Chã das Caldeiras
|Chã das Caldeiras|
Village of Chã das Caldeiras before the 2014–15 eruption
|Municipality||Santa Catarina do Fogo|
|Civil parish||Santa Catarina do Fogo|
Chã das Caldeiras (“Plain or Plateau of the Calderas”) is a small community of approximately 1,000 inhabitants within the crater of the volcanic Pico do Fogo on the island of Fogo, one of nine inhabited islands comprising Cape Verde and a volcanic plateau being the largest in Cape Verde, it is at the foot of the rim mountain of Bordeira. The village consists of two parts: Portela is the upper part with the Tourist Information, a school, Catholic Church, Adventist Church and the Cooperative. At an elevation of about 1,700 meters, it is the highest village in Cape Verde, higher than other settlements especially in Santo Antão, it is also considered being the highest place in the whole of West Africa including its mainland as its elevation stands higher than much of the areas in the entire West Africa with the mainland. The lower part is Bangaeira. Though technically in the Conselho de Santa Catarina with the northern part was mapped and thought to be in Conselho do Mosteiros, it simply belongs to Santa Catarina do Fogo with its boundary marked at Fogo, the village is functionally independent from outside governance due its isolated location. The municipal boundary runs in the eastern part roughly east. The main organizing body in the village is the Associação dos Agricultores de Chã (the agricultural cooperative), which holds considerable sway over the local economy. Chã is the only area in Cape Verde that grows significant quantities of grapes and produces export-quality wines.
There is no running water or electricity in Chã, though increasingly people use generators at night to light and power their homes. All non-drinking water is collected rain, stored in large cistern tanks for use in the dry season (November to July). Electricity was be introduced to the hamlets of Bangaeira and Portela in 2016, the eruption abandoned it.
Fogo was the second island in the archipelago to be populated, after Santiago (then São Tiago). Initially, the island's cash crop was cotton, picked by slaves from Angola. A fiery eruption in 1688 caused a majority of the inhabitants to leave for nearby Brava, another of the Cape Verdean islands. From 1785 on, whaling ships from Brockton and New Bedford, Massachusetts (United States) came to replenish their ships and recruit crews. The departure of these Americanos marks the beginning of the Cape Verdean diaspora. Not everyone left Fogo, however. In 1870, the eccentric Count of Montrond (France) stopped on the island en route to Brazil, or so he thought. He stayed, and brought with him the vines that kicked off wine production in the caldera. Many of the inhabitants of Chã, with their light skin, blond hair, and blue eyes, trace their ancestry back to the biologically prolific Count.
The 1951 eruption made several residents evacuated, it was one of two areas, the other was Cova Matinho near Tinteira. The northern portion affected Bangaeira and was the first time since the 1680 eruption that lava entered the village.
Residents reported that the eruption was preceded by small earthquakes which began about six days prior to the first eruption of lava. These earthquakes increased in magnitude and frequency through April 2, and a particularly strong one was reported at about 8 p.m., four hours before the eruption apparently began. Just after midnight, fissures opened on the flank of Pico. One resident said it looked as if the cone had "been cut by a knife." The eruption began with Strombolian activity, quickly followed by a 'curtain-of-fire' lava fountain that fed a flow which cut off the road to the village of Portela by 2 a.m. The 1,300 people living inside the caldera fled during the night to the safety of villages on the north coast. No one was killed, but about 20 people required medical attention. The eruption continued for a few weeks.
Pico do Fogo erupted again on November 23, 2014 and the lava ruined its first houses in Portela and the Natural Park's seat on November 24. On November 27, lava flow moved northward toward the village center. On December 1, lava flow was at the rate of 15 meters an hour and engulfed 400 ha of land, ruined 18 houses and was 3 meters close to the village center. A day later, lava entered into Portela where 50 houses were destroyed along with the school, its local hotel Pedra Brabo. On December 7, much of Portela was ruined and 70% of Bangaeira. Overall volcanic clouds rarely covered the village, it went north and south.
