Whatever Have We Come to See in the Sea?

This week’s post is a continuation of a travel thread. For previous episodes, please track back to past weeks.

We’d booked an ‘island tour’ for one of our last days on Sal, Cape Verde. Our driver and supposed tour guide, Elton, is a man of few words, we’d discovered. Nevertheless, he is taking us around this tiny island and showing us what there is of note, even if he is a little short on imparting information.

On booking this tour, we’ve received no kind of itinerary and have no clue whatsoever as to what we might see or not see. We are entirely in the hands of Elton, which, as it transpires, is a mixed blessing.

After leaving Palmeira ‘fishing village’, we travel on towards the next destination, whatever it will be. During the very brief drive we’ve had in the streets of Espargos, the island’s capital I’ve been intrigued and would have liked to have had some time to explore properly. It’s a fascinating mixture of brightly painted homes and buildings and run-down, dilapidated structures or scruffy, ruined plots. It’s also hilly. Elton draws to a halt outside a large, corrugated building and lets us out. We enter and discover it’s a market, or rather it was a market earlier in the day. Now it boasts three stalls, two of them selling fruits and vegetables, although I’ve seen no evidence of crop growing on the island so presumably it has been imported from other, greener islands. There’s no way to find out as Elton has withdrawn to the car. We buy a couple of items and make use of the market’s bathroom facilities before rejoining our reluctant tour guide to continue the drive.

We go on quite a long way then turn off abruptly, off road and on to an unmade track. It winds about all over the place, dust billowing around us as we bump along. Ahead we can see the ocean and vehicles parked; then as we draw nearer we spot a gathering in the surf- many tourists standing in the waves to look at…what? We’ve no idea but must assume it’s what we’re here for, too- to look at something.

We stop at a haphazard collection of huts and stalls and are released from the car. Elton motions us to follow him and we’re taken to a hut with shelves outside housing a collection of rubber overshoes and croc-style footwear. Of course we’re to be joining the crowd in the waves to look at…something; clearly something worth looking at. In order to hire the rubber shoes we must, of course hand over cash, which we do. Husband gets a pair of sturdy crocs and I, I get a thin pair of rubber galoshes. A young man emerges and Elton gestures at him, ‘your guide’ he says, with no more of an explanation. The ‘guide’ [Girondelo, he tells me when I ask his name] moves off, beckoning us to follow, across the sand and then on to the rocky coral and volcanic stone beach, where I instantly discover that the flimsy soles of the rubber shoes offer no protection at all from the sharp, pointy rocks we are treading on. ‘OW!’, ‘OUCH!’ I yowl, falling behind as Husband and Girondelo as I stumble on. Giro turns to grab my hand very tight and pulls, and there’s no option but to press on, the soles of my feet feeling every step like walking across a watery football pitch covered in Lego bricks.

I should add that I’m further hampered by a small rucksack bag plus, in my right hand, my trusty camera which I must keep dry at all costs…

We’re getting nearer the crowd, but now we’re also getting into water, deeper and deeper. We’re wearing shorts, but as we progress I’ve no hope of staying dry, since shortness of stature and length of shorts preclude it and soon I’m wet up to crotch level, with the added instability of feisty waves buffeting. By now, aware of my inadequacies in the coral-walking field, Giro has tucked my hand under his arm as he continues to pull, simultaneously ordering me to ‘slow down’. Slow down? He’s dragging me along!

‘Would you bring your grandmother out here, Giro?’ I ask him, but I’ve discovered by now that his command of English is as minimal as my Portuguese…

By now we’re aware of what we’ve come to see, as, swimming around our legs there are dozens of sharks. ‘Look!’ yells Giro, ‘Baby shark!’ I’m far more terrified of the waves and the prospect of losing my camera to the frothy waves than I am of the sharks, which are smallish and unthreatening, but how on Earth am I to take photos with one hand? Then, without warning, Giro lets go of my left hand and I’m on my own, teetering in the rolling surf on an unsteady, coral strewn base. As a large wave approaches I feel myself wobble and my arms begin to flay in a desperate attempt to keep myself and the camera from submersion…

