Porschist Magazine 61 - Sao Tome

Page 1

Magazine for Porsche enthusiasts • year 16 • quarterly • February/March 2020 • 61




São Tomé and Príncipe: an enchanting jungle archipelago.

In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, some 300 km off the west coast of Africa, lies a hidden gem. Virginal beaches, a crystal clear sea, vegetation that is more endless than that of the Amazon forest and plantations that smell of cocoa and vanilla. In the small capital, a Porsche Cayenne is ready to take a visiting head of state from the airport to the presidential palace.

text: kathleen van bremdt - photos: kathleen van bremdt & sven hoyaux


On the world map, São Tomé and Príncipe are nothing more than two green pinheads on the blue canvas of the Atlantic Ocean. Together they form an independent island state in the Gulf of Guinea that hardly anyone can locate. They are a forgotten world or - depending on how you look at it - a well-kept secret. Because even though the archipelago, with its total surface area of less than 1,000 km2, is the second smallest country in Africa, the islands have much more to offer than their modest size suggests.

BIG BROTHER SÃO TOMÉ São Tomé is the largest island of the two. Well, large, it is a piece of land of 859 km2 – 65 km long and 35 km wide. When our plane starts its descent, we see a breathtaking backdrop from the sky that seems to come from a fairy tale book: a lush jungle in every shade of green under wispy veils of mist, with rolling hills and mysterious dark grey rock towers here and there. The airport building is not worth the name and is typical of the small scale of the island. No taxi rank in front of the door, only locals who come to pick up a friend or family with a decrepit pick-up or something else that just about drives. L'Afrique profonde. That's how we like it.


We are picked up by an employee of the Omali Lodge Boutique Hotel. As proud as punch, he drives up in a rusty electric road train. The thing is so out of place in this exotic setting that we immediately start to chuckle. But it goes, and after ten minutes we have reached our hotel. The Omali lodge is perfect. Colourfully decorated, an inviting swimming pool and simple but spacious rooms. The view of the ocean is thrown in for free.

Omali Lodge Boutique Hotel, Sao Tomé.

From the hotel, it takes hardly any time at all to get to the capital. As far as names are concerned, they have not really been inventive in this small country, because the capital is simply called São Tomé. A lazy, cosy atmosphere abounds. The city is no more than a small centre with a few 19th century colonial houses in pastel shades, a simple old church, the pink palace of the president and two bank buildings that were once modern in the distant past. The markets are crowded. Buxom ladies sell the most diverse exotic fruits and fishermen sing the praises of the catch of the day. On the way back, we see a boy with a mango in his hand on the side of the road. He probably just picked it or found it next to the tree. He raises the fruit up. Maybe someone will stop and buy the mango for a pittance. Life as it is.

SIGHTSEEING IN A PORSCHE To explore the rest of the island, Herlander - proud owner of the only Porsche on the island picks us up in his black Cayenne. How it ended up on this far away island is a very special story. You can read it on page 28. São Tomé really only has one road, one that runs three quarters around the island. If you want to go to the heart of the island, you can only do that through a network of small roads and paths through the jungle. We follow the long road along the east coast, a beautiful coastline with breathtaking bays. The beaches are virginal and unspoilt. We pass simple wooden houses on stilts and the remnants of colonial buildings. Once these were the symbols of colonial rule, now

Cayenne with on the background the Pico Cão Grande.



nature has inexorably reclaimed them. Large fish are drying on rope beds. "Bom dia!" a man calls out. His broad smile reveals snow-white dentures. Along the side of the road, people walk with the most diverse objects on their heads. A balancing act on which Africans all over the world seem to have a patent. Large baskets filled with bananas, colourful water containers, a tower of 15 buckets stacked together: nothing seems to be too high, too much or too heavy. Even the children participate, carrying bundles of firewood or banana leaves. Mothers with babies strapped securely to their backs bring overflowing laundry baskets to the river. There they scrub and rinse the linen and lay it to dry on the rocks. Whether you can get everything clean this way is a matter of debate. Not by Western standards, but for the people of São Tomé it must suffice. There is no shiny washing machine to be found in their modest houses.


Our gleaming luxury vehicle gets a lot of attention along the way. Teenagers almost fall off their bikes as we drive past, schoolchildren wave happily at us and elderly people approvingly put their thumbs up. Herlander drives on swiftly. Gradually, the landscape becomes rougher. We have deviated from the coastal road and drive into the rainforest. The road climbs upwards through many hairpin bends. After an hour we reach the Pico Cão Grande, a 668 metre high rock tower that stately towers 300 metres above the tall palm trees. It is a so-called volcanic plug, the remains of an old volcano core where only the solidified lava remains in the pipe of the volcano after all the surrounding rock has been eroded. São Tomé has more of these remarkable basalt columns, but the Pico Cão Grande is the most beautiful. As always, its top is shrouded in the fog.

