Friday, November 19, 2010

Impressions of the island Sal, Cape Verde Islands

Map on the side of a building
Palmeira, Sal.  Cape Verde Islands---I was warned that the Cape Verde Islands were sparse compared to where we had been. But The Captain had last been there 16 years ago, surely a McDonalds or Burger King had found their way there, I mean how bad could it be?
Why did the Chicken cross the road? To get to the Internet Cafe.
 It took us seven days to reach the first island, Sal, from the Canary Islands. These collection of 7 islands 500 miles off the coast of Senegal, Africa are also volcanic and gained their independence as recent as July 5, 1975!

When we finally anchored and stepped foot at our destination: Palmeira, Sal what I saw was “sparse”. And according to The Captain, there was a lot of new development compared to 16 years ago.

There was a rag-tag bar at water level with mismatched plastic chairs. You needed to order inside a small concrete room with no windows, yet crammed with locals standing about. For about 100 Escudos ($1) you were handed a tiny bottle of beer. But it was hot and dusty dry, so it tasted incredible.

Amazing shells and coral on the beach

Up a ramp and onto the town’s dirt or cobble stone streets lead one of two gift shops in the village. African wares were on the street and down the block and the owners of the shop were sitting under a tree nearby.

Soon we would find out that bread was sold out of a house by the women that had propane gas outside her door after 3:30pm. An internet cafe and phone booths were down the street but someone needed to walk us there the first time.

Chickens and skinny dogs roamed the streets and clusters of men playing Ourin, a game using beans with small bowls carved into wooden planks. According to a little online research, “Ourin -- also known as awale (pronounced ah-wah-leah) or mancala -- has been passed down for centuries through African culture and various parts of the world. It pre-dates Christ by more than a thousand years.”

The money is called Escudo and the exchange was about 1 Euro to 110.

The only way to get local money was to get to the next town. Transportation to the next larger town, Espargos, was only 500 escudo or 50 Euro cents via “Taxis” called “Aluguer” which literally means “to hire”. This is a shared ride system in a Van who waits or drives around yelling their destination until the van is full of enough of passengers to justify the trip. Then on the way, they will stop if they consider anyone a prospect even if the van was already full.

One trip I made alone had 16 people in a 12 person van. It was definitely one of those “if my friends could see me now” moments. Also I was the whitest blond girl in town and a ride with the brothers nearly sitting on my lap, with loud thump-thump music blearing through the speakers kept making me giggling at the thought of this moment in time.. They were a friendly, extremely helpful people, a bit aggressive in their selling techniques but none of us had any real trouble.

I saw a poster in town of the World Wind Surfing Championships going on and knowing the island was not large, I made plans to go to Santa Maria, where it was being held the next day.

Water must be carried to the homes each day from the desalinization plant.

For 400 escudos (4 Euros) round trip, I also got to see more of the island. Santa Maria is definitely more veered for tourists with a street of shops and restaurants. After having a fresh fish lunch, I found the beach and what looked like the set up of the Windsurfing competition. The Bar was crowded with young to middle aged men in baggy surf shorts eating lunch. A couple questions to the bartender later I felt completely foolish for coming. THERE WAS NO WIND. I knew that, we had had to motor the final day. The competition had been on hold for several days and was coming to a close with last year’s winner keeping his title.

A taxi ride in an overflowing van.

Nevertheless, it was good scenery for a straight single girl stuck on a boat with a married guy, 2 kids and a 21 year old Man-Boy. I got a poster, autographed and had a quick chat with Josh Angulo, World Champion surfboarder who was from Hawaii but now lives in Sal and organized the event.

After several days, we are leaving Sal for another Island called Brava. It is the last Island in this group and puts us one day closer to Barbados.


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