7269-11e8-a431-f953526cf6b2.jpg

São Tomé Central Market

We are back in the capital much quicker than I expected, and it seems the market is in full swing today.

large_a002d7b0-726e-11e8-b76b-4337e29ad848.jpg

large_abb00a10-726e-11e8-b76b-4337e29ad848.jpg

large_b8ab6750-726e-11e8-b76b-4337e29ad848.jpg

large_c4039be0-726e-11e8-b76b-4337e29ad848.jpg

large_d260ac00-726e-11e8-b76b-4337e29ad848.jpg

large_dcf1c000-726e-11e8-b76b-4337e29ad848.jpg

Private car ownership is fairly rare, and bus service infrequent and unreliable, so most people will take a taxi – or a motorbike taxi – when coming in from the outskirts to do their shopping in town.

large_e70f78c0-726e-11e8-a4b6-d1ab1f3f9ef3.jpg

large_346b6570-726f-11e8-a4b6-d1ab1f3f9ef3.jpg

large_f5a71410-7322-11e8-8df3-ab91e8e0bee8.jpg
The local bus service

We are not staying in town this time, but heading south along the east coast.

I am very amused by this improvised mud-guard.

large_687e2ff0-7323-11e8-8df3-ab91e8e0bee8.jpg

Santana

We stop in the small town of Santana, partly to stretch our legs, and partly to hear the story of the statue of St Ana, mother of mothers.

large_ded17680-7521-11e8-afd3-b797aa486195.jpg

large_e91f6700-7521-11e8-afd3-b797aa486195.jpg

In the 16th century, a statue of St Ana was discovered on this site, and a chapel was built on the spot to mark the discovery. For whatever reason, the statue was moved away at some point. As soon as the statue left, the rivers dried up and all the vegetation died. The people of the town all got together and demanded that the statue was brought back, after which everything came back to life again as normal: the river flowed freely and the vegetation flourished.

large_f37e9590-7521-11e8-afd3-b797aa486195.jpg

large_ff200820-7521-11e8-afd3-b797aa486195.jpg

The old Sisters' House is now being used as a school.

large_208030d0-7522-11e8-afd3-b797aa486195.jpg

large_2a1ef590-7522-11e8-afd3-b797aa486195.jpg

large_34f6d690-7522-11e8-afd3-b797aa486195.jpg

large_7c110c30-7522-11e8-afd3-b797aa486195.jpg

large_84ea0ff0-7522-11e8-afd3-b797aa486195.jpg

Like most of the coastal villages, the people of Santana rely mainly on fishing.

large_8fcee940-7522-11e8-afd3-b797aa486195.jpg

large_986a20b0-7522-11e8-afd3-b797aa486195.jpg

Laundry day

Every day is laundry day at Abade River, with both banks full of people who come to clean themselves, their clothes, linen, and even bicycles, in the river.

large_c231f690-7647-11e8-952a-e117c6e6e630.jpg

large_ced807e0-7647-11e8-952a-e117c6e6e630.jpg

large_dd40b0c0-7647-11e8-952a-e117c6e6e630.jpg

large_ed163010-7647-11e8-952a-e117c6e6e630.jpg

large_fc1573a0-7647-11e8-952a-e117c6e6e630.jpg

large_0d8c9500-7648-11e8-952a-e117c6e6e630.jpg

Agua Ize

As we turn off the main road to take a much smaller track winding its way through the rickety but charismatic small town of Agua Ize, I practice some 'drive-by-shooting'. Strictly with my camera, of course, through the open window of the car.

large_95951220-76ab-11e8-92c6-6ddbc81fc176.jpg

large_827f4440-7650-11e8-952a-e117c6e6e630.jpg

large_5469cf60-764d-11e8-952a-e117c6e6e630.jpg

It looks like it is laundry day here too.

large_b91ac1a0-76a5-11e8-9636-fb04b76abe95.jpg

large_79083320-764d-11e8-952a-e117c6e6e630.jpg

large_848024b0-764d-11e8-952a-e117c6e6e630.jpg

large_4bc2e2b0-764e-11e8-a29f-2dd7a6232e6e.jpg

The whole town we see today was once part of a large plantation and the buildings were staff housing.

large_cb130370-76b1-11e8-92c6-6ddbc81fc176.jpg

large_5e16ec00-764d-11e8-952a-e117c6e6e630.jpg

large_780b5530-7650-11e8-952a-e117c6e6e630.jpg

large_eb221220-7650-11e8-952a-e117c6e6e630.jpg

The plantations at the time were like complete communities, with schools, shops, doctors and two hospitals, a small one for the black slave workers and a much better and larger one for the white European management. Only newly qualified doctors and nurses would be employed in the smaller hospital, and as a result many people died due to inadequate treatment.

large_c0f806a0-76ad-11e8-92c6-6ddbc81fc176.jpg

large_0cdd8250-76e2-11e8-9949-27cd054f7b4c.jpg

The hospital now lies abandoned and has become an unlikely tourist attraction.

large_99edb680-76ae-11e8-92c6-6ddbc81fc176.jpg

While the building is no longer in use as a hospital, and is in a sad state of disrepair, it can not really be described as 'abandoned'. These days the former wards are homes to several families.

large_9b15f7f0-76b0-11e8-92c6-6ddbc81fc176.jpg

large_28e3a790-76b0-11e8-92c6-6ddbc81fc176.jpg

I channel my inner Urbex* as we ascend the rickety steps to the upper levels.

* Urbex = an expression given to photographers who explore abandoned buildings, usually by breaking in and often illegally in the middle of the night. The abbreviation stands for 'Urban Explorer.

large_302fad40-76b1-11e8-92c6-6ddbc81fc176.jpg

large_7cbbb4e0-76b3-11e8-92c6-6ddbc81fc176.jpg

large_2ddb9530-76df-11e8-9949-27cd054f7b4c.jpg

large_37d990f0-76df-11e8-9949-27cd054f7b4c.jpg

large_f68cd750-76df-11e8-9949-27cd054f7b4c.jpg

large_39ee4ab0-76e0-11e8-9949-27cd054f7b4c.jpg

large_65649590-76e1-11e8-9949-27cd054f7b4c.jpg

Boca de Inferno

Boca de Inferno, or Hells mouth, is a natural phenomenon caused by waves finding their way into a small ravine that leads to a series of grottos in the rugged coastline. A narrow channel funnels the waves around an 'island platform' and under a bridge of basalt stones; later spewing the water out the other side roaring and spraying. Many people have been swept away to their deaths while trying to brave the elements down on the rocks.

large_76dea470-77a2-11e8-b84b-5d3c777b8787.jpg

large_83d4f8a0-77a2-11e8-b84b-5d3c777b8787.jpg

large_91d93a60-77a2-11e8-b84b-5d3c777b8787.jpg

large_a0ee9e00-77a2-11e8-b84b-5d3c777b8787.jpg

large_aa2e2bc0-77a2-11e8-b84b-5d3c777b8787.jpg

large_bb974360-77a2-11e8-b84b-5d3c777b8787.jpg

.