A DIVINE LAUGHTER We are impressed by the enormous joie de vivre of the residents. São Tomé people enjoy the simplest things. Their laughter is disarming, spontaneous and gratuitous. Women laugh out loud when they do the laundry together, men play and joke when they bring in the fishing nets and children scream with laughter while climbing trees to dive into the river naked. Everything that happens on the island is simple, but oh so genuine. Happiness is their greatest wealth.


Festive tour in Santana, São Tomé.

PUBLIC HOLIDAY IN SANTANA In the coastal town of Santana, a long procession snakes along the streets. The cheerful trumpet sound can be heard from far away. This festive tour is held in honour of Saint Anna's name day, according to the Bible the mother of the Virgin Mary and the woman after whom the town of Santana has been named. It is a coincidence that we get to pass through here today of all days, and we enjoy the spectacle. It is clearly a special day for the inhabitants of the town. Everyone is there and sings along with gusto. A few young altar boys in snow-white robes walk in front and carry a richly embroidered banner.

DISCOVERY AND EXPLOITATION BY THE PORTUGUESE We want to know more about the history of this wonderful country and consult Google. São Tomé and Príncipe were uninhabited for millions of years, we learn, a true paradise without Adam or Eve to mess things up. Unfortunately, the Portuguese do just that. In their zeal to put the world on the map, they

PORSCHIST TRAVEL come across the uninhabited islands in 1470. According to the motto “Finders keepers”, they unabashedly annex the islands as overseas colonies. The volcanic surface here is ideal for growing sugar cane. Shiploads of slaves - mainly from Angola, Cape Verde and Mozambique - are introduced to do the labour-intensive work. By the mid-sixteenth century, São Tomé and Príncipe is Africa's largest sugar exporter. When competition from Latin America becomes too great, the Portuguese lose their interest in the area. The islands enjoy near self-government for the next two centuries, something they do well. When, at the beginning of the 19th century, it becomes apparent that cocoa and coffee also thrive on the fertile soil, the Portuguese once again arrive hurriedly. Their return heralds the era of the famous roças, the immense plantations. And although Portugal formally abolished slavery in 1876, the land owners on the islands act as if that does not apply to them. The African farm workers are exploited in a shameful way. In 1975, Portugal can no longer ignore the call for independence and it lets go of the archipelago.


The life motto of the people of São Tomé is “léve-léve”, which means something like “calm, calm”, “easy does it”.

TRAVEL PORSCHIST SÃO TOMÉ AND PRÍNCIPE AS A MODERN NATION Today, the country is a democratic republic that scores well in terms of political freedom and civil rights. There is freedom of press and religion, equality between men and women, homosexuality is permitted and elections are non-violent and transparent, something that can be said of few other African countries. But there are also many negatives. Healthcare leaves much to be desired, education is too limited and the economy is not exactly a pot of gold. Because the freedom of the country came at a price. When the Portuguese packed their bags, they also took their know-how with them. Cocoa production came to a halt and the economy collapsed. The country has been climbing back out of this slump steadily over the last decade. Agriculture is still the main source of income with the cultivation of coconuts, bananas, coffee beans and cocoa beans. The export market of São Tomé and Príncipe consists for some 80% of cocoa products with - inevitably - Belgium as one of the largest buyers.


And what about tourism? Despite its great potential, São Tomé and Príncipe is among the 25 least visited countries in the world. Tourism is still in its infancy. But it is being worked on. Because in these times when so many are looking for authenticity, this unspoilt part of the world is the ultimate retreat.

THE MOTTO OF THE SÃO TOMÉ AND PRÍNCIPE PEOPLE It is clear that the people of São Tomé and Príncipe are not rich - at least not in the sense that we know - but no one cares about that on the islands. Here, the inhabitants get up with a smile and go to sleep with a smile. Because why worry? The sun is shining, the rainforest is generous, the sea is full of fish, there is petrol and if you need anything, something can always be worked out. The motto of these islanders is “léve-léve”, which means something like “calm, calm”, “easy does it”. Juliano, our young guide, calls it a kind of national heritage: the psicologia do povo, the soul of the people. Perhaps it is due to four centuries of slavery and total exploitation, but today the people of São Tomé and Príncipe don’t allow themselves to be rushed by anything or anyone. Almost unnoticeably, we take over their easy rhythm.