Grace is the alter ego of novelist and short story writer, Jane Deans. To date I have two published novels to my name: The Conways at Earthsend [https://www.amazon.co.uk/Conways-at-Earthsend-Jane-Deans-ebook/dp/B08VNQT5YC/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2ZHXO7687MYXE&keywords=the+conways+at+earthsend&qid=1673350649&sprefix=the+conways+at+earthsend%2Caps%2C79&sr=8-1 and The Year of Familiar Strangers [https://www.amazon.co.uk/Year-Familiar-Strangers-Jane-Deans-ebook/dp/B00EWNXIFA/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2EQHJGCF8DSSL&keywords=The+year+of+familiar+strangers&qid=1673350789&sprefix=the+year+of+familiar+strangers%2Caps%2C82&sr=8-1 Visit my writer Facebook page [https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=jane%20deans%2C%20novellist%2C%20short%20fiction%20and%20blog or my website: https://www.janedeans.com/

Sal- a Mysterious Tour Without Magic

At our small, relatively isolated hotel on Sal, Santa Maria, Cape Verde, fellow holiday makers come and go. At times, the breakfast community is full to bursting, with barely an empty chair. At other times it’s sparse, with no queues for the coffee machine or lengthy waits for omelettes. At the end of the room, the door is kept open and hoards of cheeky sparrows have learned that there is a feast to be had once the bread rolls, cakes and fruit are served, helping themselves at the tables if they can get away with it. Sometimes when the diners leave there’s a sparrow party as they dive in for the leftovers.

Our Island tour day comes around. The car is a sturdy, silver 4×4 and we are to learn why it’s essential later in the day! Our driver/tour guide, Elton introduces himself; we clamber in and buckle up and are soon bumping along the unmade road towards the edge of town. It soon becomes apparent that Elton is more driver and less tour guide, since his monosyllabic replies to questions give away minimal information and, in any case, whilst driving, he’s on his phone more often than off.

We travel out past a couple of service stations and on to the duel carriageway that leads to the airport. There is very little traffic and Elton takes advantage by driving in the outer lane where there are fewer ruts and holes. His driving style is gung-ho and often ‘hands-free’ [from the steering wheel], his approach to roundabouts is to pretend they don’t exist. It’s one of those times, like flights, when you just have to surrender yourself to the hands of the person in control- i.e. Elton.

Now that we’re in the interior [though seldom far from the coast] we can see how barren and dry the landscape is, with nothing grown in the windswept, sandy soil, nothing resembling a tree or shrub, only patches of scrubby grass.

During a lull between Elton’s calls I ask him where Sal’s water comes from and he grunts ‘de-salination’, pointing to the walled factory we’re just passing, on the outskirts of Espargos, Sal’s capital. It’s the only de-salination plant on the island. I think of all the hotels, swimming pools, showers and homes on the island and wonder how this one, seawater processing plant copes.

We skirt the edge of Espargos and drive on to Palmeira, which is, apparently a ‘fishing village’. In the event it’s an area on the fringe of town with a few, colourful, picturesque cottages sporting murals, a church and a marina housing fishing boats. On the quayside there’s some fish preparation going on and up on the narrow road a stream of pickups and tour buses is lining up. Elton opens the doors for us but it takes next to no time to walk the two or three streets. He stays behind with the car and gestures feebly at the tiny harbour and I wonder if he’s disappointed we are not inclined to visit the gift shop or spend longer looking at the harbour. We climb back into the car.

The tour continues [in next week’s post!]…

Grace is the alter ego of novelist and short story writer, Jane Deans. To date I have two published novels to my name: The Conways at Earthsend [https://www.amazon.co.uk/Conways-at-Earthsend-Jane-Deans-ebook/dp/B08VNQT5YC/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2ZHXO7687MYXE&keywords=the+conways+at+earthsend&qid=1673350649&sprefix=the+conways+at+earthsend%2Caps%2C79&sr=8-1 and The Year of Familiar Strangers [https://www.amazon.co.uk/Year-Familiar-Strangers-Jane-Deans-ebook/dp/B00EWNXIFA/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2EQHJGCF8DSSL&keywords=The+year+of+familiar+strangers&qid=1673350789&sprefix=the+year+of+familiar+strangers%2Caps%2C82&sr=8-1 Visit my writer Facebook page [https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=jane%20deans%2C%20novellist%2C%20short%20fiction%20and%20blog or my website: https://www.janedeans.com/

Highs and Woes in Cape Verde

The first few days after arriving to a new destination are all about discovery and exploration. After our breakfast on the first full day on Sal, Cape Verde we divide our time into relaxation and walking, since walking is one of the best ways to get around. There is very little traffic around our area and what vehicles there are tend to be taxis or other tourist transport. Some are pickups in which tourists are required to sit at the back in the open air and we are not tempted by them since a] the winds are brisk and cool and b] there is nothing resembling any kind of seat belt.

