A relatively easy and short hike to do is the waterfall hike in Paúl Valley, in the area of Ribeira das Pombas. For our last hike on Santo Antão, Mar took us to see the Ra de Neve waterfall, which flowed between two steep bluffs that crack the surface of the island. We were dropped off in the village at the mouth of the hollow it was situated in, and made our way down.
The valley floor was relatively flat, and covered with broken rocks. Beside us, the cliffs rose sharply, and it felt as if we were entering some secret, well-protected place. It was not difficult to imagine that deep into the geological past of the island, a mighty waterfall once poured from it’s mouth, and the powerful river flowed from the ridges of the island into the Atlantic ocean. Now, whether it is by design, with most of Santo Antão’s fresh water being redirected for agriculture, or by a change in climate, the waterfall is barely a stream. I suppose it could also have been the season.
Nevertheless, it was still a rather pretty waterfall, and the hike towards it was throughly enjoyable. The environment was significantly different from our other hikes. A little wilder, I suppose, as no one lived here, although there were a few terraces of banana plants along slopes.
The route was fairly easy, almost a walk, although we had to be careful not to lose footing on the rocks. Towards the very end though, it became more of a challenge, as we had to scramble up boulders on hands and knees. The stream flowed through them too, making them slippery at points. The route wasn’t always straightforward, and unless you would like to take a troublesome detour only to end up in a dead end, it might be best to go with a guide.
It was quite a bit of fun and I got carried away trying to go faster than I should. At one point I fell on my butt rather badly. Thankfully, it was nothing serious, and I got up in one piece. We bumped into a family who, rather adventurously, had decided to take along their little boy in one of those backpacks designed for hiking with a child on your back. They unfortunately did not manage to make it all the way, although they tried, and managed to get pretty far.
The pay off, arriving at the waterfall, was well worth it. Although it wasn’t in itself impressive, the small alcove it flowed into was, for a time, all ours. There was this wonderful feeling of utter isolation, and also that of being the first, at least for that morning.