On the short trip from the airport the headlights had picked out snatches of rocky landscape and skinny dogs on business in the dead of night. This morning the windows from the breakfast room look down on the urban cacophony in the street below, busy humanity urgently trading in strong sunlight and even stronger colours – a market scene to match the best. Across the road under the “waiting shop” sign women shriek and jostle to hold their place, waiting for the barred doors to admit the next squabbling group, competing for gaudy things to sell in the street. A slight frisson of culture shock or trepidation for the new arrival? This is Praia, full on – the capital of Cape Verde on the Island of Santiago.
The coffee and slices of papaya are the precursor to adventures on three very different islands; Santiago, Sao Vincente and Santo Antao. We will trek from dizzy heights in moonscape mountains, down to the lush Ribeira floors and the riot of beans, manioc, cassava, bananas and mango trees. We will be overtaken by burdened donkeys on rocky paths, and greet locals in vibrant colours elegantly balancing loads on their heads. At the “grogue” distilleries in the sugar cane plantations do we dare to experience the breathy gaspiness which evaporates on the tongue before the chance to swallow?
This is Africa without the flies, or perhaps this is a tropical Nepal. No, this is all on its own – this is Cape Verde. We are going to find refuge from the sun in “shanty” bars and walk on empty sands beside the Atlantic Ocean. Perhaps the water in the shower before dinner will not be warm, but we will probably feast again on swordfish, tuna or mackerel straight from the sea a few hours ago. Our knees may complain from the hiking exertions but in the bar, the shapely lady in the scary leggings will not accept “no” to a dance. The guitarists will finally perform sad despairing ballads from the times of slave trade and famine, said to have even wrung tears from the local oxen!
This is adventure! Are you up for it?