Ribiera Afonso

We pass by the small town of Ribiera Afonso, one of the poorer areas of São Tomé. This place is inhabited by the descendant of the very first settlers, mostly shipwrecked Angolans, who fiercely cling to their traditional ways. Agostinho explains that they have only recently started wearing clothes.

large_80650160-77b1-11e8-8fcd-cd85ce6600ce.jpg

large_8bead5a0-77b1-11e8-8fcd-cd85ce6600ce.jpg

large_a067e400-77b1-11e8-8fcd-cd85ce6600ce.jpg

large_bde55440-77b1-11e8-93c8-436f71fe516d.jpg

He also recounts how these people live from hand to mouth, fishing to survive day by day and refusing to plan for the future or even the next day. The local women are said to sleep with the men 'for a fish', resulting in a number of unwanted pregnancies and questionable parentage.

large_9703de50-77b1-11e8-8fcd-cd85ce6600ce.jpg

large_aa9c5910-77b1-11e8-93c8-436f71fe516d.jpg

large_ca0349d0-77b1-11e8-93c8-436f71fe516d.jpg

large_d4f28360-77b1-11e8-93c8-436f71fe516d.jpg

large_e9895b50-77b1-11e8-93c8-436f71fe516d.jpg

large_f1d3dab0-77b1-11e8-93c8-436f71fe516d.jpg

large_fa506690-77b1-11e8-93c8-436f71fe516d.jpg

large_b3506fb0-77b1-11e8-93c8-436f71fe516d.jpg

Roça São João dos Angolares

We make it to this beautifully restored colonial plantation house in time for lunch. And what a treat lunch is. Run by the famous TV chef João Carlos Silva, this restaurant is firmly on the tourist circuit, and quite rightly so.

large_ed5547e0-77e7-11e8-826b-83277f2cc55e.jpg

Let me take you on a gastronomic journey through Africa and Portugal with a fusion of Sãotoméan and contemporary cuisine plus elements borrowed from other parts of the world: all lovingly prepared by Carlos Silva himself and his small army of friendly staff.

large_e9c5aff0-77d0-11e8-8169-350a6f20647c.jpg

large_e7435560-77d1-11e8-8169-350a6f20647c.jpg

large_e77983c0-77d5-11e8-a9fa-fd903b633d7e.jpg

While waiting for it to be our turn to be called up to the counter where the amuse bouche (which is charmingly translated as “spark of tongue”) is being served, I watch the Portuguese guests (part of a large party) screw their noses up and spit out whatever it is they have eaten. I am now very intrigued.

large_f0d8a440-77d1-11e8-8169-350a6f20647c.jpg

First of all we are given a cocoa seed complete with surrounding flesh, which we are to suck on to separate the sweet flesh from the seed. I know from past experience (at a cocoa farm in Ghana) that this is something I really enjoy.

large_d1f896c0-77d1-11e8-8169-350a6f20647c.jpg

After spitting the seed out, we take a small spoonful of grated ginger, a square of locally produced chocolate (chocolate from São Tomé is said to be world class) and a couple of peppercorns. So that is what disgusted the previous diners. It's an interesting combination, and both David and I love it!

large_dbcc0010-77d1-11e8-8169-350a6f20647c.jpg

A small glass of red wine completes the first of many courses.

The second amuse bouche (or is that the third or even fourth? I have lost count already) consists of a small sliver of fried breadfruit.

large_89dcb320-77d2-11e8-8169-350a6f20647c.jpg

First starter: banana with Misquito flower (no idea), coranto leaf (also no idea), fish, onion, Taiwanese lemon, mango, passion fruit.

large_847a4310-77d3-11e8-b571-e97d7cdfdc66.jpg

Second starter: green pepper, apple, coconut, courgette, sweetcorn, tuna fish, avocado, ginger, pepper, grated roasted popinki mushrooms

large_ab985760-77d4-11e8-8169-350a6f20647c.jpg

A small dish of fish roe is served with this.

large_ec6b0990-77d4-11e8-8169-350a6f20647c.jpg

I am impressed with how this well-oiled organisation works, even when people arrive late, the staff seem to know who has had what course and they are all attentive and polite, despite the mad rush to get everyone fed. It seems to run like clockwork.

large_c44a8e80-77d5-11e8-a9fa-fd903b633d7e.jpg

Third starter: sweet potato, orange ball coated with manioc flakes, pineapple with coconut, okra, 'egg of fish', aubergine, watercress, cucumber. No being a fan of aubergine, okra or cucumber, this is the only dish I find less than superb.

large_8939e6a0-77d6-11e8-a9fa-fd903b633d7e.jpg

Fourth starter: malanga root dough wrapped around bacon, marlin, mango sauce.

large_82fe54a0-77d7-11e8-8a15-2de023bc2510.jpg

It soon becomes obvious that Agostinho comes here regularly, as he knows what all the ingredients are in the various dishes being served, and if he is unsure, the waiter describes them in detail. I am glad we have an English speaking guide though, as the waiters only speak Portuguese and French. My Portuguese is non-existent, and my French only marginally better.

Fifth starter: roast banana stuffed with bacon and cheese, tied with lemongrass, peanut and manioc flakes dipped in pepper.

large_fa5c3120-77d7-11e8-8a15-2de023bc2510.jpg

Sixth starter: octopus in tomato sauce, green cocoyam leaves, brown bean pueée, rice and egg ball.

large_a3308f30-77d8-11e8-8a15-2de023bc2510.jpg

Seventh starter: tomato with misquite flower (still no idea), cheese and bacon; omelette with fever bush leaves (which I think is the same as cassava leaves), crispy deep fried taro dipped in tomato sauce with chocolate.

large_46abcc00-77da-11e8-8a15-2de023bc2510.jpg

Eighth starter: Roasted pineapple with honey, chilli, salt; roasted guava

large_60985080-77de-11e8-8cf3-a743962d770f.jpg

Ninth starter: roasted mango with passion fruit. Roasting it has made the mango incredibly sweet; I must try this at home.

large_f67f40e0-77de-11e8-8cf3-a743962d770f.jpg

Meanwhile, several of the staff gather at the railings and are looking out over the edge of the balcony – it turns out that someone has been having a crafty cigarette (I have only seen one person smoking in this restaurant, so no points for guessing who), and somehow dropping the cigarette down onto a ledge below, starting a fire! Doh!

So, we have finally come to the main course, which is served buffet style: fish and bean stew, sweet potato, rice, grated cassava, extremely strong pickled green peppers.

large_c3dbd3e0-77e5-11e8-826b-83277f2cc55e.jpg

First dessert: crystallised green papaya, passion fruit sauce, Portuguese cheese.

large_31c270d0-77e6-11e8-826b-83277f2cc55e.jpg

Second dessert: banana with chocolate, cassava curl, honey sauce.

large_8c86ad60-77e6-11e8-826b-83277f2cc55e.jpg

Third dessert: selection of ice creams – avocado, isakinki (?), frozen yogurt, lemon; cake, mango sauce

large_461370b0-77e7-11e8-a7bd-a3da20e1e1ec.jpg

That finally signals the end of this amazing meal, consisting of 3 amuse bouce, nine starters, a main course and three desserts. SIXTEEN courses in total. That is certainly the most dishes I have ever had for a menú degustación meal.

We collapse into the narrow four-poster bed for a much needed siesta. The room is in a charming traditional colonial style, with no A/C, but a super-efficient ceiling fan.

