Day 1 in Sal, Cape Verde

I wanted to go on a quick adventure and spend some time in the sun before my uni exams, so I booked a week in Sal, one of the islands of Cape Verde in West Africa, and my mum came along too. The flights were £380 return each from Thomas Cook, and I booked a studio flat from AirBnB which was about £150 total for the week (apparently 10 minutes walk away from the main area of town, the town being Santa Maria).

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(Just thought I would add in this picture from when we were landing…)

Part of the deal with this AirBnB flat was that their taxi driver would pick us up from the airport holding a sign with my name on it (I felt really important/posh to have someone holding up my name because it had never happened before!). For some reason I was expecting a middle aged smart looking man, but actually the guy holding up my name was about my age and looked like he’d just come from the beach. He took us out to the car park which had various official taxis in it, but instead of going into one of them, he opened the doors to a rusty old jeep! I didn’t mind at all but just found it quite funny.

The drive from the airport to Santa Maria was half an hour, and we basically passed nothing on the whole journey. It was as if the island had been hit by a giant bomb and still hadn’t been rebuilt. There was just dry, flat, empty land everywhere.

We reached the town… then went through it… then we were driving out of the town… then we drove off the road onto a big flat area of sandy dry soil…. then we pulled over next to a block of flats on this strange flat land… and then we were handed our bags and keys and the man drove off.

We had the impression that we were in the middle of nowhere and would never be able to find the town. This was the view from the balcony:

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As you can see, there weren’t even any street lights or anything nearby.

It was about 5pm by the time we’d sorted things out and then we decided to just try and find the way into town and get some food. It was really easy to get there because the town is basically made up of a grid of parallel roads. The road near the beach had some tourist restaurants, and a lot of souvenir shops with annoying Senegalese guys (they migrated there to make money from tourism apparently) trying to get you to have a look round their shops (which all sold the same things). We went a few streets back and unsurprisingly, the further back you go, the less tourists there are. I thought the Bar Di Nos looked cute, so we went there for some food and drink:

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As I expected, the man was a bit baffled when I said I was vegetarian (including no fish), so I asked if he could make something with rice and vegetables because I thought they’d have those things anyway. He said it was fine, and while we were waiting, I got a Cape Verdian beer (Estrela) and my mum tried some local rum:

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After about 45 minutes, my food came…

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They took the meaning of rice and vegetables very literally!! I found it quite funny, but it was fine because they gave me some home-made chilli sauce which made it taste nice.

We paid 1 euro for each of the drinks and 4 euros for the food. By the way, the currency is Cape Verde Escudos (CVE) and you can get it from the ATMs or you can just pay in euros and you get your change in CVE. The exchange rate in banks is 110 CVE to 1 euro, but if you pay in euros you’ll be paying 100 CVE to 1 euro.

We didn’t do anything else significant that day, except we somehow got lost on the way home so managed to do a tour of the whole town without meaning to. We went into a couple of the supermarkets which were mostly owned by Chinese people, and there wasn’t much choice in them, especially when it came to fresh fruit and vegetables. Normally you associate islands with greenery etc but because there’s basically no rain in Sal, they don’t grow anything. There were basic things available like apples, bananas, carrots, onions, tomatoes, peppers and garlic, but not that much other fruit/vegetables, and everything in the supermarkets was kind of expensive because it was all imported from quite far away countries. Also there was nothing wholemeal (like bread, pasta, rice).

When we walked home at about 9pm, the streets were quiet and it didn’t seem like there were any parties or anything going on. To be honest I was just happy that we managed to find our apartment in the dark!

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