Scenes of Cape Verde

Before I start, just wanted to mention an article I read recently:

Empowering Cabo Verde to Better Deliver Water and Sanitation to Its People

This snapped me back to some of the real truths of Cape Verdean life.

I’m not entirely naive about the poverty levels but hearing that a women had to choose between flushing her toilet and feeding her family due to water and sanitation costs – just brought it home, life for people has been and still is hard, in Cape Verde. The lack of rainfall plays a huge part in this.

Despite the hardship #nostress continues to be the tagline of choice.

To all those people complaining about the smell of drains in online hotel reviews – please show some empathy. I’ve smelt worse from anonymous armpits on the train!!

As with all travels, I believe that the universal sense of humanity most of us have, is put to the test when faced with the deprivation of others – some people laugh and ridicule, pretend not to notice it. Others are moved emotionally, and the holiday experience becomes more balanced, less about ‘the all inclusive’ and little more about the people, the world, learning and caring about others, wanting to make a difference – with a greater sense of gratitude for what we have.

Sorry if I sound preachy, I know not everyone will agree.

I found myself questioning some of my own attitudes during this trip, and reminding myself to be more understanding – in general, since we just don’t know what battles others are going through when we meet them fleetingly in life.

One small gesture could be the start of a chain of reactions that make a meaningful difference in someone’s life.

I’m getting all philosophical now….

On a lighter note, the beauty of Cape Verde

Photographs and video clips will capture some of this, as seen in my other posts, other scenes will remain as memories, like the countless times street and shop sellers insist you choose something to take away as  gift from them to you – even when you didn’t buy anything.

These days ‘art’ is my holiday souvenir of choice, and Cape Verde is certainly a great place to indulge without breaking the bank.

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Very much captures the mood and sights of Santa Maria’s pier and hubbub of fishing activity. I got a really good deal on this one, while other sellers had tried to charge me more than three times the price. It really does pay to shop around!!
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Dis-mounting the painting to roll up. So glad I bought from this honest seller in Santa Maria, Sal (located at the furthest end of the souvenir shop strip – keep going!).
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Love the vibrant colours, and what a thrifty deal at €5 each!

 

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Artistic plaques made from sand – you will find these everywhere.

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The brown purse is made from a coconut shell  #recycle

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Of course I couldn’t leave without the classic fridge magnet now could I, especially with this one being sculpted from clay – a mini work of art!

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Music on video:

  1. Azonto Dance to Iyanya – Kukere! Azonto Fever
  2. Original makinety – ransé gogo baka
  3. Denty – Azogidi CD slee lobi – MUSIC OF SURINAM
  4. TLDREAMZ FEAT DJ DJEFF – UNDI DA KI PANHA
  5. ISA PRETA WILLY SEMEDO – FUNANA
  6. Gilson Furtado Na Nos Terra
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Palmeira Fishing Village

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Sellers in the area will approach you as soon as you set foot out of your tour bus, they will follow you around and walk with you asking you to buy something – everyone wants a sale from you, even if they end up negotiating down.  I’ve never been followed around by sellers before, so this was a little intense. Before you go getting annoyed, just remember that the people here are relatively poor compared to visiting tourists, and sometimes its more about ‘giving a little’ rather than whether you actually need another baseball cap, necklace, pair of sunglasses or sarong!

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The rum was really sweet, they add something like honey or syrup to it.

Sunday Service

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I have never seen a church so full that people can’t get inside for a Sunday service…
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Outdoor congregation facilities
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Back wall of the church grounds, listening to the service
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No room inside

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No room at the back door either

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Beach Banter #5

Lips

So I’ve been to places that were hotter than Cape Verde, and spent much more time out in the sun than I did recently – nevertheless, for the first time ever, my lips got sun burnt.  I’ve never had burnt lips before, lesson learned – stinging and sore lips for the past couple of days. In future I’ll have to get a good sunblock for my lips, since my home made shea butter and coconut oil lip balm didn’t seem to do the trick this time.

Mr Mighty

Yes, he was here in Cape Verde, in fact a beach gym had been set up for his convenience, most considerate. For the record, I’m a big fan and huge follower of Mr Mighty, his confidence and positive example of effort and commitment to health and fitness is admirable, and great to watch on a day at the beach.