Later in the afternoon we take a stroll around the plantation house and estate.

large_bc7f5a50-791f-11e8-813e-2de5e5b91795.jpg

The gardens are filled with eclectic sculptures, some of which are a little too 'weird' for me.

large_2625f910-791f-11e8-813e-2de5e5b91795.jpg

large_9ed42350-791f-11e8-813e-2de5e5b91795.jpg

large_b1c0cdb0-791f-11e8-813e-2de5e5b91795.jpg

large_c9629bb0-791f-11e8-813e-2de5e5b91795.jpg

I am not sure whether Roça São João dos Angolares is a gourmet restaurant with rooms or a hotel with a gourmet restaurant. It certainly has a completely different feel to it now that all the tourists have left and the balcony is almost deserted.

large_dc719b20-791f-11e8-813e-2de5e5b91795.jpg

large_e63a5610-791f-11e8-813e-2de5e5b91795.jpg

large_f1090f50-791f-11e8-813e-2de5e5b91795.jpg

large_fdc4a470-791f-11e8-813e-2de5e5b91795.jpg

large_0e85bc40-7920-11e8-813e-2de5e5b91795.jpg

large_257c5620-7920-11e8-813e-2de5e5b91795.jpg

large_34f00660-7920-11e8-813e-2de5e5b91795.jpg

large_6120e420-7920-11e8-813e-2de5e5b91795.jpg

large_69f1f8a0-7920-11e8-813e-2de5e5b91795.jpg

large_72692d50-7920-11e8-813e-2de5e5b91795.jpg

large_7c585c00-7920-11e8-813e-2de5e5b91795.jpg

large_85c9f640-7920-11e8-813e-2de5e5b91795.jpg

The main building has six quaint rooms; with a further three in the old hospital building across the yard.

large_410a7980-7920-11e8-813e-2de5e5b91795.jpg
The main building

large_4fc42890-7920-11e8-813e-2de5e5b91795.jpg
The old hospital

We sit on the balcony with a glass (OK, bottle) of wine, watching the rain.

large_dba3ce60-7920-11e8-8a57-2d10d3ae8a1f.jpg

At dinner there are only three tables with guests and there is an air of serenity about the place that was most certainly not here earlier.

large_247d1920-7921-11e8-8a57-2d10d3ae8a1f.jpg

The restaurant is no longer a hive of activity with hoards of staff milling around, although there is still an impressive display of fresh fruit and vegetables, many of which are completely alien to me.

large_31b6b7e0-7921-11e8-b730-b99ca37bff78.jpg

large_4b89bdc0-7921-11e8-b730-b99ca37bff78.jpg

large_53ea5d30-7921-11e8-b730-b99ca37bff78.jpg

large_62e77de0-7921-11e8-b730-b99ca37bff78.jpg

large_6c3fc3c0-7921-11e8-b730-b99ca37bff78.jpg

large_753c7c20-7921-11e8-b730-b99ca37bff78.jpg

large_7e966fb0-7921-11e8-b730-b99ca37bff78.jpg

Mosquitoes are kept at bay by a whole host of water-filled plastic bags hanging from the rafters. We saw this in Haiti a couple of years ago too, the idea is that the reflection in the bags scares the insects.

large_b3fc7af0-7921-11e8-b730-b99ca37bff78.jpg

This evening's meal is buffet style, and we start with a fish soup.

large_c0d61f60-7921-11e8-b730-b99ca37bff78.jpg

large_c947aec0-7921-11e8-b730-b99ca37bff78.jpg
Marlin in a mango sauce with rice and 'shoo-shoo'.

large_e569adb0-7921-11e8-b730-b99ca37bff78.jpg
Chocolate torte to finish

A few bats are accompanying us this evening, darting around at lightning speed, way too fast to even attempt to photograph. What an amazing day it has been, with such a lovely relaxing finish. Thank you yet again to Undiscovered Destinations for organising this fabulous trip.

large_40749030-7922-11e8-b730-b99ca37bff78.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 04:47 Archived in Sao Tome and Principe Tagged birds beer fishing statue market village river school africa wine birding photography chef fishing_boats chapel teaching hospital laundry abandoned blowhole santana hell's_gate bird_watching central_market neves eco_lodge urban_exploring undiscovered_destinations sao_tome urbex abandoned_hospital mucumbili twitching rosema rosema_beer são_tomé mother_of_mothers pupils agua_ize abade_river drive_by_shooting boca_de_inferno basalt rocky_coastline ribiera_afonso angolan_shipwrecks roça_são_joão_dos_angolares joão_carlos_silva tv_chef famous_tv_chef menu_degustacion tasting_menu sixteen_course_lunch Comments (3)

São Tomé - Mucumbili

Sombre history and a west-coast hide-away paradise

-50 °C
View São Tomé and Príncipe 2018 - the Lost Islands in the Centre of the World on Grete Howard's travel map.

Memorial dos Heróis da Liberdade

Yesterday, at Trindade, we saw the memorial at the site of the Batepá Massacre where hundreds of natives were killed by Portuguese forces in 1953 during a rebellion, and Agostinho was telling us how they were “thrown in the sea, like animals”. Today we visit the spot, at Fernão Dias on the north coast, where those murdered were transported by the truckload and their bodies unceremoniously dumped in the sea off the now-defunct pier.

large_23085ab0-64ad-11e8-b372-5de39560233b.jpg

A memorial has been erected here too, listing the names of all those killed in the fight for freedom.

large_05860fd0-64aa-11e8-8fd2-5db5a4f313c8.jpg

large_469a5ee0-64aa-11e8-b372-5de39560233b.jpg

large_f6159e70-64aa-11e8-b372-5de39560233b.jpg

large_fee6da00-64aa-11e8-b372-5de39560233b.jpg

An abandoned ship lies off the coast as if to pay tribute to the fallen martyrs.

large_22480d60-64ac-11e8-b372-5de39560233b.jpg

Old Tree

We stop beside a tree, more than one hundred years old, for Agostinho to explain how they used to make canoes.

large_b2615350-64ae-11e8-b372-5de39560233b.jpg

I am more interested in playing with a young kid who is selling fruit at the side of the road.

large_ba61aa50-64ae-11e8-b372-5de39560233b.jpg

large_c224d140-64ae-11e8-b372-5de39560233b.jpg

Agostinho Neto

Named after a benevolent Angolan doctor (late president of Angola) who fought fervently in the battle against Portuguese colonialism, the roça (plantation) and surrounding village is now mostly in ruins and lies partly abandoned.

large_459016a0-64b1-11e8-b372-5de39560233b.jpg
The abandoned hospital on the hill

large_ac4ff3b0-64b1-11e8-b372-5de39560233b.jpg
The old botanical gardens is now the governor's house

Many of the picturesque old buildings (these would have been for the managers) have survived and are now in use.

large_31320c80-64b2-11e8-b372-5de39560233b.jpg

large_e9460090-64b4-11e8-b372-5de39560233b.jpg

large_29e8c920-64b5-11e8-b372-5de39560233b.jpg

large_8e871b30-64b4-11e8-b372-5de39560233b.jpg

large_4c5e4ee0-64b4-11e8-b372-5de39560233b.jpg

Hospital

The old hospital, built as part of the roça (plantation), now lies abandoned, with a number of poorer families having moved into some of its many rooms.