The lava was less intensified for a week, on December 19, lava engulfed the buildings and cultivated fields in the small area of Ilhéu de Losna (Dje de Lorna) and the main road with Portela was cut off and later destroyed. Lava flows later decreased and became less active and on February 8, it was finished. Overall, it devastated the sections of Bangaeira, Portela and Dje de Lorna and parts of the village, most of the center, the western part up to 1 km and most of the southern part where the volcano erupted, a 3.5 km stretch the southern basalt paved road that connected São Filipe was covered with lava from around 400 m from the center down to around the 4th kilometer, the road was reduced to a track encircling the previous and current lava flows and rerouted to north of the center. After the eruption ended on February 8, the western portion of the caldeira was covered in lava, only a few buildings were unaffected and would be covered in lava. Many buildings in the Bangaeira portions were partially ruined. Much of Portela's buildings disappeared. The main route has shortened to the caldeira portion, the road has been detoured to the edge of the caldeira. Elevation remains the same in northernmost Bangaeira, in the middle of Bangaeira, it risen by two meters, four meters in Portela, about 10 meters near Pico Pequeno and around 5–6 meters elsewhere.
After the eruption, the majority left the village and temporarily resided in nearby places of Cabeça Fundão, Achada Furna, Fonte Aleixo, possibly Patim, Monte Largo and Estância Roque, Santa Catarina do Fogo, Mosteiros and São Filipe, possibly smaller numbers temporarily resides in Praia in the adjacent island and a handful in other countries.. Cabeça Fundão on the park's edge became the seat of the natural park. A few homes have been rebuilt in small numbers
The village once featured a school and had 158 students in 2010. The recent eruption has recently closed the school.
Buildings and architecture
The village had small squared buildings and circular huts known as funco, dominantly numerous in the village. Much of these were devastated by the recent eruption. Some survived, some are covered in lava.
The rare architectural style's project was awarded the National Architecture Award in 2013, as Best Project of the Year and was awarded the Archdaily Building of the Year International Award in 2015.
A large crater rim with 1000-meter escarpments, called the Bordeira, encircles the village, which consists of two neighborhoods, Portela and Bangaeira. On the plain is one large volcanic peak (2,829 m from sea level) and several smaller peaks and lava fields from recent eruptions, most notably 1951, 1995 and 2014 (during which the entire population had to be evacuated). The entire caldera, some 67 km², is a protected area as part of the Fogo Natural Park (Parque Natural do Fogo), a cooperative effort between the German and Cape Verdean governments.
Flora and fauna
84% of the endemic plants (31 total species) on Fogo are located in Chã and on the Bordeira. 48% of these are designated as rare and/or threatened on the Ministry of Environment, Agriculture, and Fisheries' (MAAP) “Red List,” which includes the species Echium volcanorum, Erysimum caboverdeanum, Sarcostemma daltonii, Verbascum cystolithicum, Lavandula rotundifolia, Euphorbia tuckeyana, and Tornabenea bischoffii and the genus Diplotaxis. These plants are specifically adapted to the caldera's climate (periodically Chã receives frost during the winter months) and volcanic soils. Chã's endemic plants, along with its unique terrain, are under increasing strain due to overgrazing and to the fuel and fodder collecting of the local populations.
Its fauna mainly include insects, not as many in the lower areas, it is one of the places where it is non-existent. A warbler, the Cape Verde warbler (Acrocephalus brevipennis) are one of several places in the island that are not founded as their habitat is up to 1,300 meters of elevation.
Chã das Caldeiras is linked by a good road to the island capital São Filipe via Achada Furna, the EN3-FG05, the upper stretch has been partly devastated it now encircles the south of Bordeira, it also has a smaller path linking with Mosteiros. The area were reached by aluguer buses until the 2014.
An average day can see up to forty tourists, most of whom are European (from Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA) and come with operators from the islands of Sal and Boa Vista or from the nearby city of São Filipe.
Some come only for the day, to see the volcano, taste the wine, and tour the Associação. Others spend the night to hike, with hired local guides, the final 1,200 m up the volcano and listen to live Talaia Baixo, the traditional music of Fogo, in the Cooperativa, a local store. Also popular are hikes to the 1995 peak, called the Dois de Abril (April 2, the day of the 1995 eruption); the interior rim of the Bordeira; the nearby zone Montinho; and down to Mosteiros, a city of 5,000 inhabitants on the northern coast of Fogo.
Those spending the night do so in a small hotel, one of four locally owned hostels, or with families, where tourists can eat the traditional food of Chã, including catxupa, a rich stew of beans, corn, and pork or fish; cabrito (baby goat); manteiga de vaca, butter from unpasteurized cow's milk; feijão Congo and feijão pedra (Cajun peas and stone beans); cuscuz (corn meal) with sweetened, condensed milk; and fried manioc (cassava).
