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Capo Verde by my friend Monika Baginska

My airline has only short haul destinations however there for summer 2015 was one to Cape Verde. So I end up going there and that was a great surprise for me and like a birthday gift. I flew there on the day after my birthday. It is quite popular tourist destination here from England and getting more and more popular.Cape Verde is an island country spanning an archipelago of 10 volcanic islands in the central Atlantic Ocean. Located 570 kilometres off the coast of Western Africa. The islands are spatially divided into two groups: The Barlavento Islands (windward islands): Santo Antão, São Vicente, Santa Luzia, São Nicolau, Sal, Boa Vista and The Sotavento Islands (leeward): Maio, Santiago, Fogo, Brava. The largest island, both in size and population, is Santiago, which hosts the nation’s capital, Praia, the principal agglomeration in the archipelago. Three (Sal, Boa Vista and Maio) are fairly flat, sandy, and dry; the others are generally rockier with more vegetation. I stayed at Melia resort at Sal Island. And I never stayed at a place like that. A week at all inclusive resort that is like a paradise. Resort is amazing, great food at 4 great restaurants, swimming pools and the beach at the front of the resort. The beach itself is wide and sandy and water warm and many places to go and swim as no rocks or stones and it looks like Caribbean.

There is not much to do there and most of the tourists never leave the resort. I left with my other crew members or by myself. However I must admit I stayed at the resort also enjoying the pools, drinks, food or beach, reading magazines and relaxing. Or watching the cats as there are plenty there.

People go there for all of the wind sports as it can be windy like kite surfing, kite boarding or windsurfing. I have learnt that they have ONLY domestic animals and no other locals or wild. They have birds and they are proud of kingfishers.

Twice we went to the closest town Sta Maria that is a small main tourist town with shops, some restaurants and some places to buy local souvenirs made typical African beads, nice clothes, jewels, wooden items or items typical for African countries like sculptures or masks. I always enjoy such things to look at but never buy or if buy these are my gifts for friends. It is very typical to get from there grog or coffee. I got coffee that is planted on Fogo like coffee island. Grog is a local alcohol based on rum. Certainly I tried at two places and one was great. They also have a lot of good wine and local beer is nice. The food is good based on fish and stable food like corn and rice. Fruit and vegetables are fantastic so fresh like potatoes, onions, tomatoes, manioc, cabbage, kale, and dried beans; bananas and papayas, mangoes and avocados. Sta Maria has amazing beaches.

The island Sol is so small so we had a tour around it for 6 hours and we had a great time. We were complaining there is not sun but by the end I was pleased otherwise we would be fried like fish on bbq. Not many trees and shadows. The island is 35 km long by 12 km wide and mainly sandy. We were going around like around the clock starting from Murdeira that is a tourist village resort. I must say those resorts are growing and in 10 years will be crowded and developed and not so rural anymore. On the way to Palmeria that is a fisherman village we stopped by a place where we walked with sharks. J Yes lemon sharks not danger but we did not come too close and that was amazing to see the dorsal fin. That place was full of stones or rocks so actually that could be danger if they would come but luckily nothing happened. One place full of rocks is amazing, the view around is fantastic and you can see “the blue eye” there. It is a rock well next to the sea and when you will come closer and when is sunny the water down is amazingly blue like emeralds.

We were going towards Palmeria along the sea and we saw a mountain called Lion as it looked like sitting lion; on the way we were on a small hill full of small rocky mountains. It is said you need to build one pyramid made of rock to bring the luck and money. They were actually small like 3 rows or stones only but we found out that interesting. And further we were going inside the island to Espargos that is a capital and where the main airport is. Some of those nice small villages have beautiful small colourful houses. We saw a nice place where on the wall of one of the house was covered by a painting of a great map of all if the islands. We were going through kind of desert and we found one oasis full of trees. We stopped by one place where log cabin is full of local goodies to see and buy; I tried grog there and that one was the best one. From that point if you are lucky you can see fatamorgana due to the sand and wind and sun but we were not lucky at all. Then we were going to see Pedra de Lume, on the eastern coast, that is the most ancient, and the home of the first salt workers. Today it is only a very small village with few inhabitants and the church. There is machinery in the volcanic crater from the equipment where salt workers were working. We went into the pond there one of natural salt evaporation ponds and we swam there like in Dead Sea. Amazing experience. I enjoyed swimming there or trying to swim and had a hard time to turn over as the water was pushing me back. I gave up but enjoyed and the water was extremely salty.