large_01c39320-64b6-11e8-b372-5de39560233b.jpg

Unleashing my inner Urbex (Urban Explorer, a popular genre in photography), I wander around some of the abandoned halls and wards.

large_ccdccd60-64de-11e8-ba7f-6b4b48ad6ebd.jpg

large_e62ff4e0-64de-11e8-ba7f-6b4b48ad6ebd.jpg

large_ef5e92b0-64de-11e8-ba7f-6b4b48ad6ebd.jpg

large_01b78890-64df-11e8-ba7f-6b4b48ad6ebd.jpg
Love the home made bicycle

Poverty

Categorised as a 'least developed country', São Tomé is mostly dependent on international aid, and is among the poorest in the world, with more than half of the population living below the poverty line, and 29% in extreme poverty.

large_225b8d30-64df-11e8-ba7f-6b4b48ad6ebd.jpg

large_2c9e3310-64df-11e8-ba7f-6b4b48ad6ebd.jpg

Pounding the corn is extremely hard work, and the locals find it very amusing that I would like to have a go.

.

The population of São Tomé is relatively young, with children aged 0 to 14 years representing 44.4% of the population, yet only 38% attend secondary school.

large_3b82c2b0-64df-11e8-ba7f-6b4b48ad6ebd.jpg

large_441806b0-64df-11e8-ba7f-6b4b48ad6ebd.jpg

large_4c68c7a0-64df-11e8-ba7f-6b4b48ad6ebd.jpg

large_5cf49ea0-64df-11e8-ba7f-6b4b48ad6ebd.jpg

Blue Lagoon

This sheltered bay is popular with snorkellers as the pristine waters are teeming with fish.

large_c13b5000-657c-11e8-a5a1-ebc357eb970c.jpg

An ancient baobab stands on the beach – those of you who have followed my blog for a while will be aware of how fond I am of baobab trees.

large_cd70c530-657c-11e8-a5a1-ebc357eb970c.jpg

Picnic

At a small picnic area, we make a quick stop with coffee, juice, fruit and biscuits.

large_497386c0-657f-11e8-a5a1-ebc357eb970c.jpg

This is the place where the Portuguese first arrived back in the 15th century.

large_1ead7910-657e-11e8-a5a1-ebc357eb970c.jpg

large_31bfacd0-657e-11e8-a5a1-ebc357eb970c.jpg

large_3d4532f0-657e-11e8-a5a1-ebc357eb970c.jpg
Star fruit. I explain to Agostinho that, although we buy these fruits in the UK, I have never seen one actually growing; and he promises to look out for a star fruit tree for me.

large_e545ed50-657e-11e8-a5a1-ebc357eb970c.jpg
Taiwanese guava, they taste a little like unripe pears.

large_d5efe1c0-657f-11e8-a5a1-ebc357eb970c.jpg

large_e2924990-657f-11e8-a5a1-ebc357eb970c.jpg

large_94af40a0-6581-11e8-a5a1-ebc357eb970c.jpg
Agostinho calls these carozo nuts, but I believe we know them as 'tropical almonds' (Terminalia catappa). They taste very similar to regular almonds.

Here they are, growing on the tree:

large_faf2a670-659c-11e8-a8a2-13af1f2d31bc.jpg

large_28f86b40-659d-11e8-a8a2-13af1f2d31bc.jpg

large_14e3e4b0-6587-11e8-82a7-1984a2bab67a.jpg
Dug-out canoes on the beach

large_6bb7ab30-659d-11e8-a8a2-13af1f2d31bc.jpg

large_a7f9d8c0-659d-11e8-a8a2-13af1f2d31bc.jpg

Tunnel

The road hugs the coast on the north-west of the island and at one stage it goes through São Tomé's only tunnel.

large_c7b3cd80-6587-11e8-82a7-1984a2bab67a.jpg

It is a popular place to stop and take photos.

large_e0488700-6587-11e8-82a7-1984a2bab67a.jpg

The coastline here is rugged, with some interesting rock formations and crashing waves.

large_73af06b0-658b-11e8-a544-13c26211e3ad.jpg

large_817d4450-658b-11e8-a544-13c26211e3ad.jpg

large_89f8bec0-658b-11e8-a544-13c26211e3ad.jpg

As we head inland, we pass imposing old plantation houses and more modest wooden chalets.

large_dc974c90-658c-11e8-b259-9971aa718e68.jpg

large_e80f3e20-658c-11e8-b259-9971aa718e68.jpg

large_f07a64e0-658c-11e8-b259-9971aa718e68.jpg

Roça Monte Forté

The old plantation buildings have now been turned into a guest house and restaurant, with a small craft centre and a garden bulging with fruit and vegetables.

large_90165260-6593-11e8-9645-b9d07147af97.jpg

large_9b762810-6593-11e8-9645-b9d07147af97.jpg

large_75a36630-6597-11e8-a303-4d43083140b4.jpg

I love this place, it has so much character. The bedrooms look basic but more than adequate, with a bed, mosquito net and en suite bathroom.

large_7eb9e820-6597-11e8-a303-4d43083140b4.jpg

large_7e40a400-6598-11e8-a303-4d43083140b4.jpg
Basket weaving

large_8b616390-6598-11e8-a303-4d43083140b4.jpg
Cacao fruit

large_9b40f500-6598-11e8-a303-4d43083140b4.jpg
Calabash fruit

large_1d4de610-659f-11e8-a8a2-13af1f2d31bc.jpg
Cashew fruit - the nut is the curious dark thing hanging down below the fruit

large_38ed6e90-659f-11e8-a8a2-13af1f2d31bc.jpg
Lemon tree

large_b021a730-6598-11e8-a303-4d43083140b4.jpg

large_9a2cc1b0-659f-11e8-a8a2-13af1f2d31bc.jpg
Love the modern TV screen on the rickety old veranda.

large_267e3c20-65a0-11e8-a8a2-13af1f2d31bc.jpg
David takes a pre-lunch snooze while I wander around taking photos.

large_6b0a25c0-65a0-11e8-a8a2-13af1f2d31bc.jpg
Bananas

large_96c2c640-65a0-11e8-a8a2-13af1f2d31bc.jpg

large_44757ad0-65a1-11e8-a8a2-13af1f2d31bc.jpg
View from the balcony

This is the sort of place that we love staying in, but unfortunately it is not to be this time, as we are only stopping here for lunch.

large_92bf7100-65a1-11e8-8bf0-15bd98dfd949.jpg

large_34b85390-65a3-11e8-8ec4-97876b3ac879.jpg
Grilled bonito fish with onions

large_4261cb20-65a3-11e8-8ec4-97876b3ac879.jpg
Pumpkin, carrots, cabbage and shoo-shoo (a type of courgette or marrow)

large_643f3a20-65a3-11e8-8ec4-97876b3ac879.jpg
Fried plantain

large_6ee053b0-65a3-11e8-8ec4-97876b3ac879.jpg
Dessert: cashew fruit and papaya

Another first for the Howards: eating the fruit from the cashew nut tree. It is obviously not that common over here either, as Agostinho takes the rest home for his children, who have never tasted it, plus some seeds to grow his own tree in his garden.

