Now that I am working full time, I thought I would find it quite tiring to fit in a bonkers adventure to a new country each month. And I do! But its worth it! I feel like I unleash my ‘kiwi backpacking’ alter ego when I hop on a plane, armed solely with my tiny 16 litre backpack (all you need for four days on the road), and plenty of optimism about what awaits. I love it, it feels like being across between an explorer and an undercover agent. Very few people in my office know I am on a mission to visit the whole world. And I certainly don’t say anything on Monday morning when I turn up still buzzing from the weekends adventure…. They would probably think I was nuts.
And I did feel a bit nuts at 3.30am when I hauled myself out of bed on Black Friday to head to the airport for a 6am flight to Praia via Lisbon. Theres nothing like Heathrow at 4.30 am! For once I had a happy transit experience. I only had 50 minutes to get from one flight to the other. And of course, our flight was 15 minutes late…., hmmmm. I reconciled myself to potentially a 16 hour wait for the next flight to Praia, and was happily surprised to find a man at the bottom of the plane steps to take me and two other passengers directly to the next plane.
I landed in Praia at lunchtime in the baking bright African sunshine. Cape Verde is physically almost half way between Africa and Brazil…..and spiritually feels like the perfect blend of the two! As usual I was cunningly off the plane and in the visa queue first. After five minutes of processing, I turned around to see the queue of 30 people behind me, and felt gleeful as I departed the airport in a cab less than 12 minutes after landing.
I am staying at the lovely Oasis Praia overlooking the sea. I couldn’t resist lying by the pool for a couple of hours to recover from my four hours sleep the night before, and then I went on a long stroll around town.
The light here is beautiful. The buildings are various bright shades contrasting with the nut brown to dark ebony of their inhabitants. I wandered to the famous light house, and accidentally interrupted about 40 men having an afternoon swim without much on. Oops. Then I wandered up to the plateau for an icecream and a look around the old buildings (the ethnography museum, presidential palace, colonial bank and the Church of our Lady). The colonial architecture is lovely.
I was feeling grumpy walking around town at all the men hissing at me, and trying to chat me up in various languages, but felt mildly better when I realised they were hissing at every woman that walked by. I hit a wall at around six local time (having been up for 17 hours, so staggered back to the hotel, had a bag of crisps for dinner and passed out.
Reinvigorated the next morning by 9 hours of solid sleep I was awake at 5 and first into the buffet at 7. I loaded up on local maize and bacon and then negotiated with a dodgy cabbie to take me out to Ciudade Velho.
First up a lovely restored fort overlooking the sea, originally built with Portuguese stone. Then the old town with some eye wateringly bright colonial buildings.
I found my way to the Lady of the Rosary Church – the oldest remaining building in the town, and apparently one of the few examples of gothic architecture in Africa. And from there, I wandered through some cows and goats and found the Convent of Sao Francisco, founded in the 17th century.
Honestly, although the town has Unesco status, the buildings were not spectacular but were lovely to stroll around.
Back into town, and a bit more wandering around the new town (which is still quite old), for a bit of ice-cream and to see the lovely colonial architecture in different light. Its loud here! Lots of rocking African beats pulsing out through windows. I was amused by two guys who were shouting in the street, I though they were fighting, and it wasn’t until I listened carefully that I realised they were selling squid walking through the streets and shouting to any potential buyer.
I had another ice-cream and then treated myself to these outstandingly good cheese puddings – they are like cheese cake, but so much better. The base is caramelised coconut! Honestly amazing, and I ate all three almost without pausing for breath.
Wandering back to the hotel, I couldn’t help but notice there are 4-5 new hotels going up along the sea front, all being built by the Chinese. Its lovely here at the moment, as there aren’t that many tourists, but I have not doubt it would be better for the locals if they had more visitors (=more $$). Come now before the hordes
And then it was time for a bit more relaxing by the pool. The couple next to me on the loungers had been here for a week and still hadn’t made it to the Ciudade Velho……. And time for a snooze