I enjoyed that day tour and we were lucky it was not too sunny as we would be burnt. After the return to our resort the shower was a must because of that salty experience and we were so dirty after the trip from the dust. My white shirt was not white anymore and for a long time was trying to wash it from that reddish dust. We were travelling on the truck so we had fun but collecting all the dust and dirtiness. One euro from each trip is donated for an organization helping children and we visited that place and it was a nice experience to see how they help those poor children from poor families. Later on I donated sending all school stationery.

One day I flew to another island. There are Fogo and St Vincent islands that attract me but I chose the Santiago that is the largest island with the capital and was the first island settled in Cape Verde. It holds the current capital Praia, the original capital Cidade Velha. That was a good choice and I do not regret however I wish to see more. It was all day trip fully organized.

I flew by a local airline and there we had a tour around. I must say that the tourist guide we had was the best I ever had in my life, just amazing, friendly and with a huge knowledge. The island is mountainous, although slightly flatter in the southeast. We started from Praia that is the capital. First we saw Praia’s town hall (Antiga Câmara Municipal) that is built in neo-classicist style with a square central tower, the town hall is one of the finest examples of colonial architecture around. It’s still in use. I enjoyed visiting Praia’s Cathedral (Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Graça) that city’s cathedral was constructed in 1902 in classicist style. We visited Palace of Justice.

The main market has some nice trees that are typical for Africa and I never saw them before. We were shown typical areas with the houses and a square that is a memorised for John Paul II where he pilgrim and had a mess. The square has the name and the statue of the pope and the mess table still is there.

Mercado Municipal (Mercado Central) is a great local market where food and artisanal objects are for sale from the early morning on. It’s a vibrant, colourful place worth visiting for every traveller; the settlement was razed by Francis Drake by the end of 16c. The island was also visited by Charles Darwin and it is shown where he stayed. That is probably Ilhéu de Santa Maria a small island just outside the harbour. Formerly people with leprosy were quarantined on the island. The oldest town is Cidade Velha whose name translates to “Old City” and become the very historic capital. It is mandatory for those who are interested in history because it is among the oldest European-founded cities in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is also the oldest European city in the Tropics. Some of the ruins and buildings are indeed date from the 1460s when the archipelago was explored and colonized. Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário is the oldest colonial church in the world from the middle of 15c. Transcontinental slavery made Cidade Velha the second richest city in the Portuguese realm. It is a very sad part because of the slavery and the pillory for slaves and the market where they were trade remains there. That pillory can be seen on Pelourinho square and not far you can see the Banana Street that has a shape of banana. And in the past the slaves were led from the square towards the church where they were christened. There are some bars and restaurants around the main square.

The town with the fort that was built that time. It is quite impressive. Cape Verde’s first fortress was built and was finished in 1590. In 1712, the capital no longer served Cidade Velha which was attacked by French pirates led by Jacques Cassardas part of the Cassard expedition. That is why now the town along the fort is on UNESCO list. I enjoyed walking along the fort and I must say the aerial view from there is great. Unfortunately the huge cathedral/church remains in ruins and I guess it will stay like that. I do not remember for how long it served there but for a short time. It was built and when open for service was for a short time till the pirates destroyed it. We had a nice trip to see the Serra Malagueta mountain range in the northern part of the island of Santiago, some views are stunning. The wetter climate of the interior and the eastern coast contrasts with the dryer one in the south/southwest coast. Some parts were really dry and very few bushes or trees. I enjoyed that small tour. We had a lunch in those mountains and it was fantastic with a lot of fish or beef or chicken with vegetables. I really enjoyed it; fresh fruit selection great and I took local beer to enjoy. I have bought coffee from Fogo.

It was very interesting to visit the National Botanical Garden in São Jorge dos Órgãos, where I admired hundreds of plants, both endemic ones and from elsewhere. That was a nice change to see greenery instead of the landscape that was naked with not much fresh green colour. It can be seen but not in July when is very dry. I can imagine the landscape can be more interesting.

That was the great day I spent there and I only can regret I saw only two islands.

Apart enjoying the resort we were going to Sta Maria for the beach in the town that was amazing. That was unforgotten time there and I am happy I saw that country.