large_ad272ae0-65a3-11e8-bc29-fd7363235f9c.jpg

Mucumbili

After a leisurely lunch we make our way to Mucumbili, our fabulous eco-lodge for the night. We check in and are shown to our room, a rustic wooden cabin built on the edge of the wooded cliff, with a balcony on stilts overlooking the valley and ocean beyond.

large_16e768c0-67eb-11e8-ab10-d337a43033ab.jpg

large_224087b0-67eb-11e8-ab10-d337a43033ab.jpg

large_347d4300-67eb-11e8-ab10-d337a43033ab.jpg

large_4268cca0-67eb-11e8-ab10-d337a43033ab.jpg

large_4d907b50-67eb-11e8-ab10-d337a43033ab.jpg

large_56b86260-67eb-11e8-ab10-d337a43033ab.jpg

large_66127020-67eb-11e8-ab10-d337a43033ab.jpg

Each cabin has a name rather than a number and I am absolutely thrilled to find that ours is called 'Carambola', meaning star fruit.

large_e9f54160-67eb-11e8-ab10-d337a43033ab.jpg

large_f3340bd0-67eb-11e8-ab10-d337a43033ab.jpg

Not only that, we have a star fruit tree right outside!

large_0d8ff0c0-67ec-11e8-ab10-d337a43033ab.jpg

We spend the rest of the afternoon on the balcony with a bottle of chilled white wine, watching the birds and the fishermen.

large_7a9c0c30-67ec-11e8-ab10-d337a43033ab.jpg
São Tomé Prinia, and endemic to this island

large_9386d4f0-67ec-11e8-829e-4f9665ebd931.jpg
São Tome Speirops, another endemic

large_aef9a820-67ec-11e8-829e-4f9665ebd931.jpg
Southern Cordon Bleu

large_bc6af8b0-67ec-11e8-829e-4f9665ebd931.jpg
São Tomé Sunbird - yet another endemic

large_ace0e4d0-67ed-11e8-829e-4f9665ebd931.jpg
Bronze Mannikin - not a very good photo, but it is the only one I manage to capture as he is hiding behind long grasses

Above us circle a couple of Yellow Billed Kites, and butterflies and lizards abound.

large_ec3b27d0-67ed-11e8-829e-4f9665ebd931.jpg

large_f52c6e80-67ed-11e8-829e-4f9665ebd931.jpg

large_fee91b80-67ed-11e8-829e-4f9665ebd931.jpg

This is my idea of heaven: a gorgeous rustic lodge miles from the nearest habitation, lots of birds and other small critters to keep me amused, a glass of something enjoyable and the man I love with no other human sound (or sight) for hours.

large_4d663a30-67ef-11e8-829e-4f9665ebd931.jpg

large_df0f59d0-67ef-11e8-ab10-d337a43033ab.jpg

What we do hear, however, is a strange clicking sound. We spend a long time trying to work out what it is. After a while it becomes obvious that it is coming from a bird, but which one? Eventually we discover the answer: the small São Tomé Prinia is somehow flapping its wing in a manner to make a fairly loud clicking sound. How bizarre.

large_980f5860-67ee-11e8-829e-4f9665ebd931.jpg
The noisy little prinia

large_acba0670-67ee-11e8-829e-4f9665ebd931.jpg
Northern Cordon Bleu

large_bee29d80-67ee-11e8-829e-4f9665ebd931.jpg
Sao Tomé Speirops

large_d8939c70-67ee-11e8-829e-4f9665ebd931.jpg
Prinia

large_e6552fe0-67ee-11e8-829e-4f9665ebd931.jpg
Cordon Bleu

From our balcony we can see the fish jumping in the sea, causing small ripples on the surface of the water.

large_fab651d0-67ee-11e8-829e-4f9665ebd931.jpg

The fishermen all make their way towards that area, but by the time many of them have reached the spot, the fish have moved on.

large_35dd4b60-67ef-11e8-829e-4f9665ebd931.jpg

large_3e1665a0-67ef-11e8-829e-4f9665ebd931.jpg

Dinner

Dinner is taken in the open-sided restaurant, with each cabin having its own dedicated table.

large_88441cd0-67ef-11e8-829e-4f9665ebd931.jpg

large_92ede8f0-67ef-11e8-829e-4f9665ebd931.jpg

large_9b0dfcf0-67ef-11e8-829e-4f9665ebd931.jpg
Vegetable soup

large_a63c8970-67ef-11e8-829e-4f9665ebd931.jpg
Pasta with crab, cream and Parmesan cheese

large_b5951090-67ef-11e8-829e-4f9665ebd931.jpg
This is not quite what David was expecting when he ordered 'apple pie'.

After dinner we yet again sit on the balcony for a long while, taking in the sounds and sights of the jungle after dark. There is next to no llight pollution and the stars are out, but unfortunately so are the clouds for a lot of the time.

large_2d5865a0-67f0-11e8-ab10-d337a43033ab.jpg

And so ends another delightful day in paradise. Thank you Undiscovered Destinations.

large_5a32c9d0-67f0-11e8-ab10-d337a43033ab.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 12:27 Archived in Sao Tome and Principe Tagged children birds fish fishing memorial kite paradise tunnel lizard birding fishermen bananas poverty heaven stars hospital baobab cacao rustic abandoned plantations bonito massacre astro martyrs blue_lagoon bird_watching roca eco_lodge undiscovered_destinations calabash astrophotography batepa_massacre prinia endemic_birds vinho_verde fernão_dias memorial_dos_heróis_da_liberdad agostinho_neto urbex abandoned_hospital star_fruit tropical_almonds rugged_coastline roça_monte_forte basket_weaving lemon_tree cashew_nut cashew_fruit mucumbili carambola life_list white_wine cordon_bleu speirops after_dark apple_pie Comments (4)

São Tomé city tour and Monte Café

An easy day


View São Tomé and Príncipe 2018 - the Lost Islands in the Centre of the World on Grete Howard's travel map.

I set the alarm for 06:30 this morning for some bird watching in and around the hotel grounds before breakfast. I am not disappointed.

large_1b895b70-60f9-11e8-b656-a517d5442a14.jpg
Yellow-billed kite

large_2c142100-60f9-11e8-b656-a517d5442a14.jpg
Village Weaver

large_3cb13610-60f9-11e8-b656-a517d5442a14.jpg
São Tomé Prinia

large_52edcec0-60f9-11e8-b656-a517d5442a14.jpg
Yellow Fronted Canary

large_61e7bb20-60f9-11e8-9cae-cde7a26c98d7.jpg
Yellow Billed Kite

large_6e9594a0-60f9-11e8-9cae-cde7a26c98d7.jpg
Village Weaver

Four 'lifers' (new species to us) before breakfast on the first day! I also spot a couple of cute little lizards.

large_cea7b260-60f9-11e8-9cae-cde7a26c98d7.jpg

large_d7d6c560-60f9-11e8-9cae-cde7a26c98d7.jpg

large_136dbed0-60fa-11e8-807f-8384375a64d5.jpg
Breakfast

Forte de São Sebastião

The old San Sebastian Fort has now been turned into a museum.

