The Voyage Part 22 – Cape Verde – Santiago – A volcanic jewel

Travel and Photography


By the time we reached Cape Verde we were becoming quite blasé about sneaking up on places in the early hours of the morning. It was still great seeing the place appear on the horizon and then gradually loom closer. Santiago was different to Sao Vicente. I could make that out already. There was the same volcanic rock with its red hue but there was a softer feel to it and as Praia came more into view I could see that it was bigger and appeared more affluent than Mindelo had been.


We disembarked and walked through the city centre. It had the same bright colours we had become accustomed to but it looked better maintained than Mindelo. I got severely shouted at and was threatened for daring to try to take a photograph of the American Embassy building. Bit touchy these Americans! There was a pretty town square surrounded by colonial style buildings, including the municipal palace all decked out in orange and white.


We walked past the governor’s extensive yellow and white mansion complete with armed guard and on to a vantage point where we could take in the view over the city and beach overlooked by a commanding statue of its founder Diogo Gomes complete with sword and parchment. What was that? A proclamation? A relevant biblical text exhorting the slaves to work harder? A title deed to the island claiming it on behalf of the King of Portugal? Who knows?


We dragged ourselves away from the view and round the corner to an impressive, though extremely shabby colonial garrison building. Obviously the military were not wasting money on paint. Though, from the look of the armed guards, they appeared to have the money to procure weapons. Either that or they were preparing to repel an invasion. From the look of the old cannons outside the garrison they were likely to be defeated. The church further along, however, was immaculate. I suppose it’s a question of priorities?


We passed the museum dedicated, with a bright mural, to Amilcar Cabral, the leader of the Independence movement. He was being lauded with statues and murals. It brought things into perspective. To some you might be seen as a freedom fighter; to others a terrorist.


The fruit and veg market was thriving and I always find it exciting seeing people walking around balancing baskets of goods on their head. How do they manage that? If I tried it would end up in the dirt before I managed two tentative steps.


We headed out across the interior with its reddish black volcanic rock and vivid green shrubs.


At the other side we stopped at Fort Real de Sãão Filipe. It overlooked the old colonial capital of Ciudade Vehla. The fort had been built to prevent the marauding of pirates such as Francis Drake. Once again we were confronted with the irony of one person’s hero being another person’s genocidal, raping maniac. Alongside the fort was an impressive gorge which we were told was Cape Verdes equivalent of the Grand Canyon.


We were met by a group of young boys playing tin-can drums for dollars. Inside we were met by young girls performing dances. It was unsettling. They were playing roles for tourists for dollars. They should have been in school. The young girls dance routines were disturbing in the current paedophilia climate.


There was a great view over the coastline with cannons trained to take out the pirate ships.


We headed down from the fortress to the old town of Ciudade Vehla and the infamous banana street where we tried some grog that not only took the skin off my throat but would also have been an effective paint remover. The local denizens were ultra-friendly and welcoming of tourists. We bought some less abrasive banana liqueur and worked our way up to the church and then back down to the beach with its café for a welcome beer and a chance to sit and appreciate the view while a group of women serenaded us with the local music. It sounded quite punchy.


The bay was impressive with its black sand, large rounded black pebbles of volcanic rock and skeletons of trees. We had a walk around the small market in the town square, had a look at the gaily painted houses and headed back for the ship.


I enjoyed Santiago. It had beauty and prosperity. There wasn’t the rugged spectacle of Sao Vicente but a softer and friendlier atmosphere. I enjoyed my brief visit.


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