Brilliant Brava

We have been in Brava since the 3rd of January. It is a wonderful island. Friendly and helpful people, beautiful villages and stunning landscape. We have had some wonderful walks, the island is laced with old cobbled roads and paths across the steep hills, which are so appealing to follow. There is only one tarmac road which is new (5 years old). It twists 6km up from Furna, the tiny main port where we are anchored, to Villa Nova Sintra (“Villa”) which is the capital ‘town’ up the hill on a flat bit of ground at 520 m. altitude. The old road from Furna to Villa is just still drivable ( for the brave) it takes a more direct route.  It is  much steeper, narrow and cobbled. We have walked it many times now. Otherwise its possible to get an Aluga ( either a mini bus or a pick up truck ) up the new road for 100 Esq (about £0.80) . From Villa there is a network of little paths leading off connecting hamlets, houses and terraced farmland and the cobbled drivable road off to the west which leads : to Cachaco, splits to zig zag down to Faja d’Agua or double backs behind Villa to Mato Grande. Donkeys are very much still in use here and people walk a lot. There are few private vehicles.

The village of Furna is probably one of the livelier places, more so than the main town of Villa.  There are lots of kids on bikes and roller skates on the tarmac shore street, friendly and characterful dogs, and quite a few little bars.
 We are anchored in the small bay. We ran a line a shore to tie stern-to (  Dads fishing rope which he gave us a drum of 250m of for this very thing). There were lots of people on the shore waiting to help, and watching our arrival. (there was another one yacht here but that was it, and since we have been here we have seen only 2 others come and go). Dan rowed the line ashore. Johnjohn, a Bravaian  who had spent most of his life in America ( so had fluent English) took it and tied it for us. We have got to know him well over the days we have also got to know Cha another helpful Bravian. He speaks some English and good French.
Johnjohn came with us on a car tour one day. A friend of his who we had met in the bar the night before drove and Johjohn came to show us the island. It is so strikingly beautiful. We bumped and twisted along the cobbled roads up into the hillsides.  In the afternoon, up in one of the top villages, we happened to come upon a pig killing, well the killing had been done and they were now cooking it up in big pots over fires and selling the meat  to the villagers who had come. When we got there they were cooking the skin into sort of pork scratchings, Dan enjoyed that! This was all happening out side a bar so we were well refreshed too.  On the street we infrequently see little BBQ s set up selling chicken or meat kebabs, and down in Furna sometimes fish. These are very cheep and tasty. On one of our walks we met a girl selling little fried fish in pastry cakes, they were 5 Esq each,( a few pence). In Furna in the evenings, especially Fri or Sat nights there is a woman with a pop corn machine and she sells paper cones of it. There are also women in the street with baskets and tubs who are selling bread or fish or local cheese. The shops on the island are good if a little limited and expensive for the imported things. There are lots of little stores in all the tiny villages, and most of the bars in the villages sell some food and groceries behind the counter too. The shops are very old fashioned feeling with tall glass fronted cupboards up to the ceiling, behind the counter. It has been a bit like provisioning the boat for an Atlantic crossing from the Outer Hebrides. (perhaps circa 1960). but we have a lot of provisions aboard anyway.
One day we had a swim with Cha in the bay. He is a free diving fisherman. He  caught some fish with a spear gun and we cooked these up for lunch on Hestur.
Another night Johnjohn had us up to his house for dinner. He cooked delicious fish with rice.
Last week a catamaran (who we had met in Tarrafal on the island of Santiago) came in and anchored beside us for a couple of nights. They were leaving to cross the atlantic and had a crew member, Marine a very nice French girl, who they had just picked up in the Cape Verdes for a couple of weeks who wasn’t intending to cross with them so we invited her to stay with us for  a few days if she wanted to when they left. She has just left this morning on the ferry to another of the islands. We had a very fun week with her. We did lots of walking and had a night camped out on the other side of the island. We had a great walk up the highest point on the island ‘ Fontainhas’ 976m and down the other side to the village of Cachaco, where we had a drink and bought some local cheese and set of by a different mountain path route back to Villa. Two young boys, brothers, came with us right up to the high point in the path, to where we could overlook Villa, they were very sweet and fast! I think they enjoyed having the walk, i don’t think Cachaco sees many tourists, in fact the whole island doesn’t I don’t think. The place is very relaxed as a result, there is no hassling at all and no tourist prices for things.
