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A day trip to Ilheu Dos Rolas

I had been told that there was only one shared taxi leaving to the Southern city of Porte Alegre per day and that it would leave at 4am, so I got there at 3.30 am only to hear that the taxi had just left.

Great I though as I was sitting on the roadside tired, hungry and swarmed with mosquitos. One of the taxi drivers said that he would be going to Riviera Alfonso at 6am and that I could just sleep in his car in the meantime so I did.

Waking up at his destination around sunrise I was more rested and ready to start the day, so I started walking South with my thumb stuck out looking for a ride. It didnt take long before a police picked me up and took me to Sao Jao where I again stood only for a few minutes before some portuguese tourists picked me up.

The tourists had rented a car with a driver to explore Ilheu Dos Rolas and the Southern beaches and said that I could join them for free! We went straight down to Praia Llame where a boat was waiting for us and took us to the island.

There wasnt much to see once we were there, but the main sight was the equator monument on the top where we also got a nice view of Sao Tomé. After having seen the stuff for sale at the souvenier shops and a quick visit to the beach we headed back to the mainland.

Praia Jalé in the South West

On the way back to the capital we stopped at some of the beaches in the South and spent a couple of hours at the Santana resort where we could hang out for free around the infinity pool. Having bad luck with the taxi in the morning turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me!

Having a dip at the Santana Resort

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Southern Sao Tomé

The market in the capital

When my couchsurfing host came home from a night shift at the hospital, he just had a quick shower and told me that he was ready to show me around the southern part of Sao Tomé island. We picked up two israeli girls and a few minutes later we were on the road heading South.

Plenty of taxis outside the market

The first stop along the way was a place called Boca del Inferno, which was a natural bridge combined with a massive blow hole which shot water in the air every time a wave hit the shore.

Boca del inferno

A short ride further South brought us to the Cascata de Pesqueteria where we could break up our journey and dip our toes in the water, which seemed to be the washing machine for the whole village.

Cascata De Pesqueria was not the most impressive waterfall on the island

Another place we stopped was Bobo Forro, where some local guys showed us the way up to the top of the mountain where we climbed a massive rock to get a great view where we even spotted the shore of Principe Island.

The view from on top of Bobo Forro

Finally, the highlight of our trip to the South was the Pico Sao Grande (the big dog peak) which is a volcanic plug created by magma thar solidified on top of a volcano when it was active.

Pico Sao Grande is a place that looks like it belongs in a movie

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Northern Sao Tomé

Sao Tomé city center is very run down

Sao Tomé is the main island in the country by the name of Sao Tomé and Principe. The country has about 200 000 inhabitants and is laying right on the equator, in the “armpit” of West Africa.

The cathedral is one of the few landmarks in the city

The capital is also called Sao Tomé and does not have much to offer other than a couple of markets and some run down colonial buildings. An old military fort on the waterfront did some thorough explanaition of the history and biodiversity of the country and was well worth a visit.

The fortress and national museum

Coming back to the same place in the evening and on the weekend was a completely different experience. The place was packed with people drinking beers, listening to music and eating street food while children were swimming on the beach.

The beach below the fortress is packed with people on evenings and weekends

Some buildings in the city had an art deco like architectural style

From the capital we drove North and didnt stop until we had reached one of the most famous spots on the island called Lagua Azul.

The baobab trees by lagua azul can fit people in them!

The colors of the water in Lagoa Azul were a deep blue and very beautiful.

In a country on the equator, with stability, cheap prices and a good climate all year around I was surprised to not see any tourists at these places. Most of the tourists who come here are retired Portuguese, French and Italians who stay in their resorts.

Praia Tamarindo is popular among locals, but I didnt see a single tourist

Also Praia Tamarindo, which is one of the most famous beaches on the island had any other tourists, but it was full of locals who come there on weekends which was good to see.

Kids doing flips on the beach near Praia Tamarindo

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Chasing Cocoa and Coffee in Sao Tomé

Sao Tomé is famous for having the least bitter cocoa in the World and some really good coffee so a visit to the island is not complete unless you have at least had a taste of it.

Coffee beans drying in Monte Café

One of the best places to get an understanding of the production of coffee is in the small mountain village called Monte Café where there is a museum with machines dating back to the 1800’s. Ive been to several coffee museums and plantations before but this was perhaps the overall most educational covering every aspect of producing coffee.

The 3eur entry for the coffee museum included a guide and coffee tastings

Another place that has a lot of history from cocoa planation in the colonial times is the Roca Agua Ize, where the whole village is built as residential houses for workers at the “roca” (farm).

Roca Agua Ize used to be a cocoa plantation complex

The view from Roca Agua Ize

Last up on my cocoa coffee quest was the chocolate laboratory of Claudio Corallo, which is located in the capital of Sao Tomé which was set up by an Italian coffee broker more than 40 years ago. He discovered that the Sao Tomé cocoa was unique as it had absolutely no bitterness to it.

Tasting ginger chocolate covered in 100% cocoa at Claudio Corallo

The entrance to the guided tour of the factory cost 4euro and included around 15 chocolate tastings of all kinds. We had chocolate with salt and pepper, Liberica coffee (my favorite), ginger and a cocoa liquor, where one litre of liquor was made from one tonn of cocoa pulp. The cocoa, pepper and other ingrediens were made in their plantations on principe island, all without using chemicals and additives to their products.

As a bonus on our Monte Café trip we stopped at Cascato Sao Nicolau