Cape Verde is an extremely green country located on ten volcanic islands almost 600 km off the coast of Western Africa. This paradisical archipelago is a former Portuguese colony therefore the official language spoken by its citizens is Portuguese. Like in Guinea Bissau, people in Cape Verde developed their own language which is called Creole. In the matter of fact, the phenomenon of creating a new tongue, the so called “pidgin” (a simplified version of already existing language) can be spotted in many African countries. During our travel we had the chance to listen to the “pidgin English” used on daily bases by our Nigerian friends who we have met on the island.
It is necessary to mention that Nigerians represent a large number of Cape Verdean inhabitants. The islands became for many of them a stopover on their way to Europe or America. Most of Nigerians, as well as other Africans, move to the island in order to obtain the citizenship and legally leave the continent. The waiting period is over five years. For many of the immigrants this time is enough to open a new business and start a family. Not many decide to stay for good though.
During our stay we have met a few Nigerians; all of them were wonderful people and helped us a lot. Some of them were our couchsurfing hosts in Praia. They contacted friends in other parts of the island and made it possible for us to explore Santiago without worrying about a place to sleep.
We really loved the national dish called cachupa which we tried several times. It is a sort of a stew prepared mainly with corn but also beans and, rather rarely, vegetables such as carrots or sweet potatoes. It can be served with pork or fish which in both cases tastes just delicious. The other dish which surely imprinted on our memory was a fish served with fried banana. Sounds weird but looks and tastes amazing!
As we spontaneously decided to travel to Cape Verde, we had to obtain our visas in the nearest embassy which in our case was located in Dakar. Unfortunately the embassy worker had slightly different idea about documents required and the price than us. Even though there was no information about it what so ever, she demanded an invitation from Cape Verdean citizen and a flight ticket. Additionally she asked for nearly the double of the Visa fee which was mentioned in the internet. Like usual we made a big fuzz about this obviously ridiculous requirements but were helpless and decided to leave. Later on Ben contacted a German friend who temporally lives in Cape Verde to ask for his advice. Amused with our story he told us not to bother and just come over to the islands. We followed his tip and got our visas without any complications or questions asked at the airport. And surely it was almost half a price than the one in the embassy!
Bad luck didn’t leave us also while buying the flight tickets. Three times we were sent away and told that we can’t purchase a ticket to Cape Verde without buying a return ticket as well. We figured soon that this rule applies to Senegalese citizens only. The staff in none of the Senegal Airlines offices was aware of that. On our forth shot we decided to be more aggressive. We demanded calling their headquarters and supervisors to enlighten the situation. How surprised they were to learn we were right. Finally we got our tickets!
The tiny plane which we shared with 16 other people took two hours to take us to a true paradise on earth. Frankly speaking we loved everything about Cape Verde. From the very first moment people were very helpful and kind to us. We caught a ride within minutes with a man who didn’t even go the same way.
Unfortunately there were only few active local couchsurfers on the Santiago island. We spent a lovely time with one of them in Praia. Joao was great! He took us to a live music event and gave us a tour around the city. Cape Verde was nothing like other African countries we have seen before. Praia resembled very much a Portuguese city with its modern infrastructure, fancy restaurants and its tourists who are coming from all over the world.
The people on the island are beautiful and we don’t mean only their kind character but also their appearance and features. Most of the girls have afros decorated with flowers and barrettes, converted into braids or funny buns. Like men, they wear colourful clothes and smile often.
The music of the Islands is not limited only to the amazing Cesaria Evora. Obviously you can find many artists following her style, singing about longing and loss. But Cape Verdean music has also a second face, full of joy, happiness, with fast rhythm and vivid melody. To check it out and dance to it like a crazy chicken click here.
As we didn’t find any hosts except in Praia, we decided to go with the flow and explore the island without a specified plan. After leaving Praia we have visited most of the cities and towns asking for a place to sleep in churches.
We have visited the oldest settlement in Cape Verde called Cidade Velha. This place was also one of the first African slave markets. People were brought here from the African Continent, sold at the market square and sent with ships to Europe and the Americas.
Later on we visited Tarrafal, Marta’s favorite town on the island. We took a long night walk and visited the beach. Ben on the other hand liked Assomada more. Visiting this inland city we found ourselves in the middle of a music festival. It made our stay real fun.
Even though Cape Verdean cities are beautiful and cosy, nothing compares to the nature of the island. We took our time while hiking through the magnificent, green hills and mountains of Santiago. We climbed the highest (not that high though) mountain range of the island called Sierra Malagueta and couldn’t’ get enough of all the spectacular landscapes. Walking and hitchhiking from one village to another we followed cobbled roads and admired the breathtaking nature.
Every day we tried to reach the nearest town just before sunset. Then we would try to find the local church and a priest whom we asked for a place to sleep in a save spot. It always worked out for us. We spent the last days of our African journey wandering around without a specified destination wondering why we did not do that earlier. It was a real adventure and a true blast.
Our African journey came slowly but surely to an end. Happy to be back and sad to leave at the same time, we arrived at the cold Frankfurt airport. Heading to Poland for Christmas we put all our clothes on and hitchhiked through the freezing night. We crossed the border in a truck and finally reached home after 15 hours. After a good, long sleep in our own bed we officially began the Christmas celebration. Stuffed with all the delicious food we enjoyed our time with family and friends.