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Some serious weight training equipment

Sand

In Cape Verde, the sand was dusty. You will not only have grains of sand to wash off your feet, but a film of white dust on your skin as well so worth carrying some baby wipes. I never knew sand was so diverse!

Grapes

The air is so dry, no rain in weeks, blazing heat. Hopefully this was a nice and refreshing treat for the birds.

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For me, another pina colada….

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Colours of Cape Verde

They should have called it Cape Colour…..

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Pretty in pink, buildings in Santa Maria, Sal

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Rustic charm at it’s strongest
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Taxi rank by the beach in Sal, Santa Maria, Cape Verde

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Street Graffiti, Sal Cape Verde
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Art for sale behind Santa Maria beach, Sal

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Beautiful floors
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Cactus
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Wooden sculpture
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Table head! Wood carving

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Burracona Blue Eye

Stop off during an island tour to see Sal’s ‘Blue Eye’ cave/rock opening and lagoon.

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When sunlight hits the right spot, the whole cave lights up to give a blue glow…didn’t quite happen today. Burracona Blue Eye, Sal Cape Verde.

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Volcanic lava rocks

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Souvenir sellers

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The rules

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Beach Life

Cape Verde will not disappoint those looking for the beach life, beaches that are largely unspoilt by pretentious touristy accessories.

Just plain and simple.

The glare from the sun is very strong stronger than anything I’ve ever experienced, so make sure you have good sunglasses while you’re out.

If you enjoy lounging around the beach, people watching, surf watching, beach football watching etc, then you’ll be right at home on down town Santa Maria beach.

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However, plenty of dogs bring themselves to the beach, and who can blame them, lol

There was a woman on the beach who brought her dog, nothing strange about that. Then she scooped the dog up and proceeded into the sea, up to around chest high. The dog was clearly not happy and was trying to break free, too late. Then…..she threw the dog out into the water about a foot away from her!!!! The dog seemed to be struggling and making unhappy barking noises, so she reuscued it before flinging it into the water again, and so it went on.

And we wonder why some dogs get mad and bite people!

I’m guessing this was her way of teaching the dog to swim, thankfully she never allowed the dog to sink and kept pulling it close and keeping a hold on it.

Interesting.

 

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The sun’s glare is no joke….

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The views from the restaurant at the end are very pretty at night

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Plenty of spots to hang out
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Some serious sculpting going on here….

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Locals playing football

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Dock of The Bay, Santa Maria.

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Sit and soak up the atmosphere
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Locals busy gutting and cleaning fish to sell on the spot, freshly caught and delivered to the pier from surrounding boats
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You can’t get a fresher catch!

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Take your pick

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Not for the squeamish
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Boats everywhere you look

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For sale….
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Turquoise waters

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Cape Verde has a really relaxed, down to earth atmosphere

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Always a football match in full swing on the beach

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Surfers waiting to catch a big wave

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Furniture with a twist!

Spotted these pieces in Santa Maria’s main town, Cape Verde.

The bottle top chair is genius, recycling at it’s most colourful!

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This was hard to ignore as I walked down the street, not sure if this was recycling or hunting!!

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Salinas Salt Mines, Cape Verde

You will be encouraged to go for a dip in one of the salt lakes, and experience the feeling of the dead sea – you won’t sink. The salt and minerals in the water are good for your skin too.

I had my swimsuit on under my clothes, fully intending to get in, but it was just too windy and cold down there. The water was warm but it would have been like getting out of the bath into a freezing cold room – call me a wimp but I just could’t do it.  I’m sure there’ll be a salt lake somewhere else in the world or on a warmer visit to Cape Verde in the future – that’s when I’ll do it!

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Sol Dunas/Melia Resort

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Reception

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Over the bridge the resort sprawls for what seems like miles

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These cobbled paths play havoc with your high heels!

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Very minimalist ‘ikea-esk’ furniture

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Very spacious rooms with plenty of storage, no frills

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Roof terrace

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The boulevard, rows of shops bars and restaurants

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Bikini Beach Bar across the way

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Booo!!!!

