Virtual tour of Vila do Maio, Barreio, Figuero, Pilau and Alcatraz
(Going West Around the Island)
(Note: the following brief excursion is going around the Island stopping only few a minutes along the way. The times given here is only for a guideline.)
7:42 AM If one wishes to circle the island and has the inclination to save the beaches for last, start at Vila going west to Barreio. There begins a gradual incline to the road. Looking back there is a beautiful panorama of Vila and the endless sea...to the right there are industrial complexes, and the football stadium to the left at the top of the hill. On the decline the new building (left) is the electric plant. The road dips in several places causing a reduction in speed. A few scattered trees and red earth dominates the rather bleak scenery. To the right is the new, badly needed municipal dump.
7:50 the sign reads Barreio Road on the right. This is where the trip becomes interesting. Because Barreio is out of the way, it is often overlooked by many visitors. This is a mistake.
The road goes to the sea. To the right is the precious desalination plant in the distance. In a few minutes the view is dominated by the twin sections of Barreio, setting picturesquely atop two hills, separated by a large valley of trees. There is a steep incline to enter the first part of the city, obviously the older of the two. The circular stone structures which dot the countryside are corrals for animals. Barreio is first of many quaint, villages found on Maio… next stop Figuero.
In a few minutes, returning to the main road is Figuero. This village is also divided into two parts. After going through the first, built on a plane, the second, Figueira da Horta is an interesting village perched high on a hill like a royal castle with a breath-taking view of the sea and overlooking a green valley mothered by a large windmill which gives life to bananas and coconuts. The village boasts of having the best natural drinking water on the island.
8:30 One may go on to Figueiro da Horta or turn to the left where the main road is hardly more than a beaten path which slows the way to a crawl and makes you wish, if you had not, hired a 4-wheeled drive. (When the road forks, take the one to the left.) Surprisingly, a series of solar-powered wells allows agriculture.
8:40 the scene changes abruptly to a strangely barren but beautiful rolling terrain with earth-tone-colored mountains in the background. The larger mountain is called Mt. Branco (White Mountain).
8:55 Amidst the barrenness on the left near the road is a lonely, tormented, African Baobab tree which has somehow survived the dry, harsh conditions. It deserves a photo. Soon, signs of life once again. More solar-paneled fed wells disturb the lunar landscape. Dry river beds filled with smoothened stones patiently await the next precious rain which gives them life for a few days of the year.
9:00 Pilao Cao and Alcatraz on the horizon...
Pilao Cao and Alcatraz
These are two quiet villages near the sea in view of one another. Alcatraz is seemingly untouched by the 21st century…TV antennas show otherwise.
9:25 The new highway is found once again and the way quickens through the lifeless countryside. Note: At this point one has two options: Go to the right (another bad road) to Praia Goncalo then on to San Antonio and go back south to Cascabulho. It would be a loss however to miss Pedro Vaz.