I’ve woken with a sniffly, runny nose since our arrival. A child in the queue at the airport was stricken with a streaming cold, which has, presumably affected most of the passengers on the Lisbon plane.

Nevertheless we wander to Santa Maria, our nearby town and then further still, to beyond the town and along a decked walkway to a much more upmarket area of chain hotels- Radisson, Hilton etc. The beaches are vast and unsullied by sunbathers [it’s not warm enough!] but attended by windsurfers and kite surfers. There are many companies doing a roaring trade in board and sail hire, also tuition. There is an abundance of cafes and restaurants- as well as the ubiquitous ‘Irish pub’.

Along the walkway we spot horses, tattoo parlours [not too busy!], gift shops and hawkers of small items spread on sheets and we are waylaid countless times by sellers hoping to catch our attention. Many of the items for sale are made of recycled/upcycled materials and a huge amount of it is from shells. In fact I’m struck by the plethora of recycled and repurposed items around; planters from halved containers, beach shelters from tyres, bar furniture from old pallets and so on.

We’ve dined in the hotel on our first evening, which happened to be Valentines’ Day, an acceptable though not stupendous meal, accompanied by a lacklustre guitarist/singer warbling out ballads from the likes of Ed Sheeran. Now we’re up for a more adventurous evening and we opt for a busy restaurant on the way into town, Porto Antiguo, where there’s a jollier guitarist and a lively atmosphere. It is to become one of our preferred restaurants for its friendly service, good food and fun atmosphere.

Husband succumbs to the cold and has a much worse experience, streaming and sneezing for the next few days.

The hotel manager comes to the room to tell us ‘Your room is ready’, which is mystifying. Later, her colleague comes to explain that this is not our room and we must move, that the enormous room we’ve been occupying is a ‘suite’, that our booked room is a modest, balcony-free room somewhere else and that the night receptionist should have informed us upon check-in. Hm…

We move. We’re not too unhappy. We’ve a kettle and a better fridge and the shower is nicer. We still have an ocean view and can use the poolside loungers- except that the weather continues to be rampantly windy in between bouts of sun.

Husband’s cold gets better. I begin a UC flare [for more recent readers, here’s the link: https://gracelessageing.com/2014/12/07/journey-to-the-centre-of-the-colon-a-gastric-odyssey-with-apologies-to-jules-verne/] I’m well prepared with meds, although it sheds a blight over activities, dining and enjoying an occasional beer. Bleurgh!

But we’re aware we haven’t seen much of the island and will need to book a tour, which we do, with the hotel. It’s to be a ‘private’ tour in a 4X4 rather than a pickup and will also need to be an afternoon jaunt, owing to the flare [always worse in the mornings]. We settle on a day nearer to the end of our stay to allow some degree of recovery for both of us…

Grace is the alter ego of novelist and short story writer, Jane Deans. To date I have two published novels to my name: The Conways at Earthsend [https://www.amazon.co.uk/Conways-at-Earthsend-Jane-Deans-ebook/dp/B08VNQT5YC/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2ZHXO7687MYXE&keywords=the+conways+at+earthsend&qid=1673350649&sprefix=the+conways+at+earthsend%2Caps%2C79&sr=8-1 and The Year of Familiar Strangers [https://www.amazon.co.uk/Year-Familiar-Strangers-Jane-Deans-ebook/dp/B00EWNXIFA/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2EQHJGCF8DSSL&keywords=The+year+of+familiar+strangers&qid=1673350789&sprefix=the+year+of+familiar+strangers%2Caps%2C82&sr=8-1 Visit my writer Facebook page [https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=jane%20deans%2C%20novellist%2C%20short%20fiction%20and%20blog or my website: https://www.janedeans.com/