There is a small Tourist Information Office (in Portela) and there are a few small shops in the community. Many houses are built of lava stones. In Bangaeira, even the Main Street is paved with lava.
Its climate being the coldest village in Cape Verde. The average temperature at the center is 8 to 19 °C (46–66 °F), the highest is 18.9 °C in September and the lowest is 8.2 °C in February. Average rainfall is 524 millimeters, the highest is 198 mm in September and the lowest is without a single precipitation between the months of April arch and May. Cha das Caldeiras also has own meteorological tower located at Pico da Caldeira. In the upper areas such as Bordeira and the peak it is much colder with low temperatures at around freezing point or sometimes lower, the mountain does not snow as the lowest winter temperatures are at night.
|Climate data for Bangaeira (subdivision of Chã das Caldeiras), centre of the island, 1,550 to 1,650 metres (5,090 to 5,410 feet) ASL|
|Average high °C (°F)||14.8
|Daily mean °C (°F)||11.7
|Average low °C (°F)||8.7
|Average rainfall mm (inches)||11
During the Ice Age, there was a possibity of snow at the highest areas but the temperatures were probably only two degrees cooler as being inside the tropics.
Chã does have a lot of vegetation (albeit not in the lava fields), which grows in the rich volcanic soils adjacent to the crater rim. Because of its altitude (elevation 1,629 m), Chã is blessed with milder temperatures and greater precipitation than surrounding areas.
Products in the caldera include fruits (apples, grapes, quince fruit, pomegranate, figs, peaches and tomatoes) and vegetables (beans, corn, potatoes, yams, manioc, and peppers) for local consumption and commercial production. The Associação buys excess fruit from the local farmers and turns it into white, red, rosé, and passito wine (label “Chã”); grape (grappa), apple, quince, and peach spirits (label “Espírito da Caldeira”); apple, quince, and peach marmalade; grape, fig, and quince compotes; apple and pomegranate jelly; and pomegranate and grape juice for commercial sale.
Also famous is house-made goat cheese, queijo de cabra. The Associação also roasts and grinds Fogo coffee, Café do Fogo (label “Café das Caldeiras”), grown on the northern flank of the island. The local economy is based primarily on this speciality agriculture and animal-raising, the majority of which is sold domestically or to tourists. The “Chã” label wines, however, are available outside of the country on a limited basis, especially in Cape Verdean enclaves in Massachusetts, Lisbon, Paris, and Rotterdam.
The “Chã” label wines, made by the Associação (with help from the Italian NGO Cospe and the EU), are full-bodied and rich in color and extract. All of the grapes used in the wines are locally-grown by farmers inside the caldera, which has a 120-year wine-making tradition. The first wines made in the crater to be exported were sent to Brazil and Guinea-Bissau, then a Portuguese colony like Cape Verde.
Chã's climate and terrain are optimal for viticulture. Days are usually hot and dry, nights cool and humid. With sufficient rain, high-quality, semi-sweet grapes grow (1.2 km² total) in the caldera's rich volcanic soils. In 2006, the Associação produced 40,000 cases of wine (12 bottles each) from 100,000 kg of grapes. The percentage of alcohol in the “Chã” wines (14%) is greater than what is found in wines from the EU or California (usually between 11.5–12.5%).
The red wine, vinho tinto, made from the low-lying Portuguese preta tradicional variety of grapes, has a dark red color with shades of purple. Odors include tones and flavors of small, dark fruits like the currant or blackberry. This sensation is enriched with shades of pepper and Muscat nut. The wine's rich body, best when served at room temperature (20 °C), combines well with the strength of the alcohol. The soft, velvet tannins of the wine can be appreciated when it is still young. (Market forces being such, Chã's reds have not yet been aged for any considerable time. The majority of the label is consumed within a year of production.) The red is perfect alone or to accompany any meat of strong taste.
The white wine, vinho branco, made from locally-grown Moscatel grapes, has a fresh taste, unique clarity, and golden shades. Odors include that of semi-sweet citric fruits like the grapefruit. These characteristics are noticed visually and on the palate, where the wine combines harmoniously with the alcohol content. The white also has a subtle, residual sweetness to be enjoyed with appetizers or with fish, shellfish, white meats, or Chã's goat cheese. This elegant wine is best served at a temperature of 10 °C and can be saved for 2–3 years if stored correctly.