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There was a different welcome cake every evening

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Down to the spa

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Driving around Sal

It’s not all turquoise beaches and tourist resorts.

Cape Verde is slowly developing and building its tourist industry, but still suffering deeply with poverty.

The buildings are very colourful, there never seemed to be two buildings the same colour side by side.

The roads are not all typical tarmac, sometimes a left or right turn takes you off road off the beaten track – which is quite quirky and an interesting contrast!

Below is just a taste of what it looks like when you’re on the road, away from the postcard pictures.

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This is an actual mirage of water in the distance, the first I’ve ever seen in real life. I didn’t realise that the wind, sun reflection and dust work together to create the illusion of water against skyline.
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Kite flying is a serious pursuit

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Off the beaten track

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Rumour Has It….Cape Verde

As usual, I spent a lot of time scouring reviews and reading up on this destination well before my holiday.

Funny how two people can go to the exact same place, experience the same things and come away with opposing points of view on how good or bad it was.

This time I thought I’d do a post comparing my experiences with some of the feedback left by tourists over various online travel review sites/forums.

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1. Rumour has it, Cape Verde is very windy in the winter months!

This is truer than I had imagined. It can get super windy and many drinks (even in glasses) were blown over. Gusts of wind can be pretty strong so hold onto your hats and drinks, especially when you’re on the beach. On a more positive note, the weather makes it ideal for kite flying, and surfing which are popular Sal.

Don’t get me wrong, it is still hot during the day, despite the wind.

Locals told us that from around May  to November the wind subsides and temperatures are extremely hot – too hot for many transient tourism workers, who pack up and go back to their home countries and return in the cooler winter months.

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Kite Beach

2. Rumour has it, getting through the airport is a long and chaotic process!

Well, coming into Sal was a breeze really, ‘no stress’, but chaos kicked in on the way home. It may all sound funny now, but at the time – not really!

The airport is currently undergoing extensive renovations which are set to look great once finished, and some parts of the current space is out of use due to works; in its present state  the airport is very small and over crowded in the departures area, with very few seats.

Automatic doors leading customers in and out of the departure lounge would stop working at random, leaving passengers baffled and trying to prise the doors open from both sides . (Imagine missing your flight because the automatic doors refused to open !!) Thankfully they were a bit like London tube trains and opened with a bit of force.

Our flight was delayed but no information came up on the departure screens until it was nearly an hour late (and even then there was no acknowledgement of the delay);  then they decided to switch the boarding gate, just to add to the confusion and frustration  – again without any announcement or communication. We then queued at the gate and waited for what felt like another 30 mins while staff at the gates continued to ‘not tell anyone what was going on’ and fuss amongst themselves and their computers.

Once boarding passes were eventually checked, the entire plane’s worth of passengers (myself included) were led outside amidst loud plane engines and left to stand out there for another 20 mins or so, outdoors in the baking sun. Again, no communication.

Following this, we were then instructed to make a 10 min walk across the hot tarmac to board our plane (it was the furthest plane away from the departure gates – while passengers for planes closer to the departure gates were driven to their planes in an airport bus – go figure!). 

There was no sign or word from a TUI rep throughout any of this ordeal.

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3. Rumour has it, the food in Cape Verde isn’t great!

The food is not terrible, I’m not sure what people were expecting. You can get pretty much whatever food you want, there are plenty of eateries in Santa Maria catering to all different tourist tastes and fish is a popular choice given the amount of fishing that takes place in Sal.

Above is Cape Verde’s traditional dish, which I tried in Espargos during an island tour of Sal, but failed to finish as it was a very large serving – it’s a bit like a soup/broth with a mix of different meat and veg, it tasted nice.

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This is the first restaurant you see when you walk into the beach from the taxi rank in the shopping area of Santa Maria

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Back in the hotel  – food was in abundance with something for everyone, as you would expect in a big all inclusive, to be fair. Perhaps some hotel food is better than others.

4. Rumour has it, hotel staff (across many of the Sal resorts) are rude and seemingly poorly trained in customer service!