Another day we had a walk to Vinagre, an abandoned, now dry settlement which had been an important and elaborate source for water. Dan and I walked a crumbly costal path to it one day, and then Marine and I walked down the old cobbled steep road from the top to it. There was an elaborate network of irrigation channels and tanks, stone bridges, substantial terracing and  some 2 and 3 story buildings, all now defunct. There was however still a little drip of water issuing from a pipe in a stone wall in the hill side. The day Dan and I had been there we saw children with a donkey filling up bottles of water. When Marine and I were there there was no one, we filled up our bottle and drank lots. The drip was so slight that it needed a little leaf to channel the water into a flow sufficient to reach the bottle. It tasted slightly gassy and sharp, a little vinegary. I found a kingfisher feather there. There are beautiful kingfishers on the island, even though its so dry.
We had a great walk down to the other side of the island with Marine on Sunday, to a beach called Ferreiros. We took an aluga up to Villa. A woman with a big box of white rounds of local cheese got into the back of the pick-up with us,  we bought some cheese from her as we trundled up the hill. In Villa we got some more food and another Aluga to Tome Barras. We passed a bar/ shop selling bags of strawberries, we bought some and ate them straight away, they were delicious. Then we set off down a cobbled road to the village of Palhal, and then down further the steep path to the beach we camped on. We passed beautifully kept gardens with potato patches, guavas and sugar cane and down to the big boulder beach. We swam. It was lovely after a hot dusty walk, tricky getting in  and out with the swell but very refreshing. Little fishing boats motored or rowed past to the harbour beach of Tantum round the headland, they shouted over to us offering us fish. We cooked dinner on a fire by the cliffs. There was lots of dry wood and sticks and we got a good blaze going. We slept out under the stars on the fringe of the beach, there was a bright moon and the constant sound of the waves. In the night we saw a little fire out on a boat in the bay. This is a method of catching a particular fish, (Johnjohn calls them ‘noodle fish’) which we saw also in Furna.  On Monday we  walked back out a different way. We walked through more cultivation and trees, up steep crumbly paths to a small plateau with old abandoned houses and then down to a water source. We stopped to fill up our water bottles and be brewed up some ginger tea and washed in the fresh water. Some cows came to drink from the trough there. then we carried on up a very dramatic gorge with a little built-up cobble track , somehow still clinging to the rocky sides, and up on to the top area where there is a string of little villages and houses. We had a delightful cold drink in a bar ( it was hot) and carried on over more walking paths to Villa.
Yesterday and today we have been getting ready for our crossing. We got more stocks of paraffin and have just got more water. Yesterday we went up to villa to get some shopping, vegetables and fruit  and ships biscuits and eggs, the stocks of Hot sauce are still doing well aboard. Now we are just about to leave !  We have some what shortened our time in the Caribbean by staying so long here, but we have really enjoyed it  here, and it has been a delight to get to know the place. The crossing should take 2 to 3 weeks, its 2200 NM , we are aiming for Barbados … more from there…
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3 thoughts on “Brilliant Brava

  1. Dear Charlotte and Dan,
    I’ll keep the kingfisher feather at the water source, in my mind, when I think of you both. What a wonderful story of your up hill and down dale, stay on Brava. In my imagination I was out of puff after just a few of your climbs. Lovely cheese by the description and I’m hoping you are both eating fish. Have a great and safe crossing. We will look forward to speaking to you when you reach the other side of the ocean.
    Safe watch and good onward passage,
    With love and great admiration,
    Mum BP x

  2. Sounds like another world, and awesome. Safe journey to Barbados keeping in mind Rum Punch and the warming flavours of The Caribbean … yet another world! Safe and happy passage to you and Hestur. xx

    • I love all your descriptions of the places, people and food here! you give a real flavour of it all Charlotte, it’s so evocative, thank you, i really now want to visit Cape verde!!. Have a safe journey to Barbados, look forward to tuning in again in a few weeks

      xx claire e (of hamilton house)

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