6 flights, 2 boats, 20 covid tests and a mighty fine pale ale
Having spent a delightful few days around the pool at La Fora – it was time to get the boys back to school. Inter-island travel in Cabo Verde at the best of times can be a challenge. Throw Covid into the mix and it becomes a logistical nightmare. TICV only operates two flights per week (Friday and Sunday) to Boa Vista. The flight from Fogo was Monday meaning we had four nights to kill in Santiago before we could get home. This was no bad thing. We had only glimpsed Santiago briefly as we passed through from Maio and so decided to book into the hotel we had stayed at when we first landed in Cabo Verde back in October when the borders were still closed.
Saying a cheery goodbye to Aaron and Ellen for a second time, we headed into Sao Felipe for the obligatory covid tests before making our way to the airfield for the mid-morning flight to Praia. As the ATR-72 climbed into clear blue skies we enjoyed magnificent views of Fogo’s volcanic peak and promised Oz we’d be back to search for more dinosaurs and to stay in the crater next time.
Landing in Praia we made our way directly to the Pestana Tropico – one of Santiago’s most popular hotels. Goncalo the general manager once again laid on the family suite for a hefty discount and the boys took no time in re-familiarising themselves with the pool. Late afternoon we hailed a taxi for a impromptu tour of Praia – 500 CVE (£4) for half an hour – to get our bearings. As we drove up to the Plateau the old historic centre was now teeming with people out shopping before dinner. Heading out past the city’s main beaches of Quebra Canela and Praínha home to the diplomatic quarter we observed the worldwide trait of razor wired Ambassador’s residences occupying prime real estate, clustered around the best views. We made our way into the upmarket neighbourhood of Palmarejo before returning via the bustling market of Sucupira.
Having identified all the spots we wanted to check out the following day – we asked to be dropped at a pizza restaurant we’d spotted on the drive by of Quebra Canela. This proved to be an inspired choice. The Pizza Express-style open kitchen offered loads of freshly made pasta and pizzas to indulge the kids – and the fridges were lined with a truly delightful artisanal American Pale Ale, made in a micro-brewery up the road. Having lived off Super Bock and Strela (the only beers found in Cabo Verde) for the past 5 months, Ed was in hoppy heaven. Appetites satiated, thirst suitably quenched, we jumped another taxi – as Ed pinged a message on Facebook to the brewery enquiring about shipping to Boa Vista and becoming a distributor.
The following morning, we headed back into the city – primarily to check out the market at Sucupira and a small theme park we noticed on the drive the previous evening. Sucupira is a sprawling assortment of semi-temporary structures covering perhaps an acre of land in Achadinha district in downtown Praia. It’s got the vibe and intensity of a typical African market, segmented by trade (clothes, fish, veg, meat, souvenirs etc) and is a photographer’s dream. Katherine spent most of the morning bemoaning me for leaving her digital SLR camera and lenses in the loft back in the UK. Fair cop. After assembling an album to submit to National Geographic we made our way back to the poolside.
On Wednesday we hired a car (40 euros a day) and ventured north to Tarrafal – a fishing village on the other end of the island. It takes about an hour and a half on smooth asphalt roads (something we’re not used to!) to traverse the island of Santiago – we took longer, stopping at various points to enjoy the views particularly as we climbed the pass in Parque Natural de Serra Malagueta. Descending into Tarrafal we made a bee line for the town’s charming beach. Like Maio, something was missing, was not quite right. The beach was pleasant enough, and the town was adorned with incredible murals – but the lack of tourists and impact of covid exposed a scene which now felt abandoned, shuttered, unproductive, desolate. After a late lunch we headed back to Praia – Ed motivated by the reward of another Pale Ale after the long drive.
For our final day on Santiago we headed 30 minutes west to Praia Baixo via the hospital clinic for the pre-departure covid test. A firm favourite with Cape Verdeans escaping the city for the beach at the weekend - we had the joy of the main beachside restaurant Big Lanche, to ourselves. We had a mini-shopping list of things to pick up for ourselves and friends back on Boa Vista and so decided to head back to town and the district of Palmarejo before the shops closed. Unfortunately for Ed, he’d not done his research and failed to realise that the only craft brewery and producer of his now beloved Cabo Verdean Pale Ale was located in the same area. Instead we hit the cheese shop and stocked up on calories before heading back to the hotel ready for our flight the following morning.
On Friday 5th March we entered the terminal of Nelson Mandela International Airport in Praia for the fifth time in three weeks. We’d taken 6 flights, 2 boats, and 20 Covid tests between us. We’d covered all four islands of the Sotavento all the while experiencing the sheer beauty, generosity and uniqueness of Cabo Verde and its people. It was an absolute privilege. But we couldn’t wait to get home. That’s the strange part.
The exploration had made us not just fall in love with Cabo Verde more and appreciate how fortunate we were – but realise that we considered Boa Vista as ‘our’ island. Our home. That we’d made the right choice.
It was a weird feeling. In the UK whenever we came back from holidays – we always had this creeping sense of loss, a mild dread about the return to normality, wanting to prolong the trip. Here, for the first time in our lives, we could not wait to get home – to 'our island home'.