LITTLE BROTHER PRÍNCIPE São Tomé is a revelation, but even in all its glory just a foretaste of what is to follow. In a Saab 340 propeller plane we bridge the 150 kilometres between São Tomé and its little brother Príncipe in 35 minutes: only 142 km2 in size, with 6,000 inhabitants. From the air we see a deep green lush rainforest surrounded by a strip of pearly white beach. An oversized broccoli in an endless ocean. The feeling of seclusion is even stronger here than in São Tomé. The vegetation is so abundant that half of the island is inaccessible, simply because there are no paths. Since 2012, Príncipe has been classified by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve.

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Completely pristine Príncipe.



SUNDY PRAIA: FIVE STAR LUXURY IN THE JUNGLE Hidden amongst the green and right on the beach is the Sundy Praia Lodge, five-star accommodation that you would absolutely not expect here. The complex has only been open for two years and combines traditional materials with top-level technology. There are fifteen grey wooden bungalows under huge palm trees with large white canvas roofs. Ingeniously conceived so that, even during the many rain forest showers, you can still sit on the large terraces and enjoy the spectacular surroundings and the beautiful view of the sea.


Sundy Praia Lodge five-star accommodation, Príncipe.

The restaurant is like an ark, with bamboo vaults that meet each other in a high apex. The food is sublime. Príncipe is blessed with an abundance of natural products. The forests provide fruit and nuts, the ocean is full of tuna and wahoo. Inspired by this natural supply, the international chefs at Sunday Praia create the most delicious dishes full of original flavours and fresh organic ingredients. We very much enjoy the tuna with passion fruit sauce and a mash of sweet potato with pieces of dark chocolate.



Visit to a cocoa plantation.

CHOCOLATE: THE PRIDE OF THE ISLAND Chocolate is tastier on Príncipe than anywhere. This definitely applies when it comes to the chocolate products of Claudio Corallo, an adventurous Italian who ended up in the archipelago in the 1990s and devoted himself fully to growing cocoa. We visit his plantation and get to see cocoa in all its forms: from fruit on the tree to dried beans in transport bags. Corallo's philosophy is comparable to the care a dedicated winemaker has for his vineyard: every step in the process is important. Corallo only works with plants that are directly descended from the trees that were imported from Brazil at the beginning of the 19th century. By continuously experimenting, he has developed the ideal fermentation and roasting process. He came up with the idea to remove the tiny kernel that provides the bitter taste from the bean. The result is a cocoa in which an incomparable aroma pallet comes to life. His exclusive, organic cocoa finds its way to delicatessens and famous chefs around the world. Although he remains very down-to-earth about it himself. "I am a farmer", he says, "not a chocolatier", My work is on plantations, not in kitchens".


The cocoa from Príncipe is the very best in the world.




On one of the few paths in the rainforest, Príncipe.



Due to its centuries of isolation, Príncipe has remained untouched. Here you will find primeval forest and animals and plants that you will not find anywhere else in the world.

AFRICA'S GALAPAGOS The jungle beckons and we venture into the forest in the footsteps of Ofreu, our local guide. It is damp and warm. Due to its centuries of isolation, Príncipe has remained untouched. Here you will find primeval forest and animals and plants that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. There are countless endemic species and plants. No wonder that little Príncipe is sometimes called the Galapagos Island of Africa. "Some animals are a continued mystery", Ofreu says. "Science, for example, has no idea how the eight species of frogs with their intolerance to seawater ended up here". Ofreu points out the many peculiarities of the vegetation. He puts a leaf of the Church Leaf plant on our arm. It leaves a beautiful silver print. The leaves of the Mimosa Pudica close immediately when we touch them. An ingenious defence mechanism. The large leaves of the Cosa-Cosa are used as an umbrella by the locals. Ofreu scrapes a piece off the bark of a tall tree and invites us to smell it. The wonderful sweet scent immediately reminds us of Christmas. It is cinnamon. We walk past rushing waterfalls that irrigate giant begonias, orchids and numerous hibiscus plants. Parrots with a psychedelic splendour of colour squabble in the treetops, small snakes curl almost unnoticed around branches, macaques swing from tree to tree making a lot of noise and bright yellow weaver birds work diligently on building artfully braided spherical nests.

Beautiful silver print of the churchleaf-plant.




SANTO ANTÓNIO: THE SMALLEST CAPITAL IN THE WORLD Santo António, the capital, is also the only city on Príncipe. It is actually more of a hamlet wrapped in pastel colours, built between the sea and the forest. No more than a few streets around a triangular church square. The governor's palace is no bigger than a village hall in Belgium. A mint green, weathered building was once a cinema. The elements of nature were given free rein when the Portuguese owner left. Most of Príncipe’s citizens, by the way, do not live in the city, but spread out in small, rural communities, often on the grounds of the former plantations. Their houses are simple but colourful.