large_cc8e0080-6101-11e8-b772-f902ff25b446.jpg

The square outside is home to statues depicting the first settlers in São Tomé and Principe.

large_ffe53bc0-627c-11e8-88e9-61e009274831.jpg

São Tomé & Principe were both uninhabited prior to colonisation by the Portuguese in 1470 who came in search of land to grow sugar and as a base for trade with mainland Africa. São Tomé, being right on the equator and more than wet enough, fitted the bill perfectly. Slaves were brought over as forced labourers from Congo and Angola on the African coast to work the plantations. The first successful settlement was established in 1493 by Álvaro Caminha, who received the land as a grant from the Portuguese crown and by the mid-16th century the islands were Africa's foremost exporter of sugar.

large_09a0b040-627d-11e8-88e9-61e009274831.jpg

Attracting settlers proved difficult, however, and most of the earliest inhabitants were 'undesirables' sent from Portugal, mostly Jews, a great number of whom soon died.

large_bcb62860-628f-11e8-b471-e737d6985953.jpg

By 1515, São Tomé and Príncipe had become slave depots for the coastal slave trade centred at Elmina in Ghana. The interesting little museum chronicles the history of the country, but unfortunately photography is not permitted inside most of the rooms in the fort, so you will just have to make do with some external shots from the courtyard.

large_ee7dd730-628f-11e8-b471-e737d6985953.jpg

Sugar cultivation declined over the next 100 years as a result of competition from the West Indies, and São Tomé was now primarily a transit point for ships engaged in the slave trade between the West and continental Africa.

large_07438bc0-6290-11e8-b471-e737d6985953.jpg

In the early 19th century, two new cash crops, coffee and cocoa, were introduced to São Tomé. Large plantations (known as roças), mostly owned by Portuguese companies, sprung up all over the islands. Soon São Tomé became the world's largest producer of cocoa, with 800 of these plantations, and although this is no longer the case (and so many of the roças lie in ruins), cocoa remains the country's most important crop.

The second room in the museum shows examples of the different types of cocoa beans (and there was I thinking a cocoa bean was a cocoa bean). The plant was originally brought from Portugal as an ornamental plant, and remained so until someone said: “You're wasting your money, this plant grows so well here you should start a plantation”. Experts were imported from other Portuguese colonies such as Mozambique and Angola, and the rest is history.

large_85863d20-6290-11e8-b471-e737d6985953.jpg

Other rooms are devoted to Catholicism, the President, the Flag, dining room, culture room (including voodoo paraphernalia and mannequins in various traditional costumes) and a gallery of old pictures from the city.

large_5d5fa790-6291-11e8-b471-e737d6985953.jpg

By far the most emotional and poignant of all the exhibitions, is the Massacre Room. I find most of the pictures too distressing to look at, yet again despairing at man's inhumanity to man.

By the time we get to the 'turtle room', my back is giving me a lot of pain. I had hoped the pain would be gone by this morning after a good night's sleep in a comfortable bed, but not so; it is getting worse and worse.

large_09ddacb0-6292-11e8-b471-e737d6985953.jpg

São Tomé is home to five different species of turtles, and much education work is taking place to ensure their continuing conservation.

large_1a91cc30-6292-11e8-b471-e737d6985953.jpg

large_267e7890-6292-11e8-b471-e737d6985953.jpg

large_2ef02f00-6292-11e8-b471-e737d6985953.jpg
I had no idea Leatherback Turtles could grow that big!

Climbing onto the roof is proving to be quite a task because of my painful back. It is worth it for the view though.

large_a019e900-6292-11e8-b471-e737d6985953.jpg

large_944c8470-6292-11e8-b471-e737d6985953.jpg

large_a97a4530-6292-11e8-b471-e737d6985953.jpg

large_b24454d0-6292-11e8-b471-e737d6985953.jpg
The graves of some 'important people' of a bygone age.

large_c1947780-6292-11e8-b471-e737d6985953.jpg

Catedral de São Tomé

The 16th century cathedral is the oldest on the island and is reputed to be the first Catholic church to be built in an African country.

large_0e0f6720-62a0-11e8-8eca-270d8c9fc4a0.jpg

The original building was constructed from wood, but the church was rebuilt in a more durable material - concrete - in the 17th century.

large_1b902100-62a0-11e8-8eca-270d8c9fc4a0.jpg

As a place of worship, it is popular, especially for Sunday mass, when the pews are full.

large_3020b760-62a0-11e8-8eca-270d8c9fc4a0.jpg

Damaged by fire during a revolt in 1975, the church was repaired from donations.

large_821231c0-62a0-11e8-8eca-270d8c9fc4a0.jpg
Beautiful relics from the Portuguese era.

Parliament Building

Photographing this building is not permitted, with armed guards posted outside. Despite my experience in 2011 when I was chased down the road by one such guard after taking a picture of a bank in Algiers, I risk a covert shot from a distance.

large_f38f8a00-62a0-11e8-8eca-270d8c9fc4a0.jpg

Driving by the market and later past the popularly named 'Think Square' where Sãotoméans gather to work out a survival strategy when they have no money (unemployment sits at 70%), we head out of town and up into the hills. I am pleasantly surprised at the condition of the road: there is some sizeable areas of tarmac between the potholes. The first settlement of any size we reach is Trindade, the second biggest city in São Tomé, with 45,000 inhabitants. It was here that a rebellion took place in 1953, where hundreds of native Creoles were killed or captured and tortured to death (known as the Batepá massacre). Later their bodies were thrown in the sea, like animals. "Throw this shit into the sea to avoid troubles," the Portuguese governor was quoted as saying. A memorial has been built to mark the spot and its anniversary is officially observed by the government.

large_a787fcc0-632f-11e8-95d0-c7a74a42a10c.jpg

Roça Monte Café

One of the largest coffee plantation on the island, Monte Café has now been turned into a museum offering a tour of the coffee production process.

large_b7ec8030-6330-11e8-95d0-c7a74a42a10c.jpg

At 600m above sea level, the air is considerably cooler here than in town, and the climate is ideal for growing Arabica coffee.

large_e56a0230-6330-11e8-95d0-c7a74a42a10c.jpg

We are invited up the stairs of one of the old warehouses, to walk through the exhibitions with a Portuguese-speaking guide, and Agostinho as a translator. Here the men toiled the plantations while the women worked in the factory.

large_33877f40-6333-11e8-95d0-c7a74a42a10c.jpg

I am in agony with my back now, and seek out a chair on the balcony after the first couple of rooms, especially as photography is not permitted inside the museum.

large_a6d8bf10-6331-11e8-95d0-c7a74a42a10c.jpg

Alei Coffe Shop

Despite taking a double dose of painkillers, my back is still going into spasms, unfortunately marring my enjoyment of the excellent lunch.

large_0c010c30-6332-11e8-95d0-c7a74a42a10c.jpg
Ceviche with marlin, passionfruit, onion and cucumber

large_2771bc80-6332-11e8-95d0-c7a74a42a10c.jpg
Red snapper with plantain, breadfruit and rice. The green stuff is described as a 'lusoa sauce' and is really quite nice. I have been unable to ascertain what it is in English - maybe the green tops of sweet potato.

