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 There’s no way to find out as Elton has withdrawn to the car.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/