Early morning, arriving in the remote island archipelago of Cape Verde – a couple of days sailing from La Palma (Canary Islands) and the last land we were to see for nigh on six days before reaching South America.
It is increasingly difficult to believe I was there – late November – the rain and cold of a December in London are eroding the immediacy of it all a little. But then I remember the guide who took us on an old school bus around the island, from Mindelo – unfailingly cheerful and hopeful (which is a thing, here in such a remote – truly isolated – island nation) – and the sun and wind from up on the mountain side, looking down to the harbour where Minvera was docked.
And I remember the cobbled roads, which make for a loud percussion as you drive along. Almost all the roads are laid with hand-hewn cobble sets, millions of them, mostly dating to the 1950’s, and in remarkably good repair. Those roads which are ‘tarmac’d’ tend to last just a few short years (the climate is mostly very hot and dry), whereas it is easy to make piecemeal repairs on the cobbled routes. The tyres on your car are however, likely to last no more than six months!
There are ten islands in all – grouped into the Westward and the Eastward isles – and all are different. We toured out from Mindelo, the main town on one of the more recently settled islands. Cape Verde is a relatively new Nation, a democracy only a couple of decades (formerly a Portuguese colony). There are problems (the rains have failed again this year, agriculture is limited, unemployment is high, it is very remote, natural resources are limited) but in comparison to many African economies, it is doing quite well. Education and literacy rates are high. Inward investment is quite promising and there remain close ties with Portugal. Tourism is increasing both from cruise ships and from resorts offering pristine waters and reliably good weather.
Fish are abundant in the surrounding waters though there are pressures which may give rise to future difficulties (especially if dredging is allowed, or a blind eye turned to shark fishing…)
From early European (English and Portuguese) and African (slavery) populations to more recent immigration (there is a burgeoning Chinese community) it is a very multicultural society, a real Creole melting pot. My travel companion had been here ten years ago and Mindelo was hardly recognisable, so something must be happening!
Here are a few photos…
A recent article from The Telegraph