23 Colourful street theatre in Santo António, Príncipe.

'AUTO DA FLORIPES': A TOWN AS A STAGE August is the main cultural month in Príncipe. In particular the Tchiloli, a combination of drama, dance and music, are very popular. It is street theatre based on medieval stories that were performed to entertain the Portuguese settlers. Over time, the slaves copied them and added elements from their own culture. Today the play 'Auto da Floripes' is being performed, the story about Floripes, daughter of the Moorish admiral Balaam, who falls in love with a Catholic prince, converts to Christianity and marries her beloved. Her betrayal of her family leads to an armed conflict between the Moors and the Christians, in which the Moors lose the fight. About 50 actors take part in the show. The entire town - the streets still gleaming from the most recent rainfall - is their stage. The difference between both parties can be clearly seen in the costumes. The Moors wear warm colours, red and yellow, the Christians mainly blue and green. At dusk, the two groups stage the confrontation in which the Christians - as the story dictates - triumph. It is an imaginative, colourful spectacle of which we notice that looking tough is very important and black sunglasses are an indispensable attribute.


24 Roça Sundy plantation hotel interior, Principe.

ROÇA SUNDY: A RESURRECTED PLANTATION The original meaning of the word roça is 'new ground, cleared from the forest'. In São Tomé and Príncipe, however, the word is associated with the heyday of the large coffee and cocoa plantations and the beautiful patrician residences of the Portuguese settlers. Unfortunately, these were left to their own devices when the Portuguese left the country. They were integrated into the local communities and the stately homes were neglected. But not all roças have disappeared. Roça Sundy, for example, has been restored to all its glory and now serves as a hotel. The plantation house offers fifteen rooms. As soon as we enter the hotel we are spirited back in time. The building has been restored with so much attention to the original style that it takes no effort at all to feel what it would have been like a few centuries ago. From our room, we have a beautiful view of the surrounding banana, pineapple and cocoa plantations. Because that is what makes Roça Sundy special. Not only the house, but also the plantation itself was saved from ruin. Almost the entire population of the nearby village of Sundy works here.

MARK SHUTTLEWORTH: PIONEER AND BENEFACTOR OF PRÍNCIPE The fact that this nonetheless primitive island can turn out to be suitable for accommodation that satisfies even the most demanding visitor is due to Mark Shuttleworth, a South African billionaire. The locals call him o homem da luna, the man from the moon, because in 2002 he spent eight days as a space tourist in the ISS international space station. Such a space journey apparently has an effect on a person, because it is there that the IT magnate became aware of

the speed with which pollution is affecting our world. Back on earth, the man looked for a way to devote himself to the preservation of nature. Initially he wanted to buy an island - something that other people with large fortunes are keen to spent their money on - but then he discovered the pristine Príncipe, that tiny island right on the equator. Príncipe became his mission. The island was to become a textbook example of ecotourism with respect for the inhabitants. A setup in which he has succeeded wonderfully. First he bought an already existing hotel on the Bom-Bom peninsula in the north of Príncipe, then he brought back one of the largest and most beautiful plantations on the island, Roça Sundy, and finally he realised his top project, Sundy Praia, a lodge that achieves an unparalleled balance between luxury and nature conservation. Shuttleworth is the largest employer on the island, respects its heritage and ensures the preservation of biodiversity. In short: the man is a blessing for Príncipe.

BOM-BOM Shuttleworth’s initial project, Bom Bom Island Resort, is the last stop on our itinerary. Bom Bom Islet, with its green core surrounded by virgin beaches, is a miniature version of Príncipe, the paradise inside the paradise. We stroll along crescent-shaped beaches where no other footprint can be found. In the distance, humpback whales glide through the water and we see dolphins rise up from the sea in stylish curves. A land crab the size of a frisbee quickly hides behind a small rock. Nature is just as spectacular under water. Colourful parrot fish and puffed-up puffer fish feed on algae while a school of yellow-tailed sardines flashes through the water like a well-drilled regiment.


Bom Bom Island Resort, Príncipe.


A WEALTH OF IMPRESSIONS "Middle-of-the-world Islands", Chocolate Islands, Forgotten Islands: São Tomé and Príncipe have many nicknames. For us they were a lesson in humility, wonder and admiration. For the perfect nature, the artlessness of life and for the islanders who live as if the concept of time does not exist. A characteristic which we envy them.