On the whole the staff were very polite, I did not experience any significant rudeness. You will usually get the odd bad apple in any hotel but I have no complaints  really. One particular member of staff seemed to have a very laid back attitude to things, as though life was one big joke, not to be taken ‘too seriously’ – even when reception staff had checked the wrong people into the wrong rooms, put the wrong number of people in the wrong rooms and then almost sent the wrong luggage to the wrong rooms (bear in mind the rooms were on second floor levels with no lifts and across more than one block within a huge resort)….despite several attempts to point out and explain their errors they still didn’t get it right on their databases.

It is true that some of the staff do not speak much English, and this may account for ‘misinterpreted’ poor service when communication is a little strained.

5. Rumour has it, rain is very rare in Cape Verde!

Well it didn’t rain once while I was there and locals confirmed that rain is certainly a very rare thing here; this is also evident from the dry arid landscapes, with very little vegetation.

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A lot of the presentation grass lawns (in hotels and the botanical gardens etc, are flown in from other countries).

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6. Rumour has it, Cape Verde is the new caribbean!

Well firstly, Cape Verde does’t present as a caribbean equivalent – it doesn’t have the same atmosphere at all, instead it is more of a dessert land, barren and vast with some huge wide beaches that are dominated by surfers. Cape Verde is beautiful in its own unique way with a ‘wild wild west’ landscape coupled with white beaches.

The beach in Santa Maria is the prettiest and most popular for swimming – the water looks more tropical blue than the waters along the hotel strip.

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7. Rumour has it, Cape Verde doesn’t really have its own unique culture!

Maybe people think this because it doesn’t seem to fit into a nice little box. Cape Verde is very mixed in terms of language, heritage, skin complexions and the majority of the population are younger (20s/30s) apparently.

For me my first cultural impressions were:

  • The people are a little more laid back  – which is often the case in hotter climates, the sun relaxes and slows you down
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  • Water sports and surf culture is a big deal and the must-have for children is a surf board, not a scooter (child scooters are still the rage in the UK)!
  • Local people love the water and beach life
  • People live a simple life, and are very grateful for your custom – people are relatively low income. One of the hotel bar staff said she earns 300 euro per month, and that living with extended families is the only way for many to survive/progress financially
  • The people are visually, a very diverse mix of races, including european and african and american which has influenced the creole culture of the native population.
  • Church is central to family life
  • Vibrant bright and colourful is the way
  • Poverty is visible in terms of corrigated shanty towns vs concrete houses

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8. Rumour has it, you’ll get cold in the evenings and need a jumper, despite high temperatures during the day!

This is an understatement in Feb/March. Make sure you take warm jumpers/coat for the evening. Tights and boots will not feel wrong in the evening wind. I found myself ordering hot chocolate while watching evening hotel shows because if was cold. Make sure you at least have some sort of thick wrap to throw over your shoulders.

Bikini by day, jumper by night, many people were wearing their coats.

I had been looking forward to sitting out on my balcony late into the night enjoying the warmth and exotic noises, gazing up at the starry sky while sipping something icy cold – but nope. This did not happen, my sliding doors were securely shut every night with the heating on (yes heating) at night.

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9. Rumour has it, there’s not much to do in Cape Verde!

Depends how you look at it.

If you want to immerse yourself in very non-pretentious, authentic, rustic local life at its simplest, then you won’t tire of Cape Verde (as long as you prise yourself away from the hotels). You won’t get the thrills of Las Vegas (though I did spot a casino on the way into town).

  • There are a few good island tours – if you go by quad bike or four by four, prepare to be windswept and dusty – go for the mini bus/coach option if you want shelter
  • Again, you will be in heaven for water sports and kite flying in the winter months
  • Beach bums will also be in heaven – beaches are wide and vast so no fighting over a sunbathing spot
  • The main town of Santa Maria and its beach are buzzing with colour/local people/fishermen/women/boats/divers/surfers/beach life/restaurants and souvenir shopping SAM_1799

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Rumour has it, you’d better not forget any essentials when you’re packing as prices are through the roof over there (e.g. €9 for shower gel)!

The rumours were true in the hotel shop at least. €8 for shower gel below.