This Post is a little longer because although we only spent one night on the island, the vast experiences were absolutely worthy of mentioning!
Cabo Verde: A Lovely Contradiction…
Maybe I am biased because I was born and raised here but Cape Verde has to be one of the loveliest contradictions I have ever come across. On Monday, I was on a 4-hour tour around the mountainous island of Santo Antão and tomorrow I am headed to Ponte D’Agua, a beachfront spa to enjoy an hour massage by the pool with my friends. For those of you who have never experienced these islands, you must do so and SOON!!!
I decided to take my “American” friends to Santo Antão for them to experience another island, very different than my native São Vicente. São Vicente is considered the cultural gateway of Cape Verde with great restaurants, a vibrant night life, cultural events during the day, nightly live traditional music at every bar and hotel and lots of local boutiques with clothing items from Europe, Brazil and the US. There is no shortage of Chinese stores as well with low cost and cheaply made products for everyone to afford. I will not speak on the Chinese invasion of Cape Verde because 1) it will force me go into work mode as a political scientist and 2) I am not sure how I truly feel about it yet. At any rate, whatever you are able to find in the developed world, you can also find on this island.
Santo Antão: relax, release and contemplate on life’s simpler times
Santo Antão, on the other hand, is a haven for relaxation and natural beauty. Many parts of the island are still not explored and untouched by man. Once you take a 45-minute ferry ride from São Vicente, you arrive at Porto Novo and have the opportunity to get on a van that seats about 15-16 people and tour most of the island. Now, let me explain that I’d been to Santo Antão several times before. However, for the first I was able to REALLY see the island because I was with my friends and I wanted to show them the raw beauty of the second largest of Cape Verde’s islands. We enjoyed a long ride up and down the mountains, through different towns. From the port city of Porto Novo to Corda (coldest point on the island), Paúl (pronounced Puh-ool) and Ribeira Grande the scenery was just amazing. We stayed at Pedracin Village Hotel, which is a treasure in its own right. It’s hidden in a valley and absolutely relaxing with a pool, private residences resembling the island’s traditional homes made out of stone. Inside, however, the residences are like any other hotel room equipped with AC, hot water, sensual showers with see thru doors, etc. We were greeted by the resident peacock and with complimentary freshly made papaya juice and grogue (Cape Verdean rum). The pool was refreshing after the long and bumpy tour. The view…..I cannot explain it in words. You will have to experience it for yourself. Breathtaking is all I can say J
This experience reminded me of how small we really are as humans
During the ride we stopped in Paúl for lunch at Restaurant Morabeza for some traditional food. We experienced the savory flavor of several types of grilled fish and vegetables. For dessert we had mangoes and papayas that we picked ourselves. I was amidst SO many mango and papaya trees as well as sugar cane and surrounded by mountains. Before lunch, we sat right there on site and chewed on the sugar cane and ate the mangos. My sister was barefoot because she’s a free spirit. There was a stream of fresh water where we washed our hands and the fruits. I remember that everything around me was green. Green everywhere!! What I had almost forgotten to mention was the view during the ride up the mountains. It was quite surreal to think that a place like that existed in the world and that I was fortunate enough to experience it. Deep valleys filled with trees, water falls, cows, goats, sporadic homes and friendly residents and…Clouds! I was amidst the clouds! That is how high I actually was! My girlfriend captured it best when she said, “these mountains and this whole experience remind me of how small we actually are as humans!”
My encounter with the 80 year-old mother of 9
Santo Antão people are friendly! They waved and smiled when we drove by. The children were beautiful and the elders were full of wisdom. During one of our stops along the mountains, an 80 year-old woman, told me how she raised 9 children in that remote village in a small house with minimal money and food. She was carrying a bag of fresh fish that she’d just bought with borrowed money from a neighbor. Her children were older and only one lived with her. She had been sick and her son helped care for her but that work had been scarce. I gave her all the change I had (100 escudos: more or less 1 dollar), which can go a long way. Seconds later the whole gang I was travelling with pulled out their wallets and collected all their coins and gave them to her. She was given a good amount that should give her food for a few days. She was extremely thankful for us. She was teary-eyed when she grabbed my hand, blessed me and kissed my hand and thanked me for the money. She wished me health and courage so that I could work and be whatever I wanted to be in life. But most importantly she wished me happiness. At that point, everyone on the trip was pretty emotional. This encounter, I will probably never forget.
You need a ride? The Cape Verdean tradition of giving is still alive….
Lastly, I want to address the spirit of the people, regardless of island of origin. In a conversation with my “American” girlfriend, she addressed how she noticed that our tour driver as well as my uncle gave people rides when we were travelling. While on the tour, there was a family of three (a man, his girlfriend/wife and their child) was waiting on the side of the road in this remote region. Our driver stopped and asked if we didn’t mind giving them a ride to their town. We had space so we didn’t mind. They hopped on the van and we shared our water and cookies with them. We dropped them off in a town called Povoacon, about 15-20 minutes later. We said good-bye with a wave and smile. They smiled and thanked us. Later the same evening my uncle gave a woman a ride home, on our way back from dinner. My “American” girlfriend asked if the driver and my uncle knew those people. I told her no, they did not. She was puzzled and astonished that people still did that in this world. That people helped each other out without knowing each other. There’s something to be said for the population of these islands: for the most part people are humble, caring, supportive and friendly. I am proud to be a Cabo Verdiana! Until my next post….