GENERAL INFORMATION SÃO TOMÉ & PRINCIPE Area: 964 sq km Population: 201.000 inhabitants Capital: São Tomé Government: Republic Official language: Portuguese Travel documents: International passport, visa upon arrival Thanks to : - Vera Van Steenvoort, Advalorem Travel Designer, www.advalorem.be - Mr. Herlander, Porsche owner Prestige Agency - Manuel Barbosa, General Manager bij HBD - Praia Sundy - Nelsy Sousa, Tourism Board Promotion Department - Diana Relego, Press and Media Officer bij HBD Hotels - Claudia Martins, HBD Investimentos Turísticos, Unipessoal - Milda Vilela, model, TAAG-Linhas Aeras de Angola

Demerstraat 51-53 • 3500 Hasselt +32 (0) 11 22 42 58


Scott Kelly Rocio Gonzalez Torres Luke Bannister


The Aviation Pioneers Squad


Interview Sr. Herlander Finding a Porsche on São Tomé and Príncipe is no easy task, we found out. But being persistent paid off in the end. Eventually, after countless emails and phone calls, we arrived at Sr. Herlander, owner of a luxury car rental company in the city of São Tomé. He only brings out the Porsche Cayenne that he has in his fleet on very special occasions.

28 Who is Sr. Herlander? I was born and raised in São Tomé, am 45 years old and the proud father of 5 sons. I have been running a car rental company, Prestige Agency, specialising in luxury cars, for 25 years. My fleet currently consists of 24 cars including models that can be seen fairly frequently here on the island, such as a Suzuki Jimny or a Fiat Fullback, but also less common models such as a Toyota RAV5 or a Range Rover Evoque. And of course I also have a beautiful Porsche Cayenne. Where did you buy the Cayenne? I bought it through a friend in Spain 6 years ago and had it brought over to São Tomé. Why a Porsche? Well, a Porsche is always a dream car, isn't it? It exudes class, delivers fantastic performance and has a great design. It is sporty, reliable and comfortable. Other brands never give me that same unique feeling. A 911 is of course the cream of the crop, but only an SUV is suitable here on the island. We understand that you only make the Porsche available for special occasions. That's right. The Porsche is only used when important people visit the island. And by that I mean presidents, heads of state, ambassadors or other senior government officials. The Porsche is usually used to transport guests from the airport to the presidential palace here in São Tomé City.

Which countries would that normally include? African countries often travel to São Tomé for political discussions and cooperation agreements, but China, Taiwan and Portugal are also regular visitors. You work for and with some important figures, which immediately makes us think of a lot of security. Every country sends security staff in advance, but of course I can’t tell you exactly how they work. Through my many good international contacts, I have built up a reliable reputation over the years and the various countries keep calling on my services. If you work with the government so much, you must know quite a few people there too. Can we assume that you are able to just pick up the phone and call the president? I could, but I don't. I think it is important to keep a certain distance from the government employees. You never know if at a certain moment political problems may arise in the country, and in that case I would rather not be in the picture. A question that of course intrigues us: do you know what kind of car the president drives? A Land Cruiser, not a Porsche. (laughs) That would be very difficult in São Tomé. The people in this country are not rich. The president therefore chooses to drive a more modest car so as not to offend the citizens. It would otherwise seem as if he allowed himself an expensive and exclusive car using the tax money. I know that the heads of state of some of the surrounding countries don’t lose sleep over that, but our President does take it into account.

Pico Cão Grande, Sao Tomé.



We have noticed that the car attracts quite some attention along the way. Are the people of São Tomé familiar with the Porsche brand? Most of them are not. When I drive the Cayenne, I always see admiring glances everywhere, because even though they don't know the brand, they can see that it is a luxury car.


It took us a lot of effort to find someone with a Porsche in São Tomé. In the end, we tracked you down through the tourism department. It is because you contacted me that way that I consented to this interview. Part of the reason you are here is to promote the country and that is necessary. Not many people have yet discovered our beautiful archipelago. The tourism sector could use a little push. My company also rents out cars with drivers to tourists. The more people who choose São Tomé and Príncipe as a travel destination, the better. Not just for me, but for the entire economy of the country.

The Cayenne is only used to transport important visitors such as heads of state, presidents or ambassadors.

What is the infrastructure on the island like? The coastal road we have taken today has only recently been redesigned and is in excellent condition. We can’t complain about that. But as soon as we deviate from it and move into the jungle, it's a different story. There the roads soon stop and everything goes completely off-road. But we want to keep it that way. The unspoilt nature is the greatest asset of both São Tomé and Príncipe. We would certainly agree with you there. Thank you very much for talking to us.


Presidential Palace, São Tomé.

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