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PAUL, THE PLACE OF THE SINGING WATERS BY ORLANDO RODRIGUES

THE PLACE OF THE SINGING WATERS, Cape Verdean

Within the geographic parameters of Cape Verde, Santo Antão is considered the giant of the north of the archipelago, the Big Island.

The island’s origins are volcanic, of recent formation, as evidenced by its high and impressive mountains, cut by beautiful and fertile valleys, where every place, every village and every community is a paradise of peace and simplicity.

The island is divided into three administrative districts or counties, Porto Novo, Paul and Ribeira Grande, each area has its own unique beauty.

Paul is the place we are visiting today to present to you one of the most majestic places in Cape Verde, a small corner of pure natural beauty torn by deep valleys and lush fertile terrain, protected by mountains that lead to the open sea.

THE SEA AND THE MOUNTAINS

SEA AND THE MOUNTAINS

Squeezed between the ocean and the prodigious peaks, the city of Pombas, the county headquarters, is a small area of land which has been created to preserve the rural landscape where tranquility is something almost tangible.

For many years, Paul was the most inaccessible municipality of Santo Antão, but today it is the gateway to the interior of the island, via the modern new road that has been ingeniously built on the edge of huge cliffs, and offers the traveller views of dazzling beauty in each of its bends and counter-bends that show the ever-changing ocean down below. The journey from one extreme to another feels dangerous, but road accidents are rare in Santo Antão.

The mountains, designed by a generous Mother Nature, offer the eyes strange contours that resemble well-known figures and objects, in one place showing the Sphinx of Gizeh, and elsewhere, a giant phallus proudly pointing to the heavens.

THE BIG VALLEY

Paul is one of the most luxuriant valleys of Cape Verde, and water flows in streams throughout the year, feeding rich vegetation that thrives even in the driest seasons.
Agriculture is rich and diverse, offering typical products that enrich the cuisine,
such as breadfruit, which also grows to a lesser extent elsewhere in the archipelago but is difficult to find in the markets of the other islands.

Corn, the main crop cultivated on Santo Antão, gives rise to a wide variety of foods such as maize porridge. Baked sweet potatoes in hot ashes have a delicacy of flavour unmatched by anything else, especially when eaten with fresh goat’s milk. The huge variety of cookery using traditional recipes, also contributes to the gastronomic wealth of Paul and the entire island of Santo Antão and the island’s goat’s cheese is, for some, the best in Cape Verde.

THE TRAPICHE

grogue (rum made from cane sugar)

The grogue (rum made from cane sugar) is one of Santo Antão’s most well known products, and in the streams of Paul, this is an industry that provides a quality product.

In January the cycle of production begins and all over the island, the “Trapiches” still largely driven by cattle, do not stop until the crunch of the last cane rod.

One of the most famous “Trapiches” of Santo Antão, being the oldest and the biggest, is located at the property of Ildo Benrós who also owns the largest sugar cane plantation in Paul.

Visiting Ildo Benrós during the month of manufacturing of “Grogue” is a mandatory stop for all of those who pass through the county as the new asphalted road that connects to Paul, Porto Novo and Ribeira Grande takes visitors past his land.

The visitor can taste various types of Grogue”, old, white, this year’s harvest or previous years, along with a traditional punch of molasses and liqueurs of different flavours that are also produced from sugar cane.

But the experience does not stop there: the visitor can also watch the operation of the ancient “Trapiche”, the fermentation of sugar cane and the distillation of “Grogue”, which is placed in twenty litre bottles which are then carefully stored for bottling and immediate marketing or for ageing.

THE LIGHTHOUSE OF BOI

One of the island’s greatest historical assets, the lighthouse Fontes Pereira de Melo, is popularly known as Farol de Boi (Lighthouse of Boi). Its name comes from its proximity to the islet of Ox, which is opposite.

Formerly an important navigational tool that marked the north entrance of the Canal de São Vicente, it is now a dilapidated structure which lives on in the memories of those old enough to remember it in its heyday.

Built by Royal Decree in April 1884, the lighthouse came into operation just two years later in May 1886, which illustrates how important this building was, as at this time in provinces as poor as Cape Verde few public buildings were erected so quickly.

For nearly a century, with its powerful light powered by oil and a range of about 30 miles, with its complex rotating mechanism of cables, pulleys and gears that operated the winch, the Lighthouse of Boi played an important role.

Despite the current state of the lighthouse, it still manages to show signs of its past grandeur, including the octagonal tower which is nearly 11 metres tall, the interior spiral staircase built in solid cast iron and the arched look outs. The rotating mechanism is still visible along with the crystal lens of the 4.5 metre flashlight inside the lighthouse, and externally one can see the metal dome with its windmill moving at the mercy of ocean breezes.

The rest of the parts of the building such as those made of bronze, wood and everything that could be disassembled and had some value were stolen sadly.

THE CARVED STONE

Paul is also the land of legends and mysteries. In the not too distant past, there were many stories of witchcraft.

One of the well known legends revolves around the so-called Stone Letters (Pedra de Letra), a boulder in the town of Lombo de Canequinha where there are mysterious and ancient inscriptions, their origins and meanings no one can explain. According to the people of the town, the boulder appeared one morning where it still stands, with its smooth face marked and embossed with unknown characters and symbols, some of which are religious and have fascinated people ever since.

According to the local people we contacted, many people, both local and foreign, throughout the ages have tried to decipher the meaning of the inscriptions, but without success.

The age of the stone inscriptions also remains an unsolved mystery. Nobody knows when they appeared, and those that saw them originally died long ago. Certainly centuries have passed since the boulder with its inscriptions first appeared.

The Carved Stone lies on the shores of the beautiful green river that is located in Lombo de Canequinha, a place where water is plentiful for much of the year.

It is fortunate that this is one piece of history that has never been subject to any act of vandalism, the inscriptions remain perfectly intact to this day.

Whether they are or are not an expression of the occult or even a description of historical assets or life in those days, the fact is that people are fascinated by this legend and have great fondness for the Stone Letters that continue to remain a mystery to this day.