Flying to Santiago
Waiting for the pick-up to the airport to take the trip to Santiago, I saw the hotel staff being dropped off at the nearby hotels. There was a selection of nationalities on the trip, all from colder climates. Norway, Poland, Holland and three others from the UK. Taking the same route as on the evening of arrival, now seemed a lifetime away as the bus drove on the roads cutting through the desolate Sal landscape. Probably better not to have seen it on arrival, it was depressing. Security was tight but the short flight to Praia the capital city was pleasant and a lot more comfortable than the previous one.
We meet our guide in the arrivals hall and I followed the lead of the English bloke to go and get money changed. I had some dollars; it didn’t take long and we made our way to the minibus. Following us was the woman from the money exchange, she asked for my receipt. I thought she had given me too much, but it turned out she had not given me enough. Our guide went off and five mins later he came back with even more money for me. The local Cape Verde Escudo, lovely colourful notes. It is a closed currency and I had also brought Euros as they use both the Euro and the Escudo.
Visiting Praia – The Capital City
Next stop was breakfast where I was to have one of the best espressos I have had in a long time. I sat with the English family, parents and son and we were to be companions for the day. Sadly, I can’t remember their names. Mick may have been one of them.
We were taken to a lookout point where a Portuguese canon still stood and looked over to the Atlantic twinkling in the distance. Led through various points of interest, statues and memorials. We caught a brief glimpse of the president as he was driven into the presidential place, giving us all a wave. Nearby was a park where the slaves were taught to play cards to keep their masters entertained. At each corner of the park there are flower beds laid out in the symbols of each of the four suits of a card deck.
A New Handbag for the collection
We were given some free time in a shopping street, and we were reminded that it was Black Friday a shopping ploy clearly having reached all parts of the globe. I did add to the handbag collection. Not the most expensive but one of the most unusual. Made from recycled tyre and the closing flap embroidered with traditional Cape Verde patterns. As a handbag addict, I like nothing more to get something a bit on the unique side. I hadn’t seen them in Sal.
Black Friday is everywhere
The Original Capital
Rounded up on the bus we were taken to the original capital of Ciudat Velha, meaning old city in Portuguese. En route we stopped to visit an old church, but it was a ruin and not safe underfoot. It was a rubble path on a steep slope. I opted to avoid the climb and went with the driver where there was a small market and where we were having lunch. My group arrived not long after and the English family felt it hadn’t been worth the effort.
We then made our way to visit a church, the oldest Catholic church in sub Saharan Africa. Adorned by beautiful Portuguese tiles. It had been a stopping point for the famous Portuguese Explorer Vasco da Gama whose presence I had also found in Southern India.
Lunch was a buffet of typical Cape Verde food, chicken, rice, beans and vegetables. Tastier than the hotel, it was nice to sit and chat looking over the bay as the fishermen brought in their haul and laid the nets on the beach.
Fishermen arriving with their catch
Into the mountains
After lunch, our next stop was a rum distillery where there would be the opportunity to try and buy. There couldn’t have been a greater contrast to the landscape of Sal. Santiago was lush, verdant, and we wound up several mountain roads. A lot of Chinese investment was taking place on the island including the University. We pulled up in a gravel car park and the guide pointed down a steep slope to the distillery. Not an easy walk over a narrow steep stony path. The distillery was a bit of a misnomer. I imagine a whisky distillery in the Scottish Highlands a couple of hundred years ago would be the best analogy. It was a couple of huts with the storage tanks sunk into the ground, protected by coconut matting. Due to the climb I had brought neither bag nor camera so couldn’t record it. The next stop was to try it, I only had a couple of sips, wondering how safe it was to actually drink. Some of the group up with the somewhat dubious rum but the rest of us preferred to make a small donation to the family. The children were all barefoot.
The climb up was as bad as it had been down, taking the quick route, not safe as a downward trek had the ground slipping away beneath your feet, a most unpleasant and worrying sensation. Relief at making it to fairly stable land at the car park and was it worth it? The location like everywhere on Santiago was beautiful.
Verdant, and very windy roads
A coffee stop on the road back to the capital, was a non-event. A small shop and we had a final stop while the driver changed buses. Gazing out into yet another view of the Atlantic as the sun began to dip into the horizon. People were beginning to get very antsy as we had a flight to catch. The guide returned and we made it to the airport, we had our boarding passes issued in the morning but those who had purchased rum had to check it in as hold luggage.
The flight back was uneventful, but again we had to wait as the rum purchasers had to wait for their luggage. Sal was now bathed in darkness and we made the now familiar trip back to the various hotels.