We have had a wonderful week here in Praia, the capital of the Cape Verdes on the island of Santiago. A very festive time, with a difference, i.e. its been hot and breezy and bright. Hestur was decorated beautifully with the christmas items sent out by both our mothers, paper chains, balloons, bunting, napkins and stars and a few sprigs of local foliage ta-boot. (Photos of Christmas on other camera so will post them later when I can) Since we arrived on Sunday night (22nd Dec) we had a couple of days to acquaint ourselves with the town before Christmas day. After having arrived from the Gambia, Praia seemed like a town of plenty. The markets are full to bursting with piles of various and colourful, beautiful looking vegetables ( vegetables in the Gambia : onions, potatoes, carrots and tomatoes were rather modest by comparison). There was also plentiful meat and fish in the markets. I stocked up on all sorts of things. There are women on the street selling bags of fruit and vegetables and herbs too ( wonderful pears), basins of fish and rounds of cheese. The cheese was delicious, white and salty a bit like a feta. It was made in a little green circular band of some sort of plant, to contain it and it had swelled up over the edge. Very good value 140 Esqudos , so about £1. There are also bags of cakes and biscuits and sweets (home made peanut brittle etc) sold on the street, and we found something like a ships biscuit, which will be good for sea I think (amongst other the things!). There are little stalls: wooden cases, selling sweeties, lolly pops and boiled sweets and bags of pop corn. It was all so plentiful after where we had come from. There are also good supermarkets here too. There are an alarming number of Chinese shops here as well all selling masses of STUFF! Cheap clothes, shoes household stuff, just piles of it.
The town is built of a couple of plateaus, but spills down on to the lower land too. Behind the main plateau the is another big market, selling food and all sorts: baskets, furniture, cooking pots and pans and piles of clothes and shoes. There are also lots of little shacks here to eat at. Often selling the typical fried chicken or fish served with half rice half chips and salad, or bean dishes or cachupa, which is a meal made of boiled up maize and sort of fried, served with a fried egg on top. We ate in one of the two rusty old busses which are parked up there ( on blocks) and have been converted some time ago into mini cafes. The front end of the bus was the kitchen and the rest laid out with wooden seats and tables, very good, cheap and quick. There are nice cafes up on the plateau too. There is one bakery cafe which serves a vast range of breads, cakes and pastries, Portuguese influenced, and very good coffee. This place is also very cheap, and we have been there more than once! On one occasion there we sat beside a musician, Ricardo de Deus, a pianist and composer, we got talking to him. He very kindly gave us one of his CDs which we have been enjoying on the boat. On Christmas Eve we went with Vicky and Elliot from Swallow for lunch to a tiny Chinese restaurant/ cafe just three tables, very tasty.
The buildings on the Plateau are varied. The town there is laid out on a grid pattern with a couple of town squares with elegant trees. The roads are tarred or cobbled (as all roads in the island were till only relatively recently). Where they are cobbled they are patterned with black and white stones, as in Lisbon. The buildings have a influence of Portugal, and are painted in pale blues and yellows and pinks. There are one or two blue and white tiled buildings too. There is a contemporary influence of Lisbon here too with some graffiti murals on some of the shops. The buildings are alternately smart or crumbling, peeling paint and exposed stone work under the plaster, next to crisp edges, its very beautiful. Off the plateau the layout of the buildings is more organic than the grid patten up above. There are a lot of houses which have been built crudely with concrete blocks which are left raw and unfinished looking but are indeed lived in, amongst these are plastered and painted colourful ones. (The concrete is made with sea water so is of very poor quality and very crumbly)
Our friends on Greyhound left on Christmas Eve to sail, with there newly arrived clients, to Fogo for Christmas Day, and then to launch out shortly after across the Altantic. There were about 5 yachts in the anchorage for Christmas including our friends Vicky and Elliot on Swallow, and a big old fishing boat on anchor too.
We had a lovely day. We opened presents and cards in the morning, had a swim then walked up into town and had a drink in a little coke shack overlooking the bay. In the afternoon we rafted up with Swallow and had a very jolly afternoon between the boats. We all contributed efforts for a delicious meal: Semi traditional with roast potatoes and red cabbage but also with salads and kebabs and tuna steaks on the BBQ, finished off with christmas pud. Boxing day: coffee in town, eating left overs and swimming. We had a very nice boxing day buffet on Swallow that evening.
On Saturday (28th) we took a ‘Yaci ‘ (like a bush taxi bus ) to Tarrafal the town on the north west of the island. The bus worked on the same principal as those in The Gambia: it waited till it was full before it would leave rather than run to a schedule. This bus ( a toyota) however, like all the ones here, was only a few years old and polished to a gleaming shine – unlike the Gambia. It was a breathtaking trip. It took about 2 hours. We took the road through the center of the island, over mountains ridges and passed jagged peaks. It was great to see more of the place. Tarrafal was very nice. Quieter than Praia. We arrived in the main square just as a wedding party was spilling out of the elegant pale blue church there. We had a swim on the beautiful beach in the big surfy waves and drank the milk from a coconut with a straw, before it was expertly dissected for us with a machete. We caught a bus back, which did laps of the town to fill up before it would leave. It was beautiful light as we drove up over the mountains and though the little villages which balance on the ridges, people leaving and joining the bus on route.
We have met lots of friendly people here. We tie our dingy up at a little fuel pontoon when we go ashore and George a local man has made it his job to watch the dinghies, for which he appreciates a daily tip. (We do need to lock it as well however as dinghies are regularly taken for a down wind joy ride by the local kids, despite Georges efforts) He also helps to arrange anything we might need for the boat. He helped us get water. Dan and Elliot (from Swallow) went with him in a taxi up to his family home where they were able to fill up jerry cans from a big water bowser for a reasonable sum. (there is no water on the pier) he also arranged to fill Vicky and Elliot’s gas bottles for them. He speaks English and French as well as Portuguese and Creole
Danny, the man who runs ‘Mahogany’, the internet shop we use is very friendly too. He has a great little shop. It has two computers, fast wifi and a phone which we can make cheap international calls from, it has been nice to phone home. He as got to know us over the week with our frequent visits and he has been showing us photos on-line of the islands and suggesting places to go.
There was another shop we went in and had a lovely welcome: d’Terra. This is a new shop set up by a couple from Cape Verdes who studied in Lisbon and have just returned back: Elvis and Joana. Joana studied graphic design and their shop sells her work, images printed on T shirts, mugs, magnets all with a Cape Verde influence. The shop is small but beautiful, very inspiring . Elvis took us for a wander round the town a little bit and showed us various other shops selling work which have opened recently.
I have made a new page with a map of our trip so far… Its at the top black bar of the blog
So today it’s Hogmanay! What a year it has been, I don’t think we could have packed much more in (but then there is still the afternoon to go… ) So here’s to 2013 and all the memories we will have from the year gone and to new experiences and discoveries to be made in the year ahead. May it be a productive, creative, healthy, rewarding and FUN 2014 ! To our dear Family and Friends