large_7809c160-6332-11e8-95d0-c7a74a42a10c.jpg
David tries the locally brewed beer, Rosema, which comes in unmarked bottles without a label.

large_ce25f9b0-6332-11e8-95d0-c7a74a42a10c.jpg
Passionfruit cheesecake

Passionfruit is grown in abundance here on São Tomé, and I am intrigued by the size of them. I had no idea there was more than one type of passionfruit.

large_00c766b0-6333-11e8-95d0-c7a74a42a10c.jpg

large_0935e8d0-6333-11e8-95d0-c7a74a42a10c.jpg

Miramar Hotel

With my back being so painful, we return to the hotel a little earlier than planned, where I have a short siesta and feel some better afterwards.

large_b21c9660-6333-11e8-95d0-c7a74a42a10c.jpg

Like last night, we wander onto the terrace for a drink outside before dinner. Tonight we choose some Portuguese Vinho Verde, which goes down very nicely.

large_bf102b70-6333-11e8-95d0-c7a74a42a10c.jpg

large_c8c389a0-6333-11e8-95d0-c7a74a42a10c.jpg

large_d1711090-6333-11e8-95d0-c7a74a42a10c.jpg

large_daa41b30-6333-11e8-95d0-c7a74a42a10c.jpg

large_e29de280-6333-11e8-95d0-c7a74a42a10c.jpg

Dinner

I am assuming the hotel is not full this evening, as we are the only diners at 19:30. Tonight's special is chicken stroganoff, and we both choose that. It is very good.

large_228179c0-6334-11e8-95d0-c7a74a42a10c.jpg

large_2abbcc80-6334-11e8-95d0-c7a74a42a10c.jpg
Coconut jelly on a biscuit base

The end of another interesting day in São Tomé, arranged by Undiscovered Destinations.

large_57aee8d0-6334-11e8-95d0-c7a74a42a10c.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 07:45 Archived in Sao Tome and Principe Tagged turtles fish fort museum cathedral africa birding parliament coffee trindade pain slavery ceviche defence canary plantations weaver massacre demonstrations cocoa bird_watching roca red_snapper undiscovered_destinations sao_tome batepa_massacre miramar_hotel prinia endemic_birds forte_de_são_sebastião sugar_plantations roca_monte_café vinho_verde passionfruit back_pain Comments (4)

Lisbon - Accra - São Tomé

Finally getting to our destination

-50 °C
View São Tomé and Príncipe 2018 - the Lost Islands in the Centre of the World on Grete Howard's travel map.

Having spent the night at an apartment in Lisbon, we arranged for the owner of the accommodation to pick us up at 06:30 this morning to take us the short distance to the airport. Ana is prompt and the journey only takes a few minutes. With no queues for check-in or security, we soon find ourselves in the Food Court, ready to eat breakfast.

large_a334ce40-60c9-11e8-8ba8-35ef5c5c146a.jpg
One of the best things about Portugal is its Pastel de Nata, a delicious custard tart with a particularly crispy pastry casing.

Departure Gate

I begin to feel slightly concerned when the ground staff start walking around the passengers asking for hand luggage to be checked in. This is usually a sign of a full flight. I soon notice, however, some blatant racism going on: only when every single one of the black passengers have been approached, does the lady start asking white travellers. This is despite a few of the white passengers have considerably larger bags. The selection was so obviously not made on the size of the bags, but the colour of their skin. Disgusting! I vow never to fly TAP again.

TAP Long-Haul Flight

Thankfully the flight is not full as the aircraft is horrendously uncomfortable. The seats are very thin with little padding, absolutely no lumbar support and they don't recline. There is no head rest and no entertainment system. The legroom is ca. 2” shorter than my legs and with no padding on the back of the seats, I soon develop a bruised knee. These seats are no better than certain short haul European budget airlines. More reasons to avoid TAP in future.

large_c88f3990-60ca-11e8-b9b9-01f2d7a66676.jpg

I still manage to sleep, and wake up when the food trolley comes around. There is a choice of “cow or pasta”. I choose the cow, and she is delicious: chunky pieces of beef in a rich, slightly spicy, gravy with peas, carrots and mashed potato. The usual starter salad of a few lettuce leaves and a thin slice of tomato, stale bread roll, jelly, and cheese and biscuits.

The flight is reasonably uneventful until we approach our landing in Accra, when we have some of the best turbulence we have experienced in a long time, sending passengers into panic with women screaming and children crying. The same people give the captain a round of applause on landing.

Layover in Accra

Quite a number of people get off in Accra, the capital of Ghana; probably around 75% of the passengers. This is more of a refuelling stop than a proper 'layover' so all passengers continuing on to São Tomé are requested to remain on the plane. The crew are tasked with identifying each and every carry-on item left in the aircraft, which turns out to be a monumental task. Many people have moved to another seat than their original allocation, or are milling around the plane; thus are nowhere near their bags. It really would have been so much easier to get everyone to exit the aircraft (even if only down onto the tarmac), taking their luggage with them. By now I am even more unimpressed by this airline, it is not only racist and uncomfortable, but also totally disorganised.

Only a handful of passengers get on the plane here in Accra, and we continue our journey for the 1hour 40 minute flight to São Tome.

large_8301e7b0-60d9-11e8-a146-376ae97e48a9.jpg
I am shocked to see the amount of pollution floating in the Atlantic.

large_48e67540-60da-11e8-aad6-1d833e5b39a2.jpg
São Tomé from the air

São Tomé e Principe

It is dry, but very warm and humid when we land at the small airport of São Tomé on the island of the same name.

large_55829a80-60e5-11e8-91cd-e9cddd3a42ee.jpg

large_5fb513c0-60e5-11e8-91cd-e9cddd3a42ee.jpg

Before being allowed to enter the terminal building, our passports are checked for visa status. He looks at several pages of David's passport, then checks that his picture matches his real-life face. The official takes my passport, looks at the outside, says “ah, Noruega” and waves me through without as much as a glance at my picture.

Inside, the queue for immigration is long and slow, and when we finally get to the front, the guy is very hard to understand. It is all very smooth and painless though, and we soon find ourselves outside, where a friendly-looking guy holds a board stating “Mrs Grete”. He introduces himself as Agostinho, who will be our guide for the duration, and leads us to a micro-bus and our driver Nino.

large_a1404b10-60e6-11e8-91cd-e9cddd3a42ee.jpg
No visa was necessary after all that palaver before we left home

Miramar Hotel

From the airport it is a short ten minute ride to our hotel, through the sleepy capital.

large_932fad40-60e6-11e8-91cd-e9cddd3a42ee.jpg

As hotels go, the Miramar is very pleasant, quite up to usual international business hotel standards. The room overlooks the pool (which is full of water and very clean – some of you may remember the saga from Comoros last year), and the grounds are dotted with flowers, bushes and trees.

large_80dfe9b0-60e7-11e8-91cd-e9cddd3a42ee.jpg

large_93294f30-60e7-11e8-91cd-e9cddd3a42ee.jpg

large_f19d9b70-60e7-11e8-91cd-e9cddd3a42ee.jpg

large_9f8a1a20-60e7-11e8-91cd-e9cddd3a42ee.jpg

There are even sunbeds (again referring to last year's accommodation in Anjouan, Comoros)

large_d111d9c0-60e7-11e8-91cd-e9cddd3a42ee.jpg

large_de0a02b0-60e7-11e8-91cd-e9cddd3a42ee.jpg
The pool (bucket) shower

large_00a606c0-60e8-11e8-91cd-e9cddd3a42ee.jpg

We take a quick shower and change before making our way down to the bar for a drink before dinner. This is where the differences with Comoros stops.