The rosé wine, vinho rosé, uses a similar variety of dark grapes as the red. It has an elegant rose color with flavors of small, sweet fruits like currants and strawberries. Like the white, the rosé is fresh on the palate and is best savored alone or with light meals, again at 10 °C. It too can be enjoyed up to three years.
New to the “Chã” family of wines is the sweet vinho passito, made with the same Moscatel variety of grapes as the vinho branco. However, unlike with the white, the grapes used for the passito are first sun-dried, after which these uvas passas, or raisins, are put through the regular fermentation and filtration processes. Because dried grapes are used, the alcohol content in the passito is lower, at about 10.6%, than what is found in the other “Chã” wines (14%). The passito has a dark amber color; is slightly more viscous than the white, red, and rosé; and has a pleasant acidity to balance its sweetness. Odors include that of figs and dried fruits like raisins, prunes and dates. The passito is ideal between 12° and 14 °C as either a post-dinner or dessert wine or, simply, as a “wine of meditation.”
Wine making at the Associação
During the wine-making process, much attention is given to the hygienic conditions of the cellar and machines. After arrival, the grapes are cleaned and are either crushed (to make red wine) or pressed (to make white and rosé). This process is done as quickly as possible to prevent contamination and odor. The pulp is then put in specially-designed barrels in the cellar, where the temperature remains cool even during the hottest days, to begin the fermentation process. This is when the sugar of the grapes turns to alcohol and where the unique characteristics of the wine begin to develop.
The red wine ferments with the grape skins and is pressed afterwards. Then, the wine is fermented for a second time to eliminate remaining bacteria and reduce its vinegar-like acidity. After the second fermentation, the young wine is filtered and drawn into barrels for conservation. The white and rosé wines, on the other hand, are immediately filtered after the first fermentation to maintain freshness and to avoid bacteria growth. Until the wines are bottled, they remain in barrels (to avoid exposure to sunlight and air), except for periodic filtrations to improve clarity.
Chã's best-known wine, however, is called Manecom, a traditional, semi-sweet or -dry, house-made wine. (It should not be confused with the “Chã” label red, white, rosé, and passito wines.) Most households make Manecom for commercial production and personal consumption. The wine can either be a red or white, dry or sweet, but the sweet red variety is by far the most popular.
Manecom gets its name, legend has it, from a man named Manuel Montrond, supposedly the first person to live in Chã. Manuel Montrond in Portuguese, took a liking to the strong, sweet red wine he made. Other inhabitants coined Manuel's wine Manecom. The name stuck and remains to this day.
Vinha Maria Chaves wines
New since 2012 is the harvesting of grapes and the production of wines by "Vinha Maria Chaves", a new vineyard created during the last 10 years. The vineyard is about 25 hectares of surface and is located just beneath the crater. Adjoining, there is the newly constructed winery "Adega de Monte Barro", for the vinification, aging and bottling of the wines. 4 qualities of wines are produced : santaLuzia (white), sanVicente (rosé), sanTiago (red) and sanFilipe (red). These wines are produced with the grapes from the Maria Chaves vineyard and grapes from Chã das Caldeiras . These wines will be mainly exported. During the festivities of April 30, 2013, the "Adega de Monte Barro" was inaugurated and the new wines were presented to the President, the prime minister and other officials of Cape Verde.
After the white wine is fermented, the remnant pulp (Moscatel grapes) is distilled at high temperatures. This process results in a grape spirit, destilado de uva (label “Espírito da Caldeira”), that is bright and clear. (Grape spirits are usually known by their Italian name, grappa.) The spirit's strength enables the drinker to taste, and feel on his/her palate, the flavor of Moscatel grapes. The after taste is smooth and has a hint of sweetness to balance the spirit's high alcohol content (45%).
The quince spirit, destilado de marmelo, is produced from well-ripened quince fruit. Odors include that of the sweet, tart fruits of the caldera (like quince, apples, and grapes), flavors which combine nicely with the strength of the spirit's alcohol. The finish of the destilado de marmelo is smooth, gentle, and sweet.
The destilado com ervas digestivas, or spirit with herbs, has the unique taste, aroma, potency, and medicinal properties to help with post-dinner digestion. The spirit is a combination of herbs that have been used as a traditional medicine by the people of Chã for generations.
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