The good people of Ilhéu das Rolas
The equator crosses land only once on its way from Africa to South America and that’s on the diminutive islet of Ilhéu das Rolas.
I visited the island on my big trip around the equator. It’s only two kilometres in diameter and let me tell you, it took some getting to.
First, I had to catch a boat from Libreville to São Tomé.
Then one of the island’s nine Scania buses to Angolares in the south of the island.
And from there, a ride in a dugout canoe with an outboard engine on the back, arranged with the help of an American Peace Corp volunteer called Jan.
The locals on Ilhéu das Rolas are the descendants of enslaved Angolans who were shipwrecked here about 1540.
Families lived in simple shelters by the beach or squatted in the crumbling remains of an old Portuguese administrative building.
The women tended pigs and chicken. The men fished. And the kids amused themselves as best they could.
The chief was a bloke called Adolph and it was him who took me to see the equator monument that the Portuguese had built in 1919.
It sat in verdant jungle, surrounded by coconut shells, and was a little worse for wear.
Word got out that there was a foreigner with a camera on the island and soon everyone wanted their photo taken.
People changed into their best and cleanest clothes for the occasion. One lady insisted I take a photo of her pig.
Of course, these days, you just take a photo and show it.
Back then I gave my word that I’d develop the film in Libreville and post the photos to Jan to send across to the island.
I hope they got them. It was such a small price to pay for one of the most memorable travel experiences of my life.
Main image: A villager on Ilhéu das Rolas (© Peter Moore)