CAPE VERDE, SANTIAGO

I am not a great writer and my English is not so perfect, but I travel quite a lot and I have something to share with you. And I couldn’t resist to tell you my story about recent spontaneous trip to Cape Verde with only few shirts and purchased flip-flop on my way.

ADVENTURE SOUL

Do you like to travel with one-way ticket? Are you easy to move around to unfamiliar places? If you do, then you know that indescribable feeling of the freedom and the chance to get to unexpected places is much higher. I swear that the best experience I have had is got from unplanned trips and brave decisions.

It seems that it is unsafe to travel without certain plan or that there is just a high chance of lost opportunities to see something important, I mean something that all internet is full of and you are pushed to waste your time on must see places. But I am totally against this kind of trips. I have realized that the trips with a plan, that is built on the way depending on what options you are given by chance, are turned to be the greatest and most saturated trips I ever had.

This time I had an idea about a short trip to Lisbon, the place I have never been before and I just wanted to spend a weekend around, but by force of habit I bought only one-way ticket being open for Lisbon adventures. As usually I was itching to check if there is any special place I could easily get from Lisbon to and unexpectedly I found a cheap flight to Cape Verde, the place I have never though about. And that was kind of call for me. I couldn’t resist and just bought one-way ticket to the main island of Cape Verde – Santiago.

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Actually, I had a small luggage with winter clothes with me and I spent 5 days on the island with very limited closet, but It didn’t bother me at all. I tried to buy some stuff on island upon my arrival, but since locals don’t produce clothes, the choice was too awful and expensive though. Almost all clothes are produced and brought by Chinese, as well as second hand market from US is very circulated. I advise you to bring everything with you: sun protection, clothes and flip-flops, and don’t rely on opportunity to buy it in place.

Cape Verde has 10 islands in total with capital city Praia, which is located on the main island called Santiago. Santiago is the first inhabited island among all others which was populated by Portuguese from 15th century. The island is well known by the fact that the biggest slave trade was happening here. Slaves from all African continent was brought to the island and sold out to other lands like EU and US.

HOW TO GET?

If you are flying from Europe, I advise you to have your flight through Lisbon and, preferably, to have a stop there for a day or another. There are a lot of good direct flights from Lisbon and it takes only 4 hours to get to Cape Verde. The best airlines to fly to Cape Verde are Iceland airlines with great conditions especially for such a short flight: new airplanes with TV screen, enough space for your legs and great service.

Cape Verde is one of the destinations where European citizens can come without planning in advance and get visa on arrival for just €25.

The taxi is very affordable and safe here. It cost only €2-3 to get to Praia from the airport. Although, I advise you to use travel agent who will pick up you from the airport and help you to plan your trip with personal approach according to your interests and wishes. The island isn’t big, but many places worth to visit are not located in one place, that is why you can lose your time if you decide to travel on your own and just to hang around in the city. There is nothing to see a lot I believe.

I was lucky to get in good hands immediately on my arrival. I was not sure how safe is the place and I have ordered a transfer and the owner of Levy Travel agency had met me in the airport upon my arrival. Levy was so delicate and very professional. In just 4 days he showed me everything around and I think I didn’t miss anything related to my passion and interests. Levy is amazing person and speaks many languages: French, English, Russian, Portuguese, Creole and some Spanish as well. He is very professional and always happy and smiling person. You can’t have bad mood with him 🙂

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If you are looking for a guide in Santiago I would recommend you to get in touch with Levy. His whatsapp and phone number is +238 918 35 82.

Staying few days in quite big resort, one of the best in town with swimming pool and sea view, I came to the conclusion that this is not a perfect way to spend time on the island. There are many other destinations with great resorts and more suitable for hanging next to the pool, but the level of resorts in Cape Verde leaves much to be desired. There are not so big resorts with private equipped and clean beaches as somewhere like on Maldives or even in Turkey and service is quite low. There is no worth to come for this kind of rest in Santiago. But there are small lovely cozy places around if you wish to stay in hidden paradise.

I would consider this destination for more wild and less lazy time spending. There are many great places on the island I recommend you to see, so be ready for more active journey if you don’t want to be disappointed.

OLD TOWN

Every island is very different and Santiago is considered to be the most African among the rest, where people live more naturally. Local people are very mixed-race, since historically there were many nationalities brought from different countries. Cape Verde got independence in 1975 and official language is Portuguese, though locals also speak Creole (“kreol”) language, which is kind of dialect of Portuguese language.

