In 2015 I went to visit my best friend in Cape Verde. She was there doing a volunteer program with children in S. Vicente’s island. It was the first time I traveled outside of Europe and I was in Africa, in a Portuguese ex-colony. We share the same language, but the contrasts are obvious.
Facts about the city:
The language spoken is in Cape Verde is Portuguese, as the islands were a Portuguese colony from 1462-1975.
Cape Verde is the 3rd largest nesting site for the endangered loggerhead turtles, and gives you the rare opportunity to see these animals in the wild.
I went to Africa for the first time to visit my best friend Soraya. I went to the city of Mindelo, on an island called São Vicente. It was strange to be so far from home, to see a reality so different from mine and yet we were there, speaking the same language, Portuguese.
The people from Cape Verde are really friendly and welcoming, but men are sometimes creepy. They say things like “psss, branquinha!” (psss, white girl!) or “lindona” (hey, beautiful!) or even “loiriiinha” (blondie!). For them we, white people, are amazingly sexy, just because we are different from what they are used to see.
I loved Laura, an Italian girl with whom Soraya was living there, and Francesca, Laura’s sister, who went to visit her during the same week as me (we even caught the same plane!). I also liked Soraya’s friends from her capoeira class (I attended one class, it was fun), especially Carvão.
One night, Carvão took us to see the real side of the island. He took us into the middle of the favelas and I got super scared when we went through a tunnel surrounded by strange-looking guys (afterwards, Carvão told us that they steal a lot and sell drugs), and they just let us cross the tunnel without problems because Carvão told them that we were with him. He then took us to the top of a mountain that had a magnificent view and later that day, we went to his cousin’s house in the favela and smoked some weed together.
At the end of the day, we went with his cousin for a walk next to the sea and explored some hidden caves. The problem is that his cousin did not stop saying things like “you are really beautiful,” always trying to make Carvão stay behind with Soraya. Obviously, I was not interested at all, and when I tried to talk to him, we were like two deaf people talking with each other, because he speaks Creole a lot, and sometimes he did not understand Portuguese from Portugal. But overall, it was a still fun night.
I loved it when we went to S. Pedro’s beach, covered with brown sand. This beach is simply enormous and it was literally empty. Sao Pedro preserved its fishing atmosphere despite being right next to the airport. In the center of that village, I saw the typical colorful boats being repaired and built by locals.
I enjoyed strolling along the beach next to Soraya’s house, with clear blue water. From there you can see Monte Cara (Face Hill). It got the name from its shape, resembling the profile of George Washington.
I also went with Soraya to a typical Market in Mindelo, and we explored the characteristic buildings of the city. In Mindelo, in addition to the harbor, you can also admire the Mercado de Peixe (fish market), Torre de Belém (replica of the tower with the same name that we have in Lisbon), the bronze busts of Diego Afonso, the shoreline street with its beautiful manors and, a bit further, the Esplanada, or city park.
In Praça Nova, an upscale neighborhood with a square with the same name which invites you to relax, surrounded by pastel-colored villas with stucco, and Quiosque Praça Nova, with lovely Art Noveau.
One night we went to the opening of an Italian restaurant, owned by Soraya’s friends in the rich part of the city, and I run into one of my college professors there!!! Woow, we really live in a small world! He lives in Cape Verde nowadays. Later that night, we went out with Soraya’s friends and drunk grog in some local bars.
I attended one of the English classes that Soraya was giving to the favela children, as part of her volunteer program, I’ll never forget that experience and the look on those sweet kids faces. I also went to see the Carnival parade rehearsals. The Carnival in Cape Verde is amazing and quite famous!
My last day in Cape Verde was awesome. Soraya, Laura, Francesca and I did a tour around the island with Alveno, a friend of them (Laura’s crush). We sat at the back of an open truck, and it was amazing!
He showed us everything: the agricultural part of the island, Monte Verde (which is the island’s highest mountain and one of the few places in São Vicente which is covered in green), the volcanoes, the dunes, some turtles and, finally, the beautiful Baia das Gatas. A music festival also takes place there every year in August.
I had never swam in such a paradisiacal place, the water was very clear! There are sharks there, but we swam in a safe area. We drank grog, a typical drink from there, listened to some music and enjoyed our last moments together. After that, we went back, and I took a flight back to Portugal. I’ll never forget this experience and this amazing country!