“Do you have local beer?” “No” I see rum on the shelf and ask about Diet Coke. Despite being shown on the drinks menu, the answer is negative. We settle for a Portuguese beer and wander outside.

large_61120450-60e8-11e8-91cd-e9cddd3a42ee.jpg

Baron Restaurant

The menu is mostly in Portuguese, with some interesting translations. I order a steak with land snails, but they have run out of snails, so I choose a carpaccio of fish instead. David has vegetable soup, and we share a 'carbonara pizza', which is very garlicky.

large_8c3d0370-60eb-11e8-94fa-cffbff2a8863.jpg
The fish is absolutely delicious, very refreshing with a sweet and sour dressing made from pineapple.

When David tries to order a beer with his dinner, he is informed that they have run out. Yet again, David has drank the hotel bar dry on our first night.

By the time I get half way through the meal, I am in agony with back pain, most probably from the lack of support on the plane. We decide to go for a walk before bed, and stroll along the promenade and through the deserted streets around the hotel. The only people we come across are lovers snuggled up on concrete benches and security guards with snarling dogs outside large metal gates. We sit for a while listening to the waves and watching men with torches search for food (snails? whelks?) on the rocky shoreline.

And so ends the first day of our São Tomé trip as arranged by Undiscovered Destinations. So far so good.

large_0dd9c300-60f1-11e8-8b7f-e1e0f96d2561.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 13:12 Archived in Sao Tome and Principe Tagged beer hotel africa pool ghana lisbon portugal accra miramar tap carpaccio sao_tome tap_airways hotel_miramar carpaccio_of_fish Comments (3)

Bristol - London - Lisbon

A painful start

-50 °C
View São Tomé and Príncipe 2018 - the Lost Islands in the Centre of the World on Grete Howard's travel map.

“Where are you going?” I laugh at the question, not because it is stupid or even funny, but in anticipation of the reaction when I tell them “São Tomé & Principe” (pronounced something like sang tomere ee prisp, with the emphasis on the last syllable). As usual I receive a blank stare in response. “Where's that?”

It is a reaction we are familiar with, however, as we do tend to favour the path less trodden over the mass-tourism destinations, and have travelled to a good few 'unknown' places over the years. São Tomé & Principe is no exception.

A former Portuguese colony, the island nation of São Tomé and Principe can pretty much be described as being situated in the centre of the world: the closest landmass to the point where the Equator and the Meridian meet, some 200 km off the west African coast.

large_28ca1760-5c1d-11e8-9488-8bfd4f9bd51d.jpg

As with most of these virtually unknown and little visited destinations, São Tomé is not an easy place to get to. We start our journey at Heathrow for a short flight to Lisbon.

Check in

As seems to be the norm these days, we are asked to print our own luggage tags using the automated machines at the airport. I explain to the chap directing the flow of passengers that we have tickets all the way to São Tomé, but would like to collect our bags in Lisbon as we are staying overnight there. “Go and see the man on the Help Desk”.

'Help Desk' is somewhat of a misnomer: as we approach the elderly gentleman barely looks up while spitting out a brusque “You need to check in on that machine”. I try to explain “We were told to come here...” Without enquiring why, or even letting me finish the sentence, he barks: “Check in there” while pointing at the nearest machine (which incidentally is out of order). Once again I start to explain and am interrupted, but eventually he has to concede and takes our passports without another word.

By this time Mr Officious is obviously stressed at the thought of having to do some work, and types away furiously on his keyboard. I have to repeat our destination several times. He flicks through every page in my passport before asking about visas. I show him my e-visa which I thankfully applied for after checking various websites and getting completely conflicting information (even the agents in STP did not know the definitive answer, the Foreign Office website said we didn't need one, whereas the Bradt travel guide said to ignore the FO site as they were out of date and to obtain a visa prior to travel). I guess that is one of the hazards of having a Norwegian passport, not many people from Norway travel to São Tomé via London. Now extremely flustered, Mr Officious stares at the piece of paper, which is mostly in Portuguese, trying to make out the dates. He then struggles to read the flight detail on the screen and I eventually have to lean across and point to the dates and assure him that “yes, we are only travelling for a week, and yes, the dates on the visa correspond with the dates of our travel”. Still not convinced, he goes off to check with the girl on the check-in desk. More furious typing ensues when he gets back, followed by an even more frazzled look. We go over the dates again.

large_3e525430-5c1d-11e8-9488-8bfd4f9bd51d.jpg

Next our transit in Accra is questioned (he pronounces it “ack-rah”, with the emphasis on the 'ahh' at the end, making it sound more like 'Prague' as he mostly mutters under his breath by now). “Where is your visa?” Groan. We are only there for 45 minutes, I doubt if we will even be allowed to leave the plane. He looks at the flight details on the screen again and states “It's OK, you are only in transit”.

Finally satisfied that we are fit for travel, he prints our baggage tags. Or tries to. The printer jams and he has to start all over again from the beginning. On his forehead little beads of sweat are appearing. “Chug chug chug” says the machine, then silence. With shaking hands, and his face a dark shade of crimson, he pulls out the jammed labels and tears them up. His breathing is so laboured I fear he is going to have a heart attack. “Go to the desk” he grunts, pointing to the young girl who answered his questions earlier. With great relief, both for us and him, we leave Mr Personalityless behind and make our way to the baggage drop-off desk.

Smiling sweetly, she takes our bags, checks us in, gives us our baggage tags and boarding cards and wishes us a pleasant flight. If only everything in life could be as easy as that!

Apart from being pulled aside at Security and given a pat down and swabbed for explosives, the rest of our airport experience is uneventful.

large_760b2910-5c1d-11e8-9488-8bfd4f9bd51d.jpg
Fish and chips at the airport

large_82f74410-5c1d-11e8-afc5-ed45df27e545.jpg
Milkshake served in a miniature milk bottle

Heathrow - Lisbon

The TAP Portugal flight leaves 1½ hour late, and is thankfully not full as the legroom is minimal and comfort non-existent. We have arranged for the owner of the apartment where we are staying tonight to pick us up from the aiport in Lisbon, which she duly does. A delightful girl, with excellent English, she drives us the short distance to an unassuming, dull-looking block of flats.

Lisbon Woods House

On the second floor, the apartment is small but delightful, and has everything we need for this very short stay. As we are required to be back at the airport in six hours' time, we go straight to bed, leg one of the journey completed.

large_9a56b1e0-5c1d-11e8-afc5-ed45df27e545.jpg

large_a3f157f0-5c1d-11e8-afc5-ed45df27e545.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 03:57 Archived in Portugal Tagged flight visa lisbon heathrow tap air_portugal sao_tome check_in Comments (3)

(Entries 1 - 12 of 355) Page [1] 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 .. »