Cidade Velha is an old town of Santiago, which is very small and resembles small African village with the main street Rua de Banana. There used to be a lot of bananas on the street before, but today there is no bananas unfortunately.

The city is located on the coast and every day fishermen arrive with fresh catch. You can try fresh fish at the local restaurant Terero di kultura, which every evening offers the variety of fish dishes based on daily catch.

CAPITAL

The capital of Santiago island is Praia. It is quite a noisy and developed city comparing to old town. Minimal salary in town is €120, but average around €700, so you get an idea of the price level. The city is located on the coast, but there are not equipped beaches for quality time spending. It is better to skip this option.

TARRAFAL

The most beautiful beach is located on the other side of the island in the city Tarrafal and this one is really worth a visit. I have spent great time there swimming, sunbathing, watching surfers and fishermen with boats on the beach. Although, this is not a suitable place for water sports and that is why not so many surfers, just few particularly local children and mostly beginners. You should go to Sal island if you are interested in water sports, where wind and waves are very good.

MARKET LIFE

There is food market in Praia called Plateau and the same big market in Tarrafal. Market life is very noisy here and very well reflects the real life of local people. There are a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits, the most fresh fish and sea-food, as well as grains and various valuable natural health products used for medical purposes around the world. I have to mention that all the products that are grown on the island are 100% organic.

Nothing is grown for export purposes and that is why is so fresh and natural, as hard to believe, for example, in our world. I got familiar with few new things that I have never tried before, but two of them I can mark as the top find. These are pinhao fruit, also called as annona or graviola, and already well-known baobab fruit, which I brought in the form of powder, and that I often mention in my stories and recipes as well.

Some more information about baobab health benefits and recipe is here.

I haven’t seen Pinhao fruit to be served in hotels or restaurants and it is easy to miss the fruit if you do not get to local market. At least, visit the nearest fruit market to buy and try it. I have no doubts that you will like the taste this paradise fruit.

FOOD

Local food is quite simple and not very various. You will find a lot of fish dishes with vegetables including carrots, cabbage and green banana with mais, cooked in open fire or in outside open air oven by burning wood of acacia, which is growing everywhere around here. Mais is grain made from corn and also called millo in portugese.

The most common varieties of fish here are lobo, tuna, esmoregal, as well as seashells called caixinhas, which visually resemble mussels, but have a completely different taste, perhaps due to cooking style.

Another very traditional dish is Cachupa, which is served everywhere for breakfasts, lunch and dinners. This is a stew made from chickpeas, mais and meat. Very delicious!

I had a very tasty tuna fish soup in coconut milk made on open fire in Tereru di Kultura one of the days and I had to wait for quite long time until fishermen brought the fish, but that was so naturally and the fish was so fresh and tasty.

GOODS

Cape Verde produces some goods from sugar cane. Sugar cane is a crop, which is used for the production of sugar and spirit. It has never been popular in our part of the world as a sweetener, but it is quite widespread in the world and also around nowadays. The juice is so sweet and tasty and reminded me of a melon in fact.

Sugar cane is commonly used for the production of grogue and melasses. Grogue is Cape Verdean a national alcoholic beverage, made out of smashed and fermented sugar cane and usually is 42%. This drink is usually sold as a sweet liquor flavored by different fruits, berries and plants.

Cape Verde also produces its own sweet red wine and coffee. The goods produced in Cape Verde are mainly used by local. The populations is not big, almost 500,000 people in Cape Verde and even more people abroad. Most largest community based in Boston and reaches the number of people almost the same as in Cape Verde – 500,000.

You can buy a traditional cotton scarf as a souvenir, which is historical thing and been used as a local money many years ago for slaves trade. The exchange rate was 1 scarf worth 60 slaves. Today the price for 1 scarf is 10 eur.

There is a great and big food and second hand clothes market in the city.

CLIMATE

I have never been to Africa before and I used to travel to Asia to catch some sun and new adventures, and I probably have the Asian climate in my mind for comparison. The weather is very steady here all year round with rainy season in Sep-Oct. The temperature is around 25-30° at the day time and 18-20° at night. Comparing to Asia, humidity is very low and there are no insects, so you have a low risk of getting disease and you are safe to travel without vaccination.

The island is not very green and verdurous as Asia for example, but it has very beautiful mountains and green valleys with mango, papaya and cane trees, as well as very beautiful coastline along the road on the way back from Tarrafal. Climbing tours are very popular here and a lot of travel agencies offer many different routes.

This year was not productive for Cape Verde because of very short rainy season. The island is not so green and harvest was quite poor as well, but there are many other nice views to watch on the way traveling around the island.

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