Wednesday, April 30, 2014


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3rd Leg Completed!

BA lounge, robot cappuccino, Schweppes Bitter Lemon, biscuits, savory dishes, view of planes.

Yesterday in Lisbon was a good transition day--insane numbers of people, but the native language was still Portuguese. We stayed in a mod hotel in Baixa, close to the train, the center of town, restaurants, and two tile stores that we visited.

We took the train to Cascaís, the end of the line, to do some recon for Mom and Marsh, who are going to be staying there for several weeks at the end the summer (they'll love it; I'm not sure they'll come back), stopping in Belém for our breakfast pastéis, and eating lunch (the plate of the day, which included green pea soup, delicious braised pork loin, and a miniature mousse) on a romantic arched balcony overlooking the beach in the small cove.

We were dizzy and goofy with exhaustion by this time, and back at our hotel found that our room was ready and our bags had been carried up for us. I was particularly grateful for this because they are quite heavy (lots of grogue), and utterly filthy. I hadn't realized what vagrants we looked like until we had hauled ourselves into the dim, tony interior of the hotel lobby that morning. We laughed with the tiny young woman behind the desk about moving our belongings--the hotel is not large, and does not seem have a cart. Our room did end up being the absolute closest one to the elevator, however ;-).

After coma-like naps, we hauled ourselves back out into the teeming rush-hour streets of Lisbon to shop for tiles for our upcoming Orcas home, thus transitioning a little more into real life. We didn't buy any, but we chose an option we like a lot, and I'll buy the appropriate number when I go to visit Mom and Marsh in September.

We ate dinner--choriço grilled in a clay brazier over an exuberant grain-alcohol flame; olives; grilled goat-cheese sandwiches drizzled with honey; open-faced prosciutto (it was a very porky day) and cheese toasts; and cold draught beer served in terra cotta tumblers beaded with condensation--sitting in an open window on a narrow street near our hotel. It was a lot of salt, meat, and cheese, and it was delicious.

Glasses of port back in the hotel finished us for the night. We slept, arose, and got back on a plane.

Next stop: HOME.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

NOW We Have Completed Our Second Leg

Pastéis de Belém for breakfast! Crispy, creamy, perfectly not too sweet, and still warm from the oven, since 1837! Yum!

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Monday, April 28, 2014


We've been here is Sal enough hours, and played enough cribbage, and drunk enough ponche, and stayed up long enough past our bedtimes, that, when I took this picture, I thought we'd completed another leg of our journey. We have not. It's going to be a long road home.

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On Our Way

First leg of our journey: CHECK.

We have landed in Sal, eaten some sandwiches, and I'm about to have a meia de leite, and Ian is deciding between grogue and a coffee himself. I would fall asleep with a grogue, and I need to save that for our next flight, on TAP to Lisbon, leaving at midnight.


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Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Rest of the Last Hike

Today was a classic Cabo Verde day through and through. We began, as you know, by hiking up a tall, steep, hot, dry, and dusty mountainside--with Ian in his optimistic role of believing we were almost to the top from less than halfway up, and me (the realist) knowing we were somewhere not yet at the top, and likely far from it, but refusing to make any statements other than yes, indeed, I thought we should ration our water.

We ate our yogurts at 2000 feet where we stopped to calm our hammering hearts and take a picture, then continued to climb up maybe another 200 feet over the next several minutes, to where we came over the saddle between peaks into a broad, high plain, with an asphalt road winding gently down to Tarrafal on the coast.

Soon after entering the plain, drenched in sweat, I realized that I was hovering on the edge of a heat-related crisis. I began to feel dizzy, and I had a teeny hint of a headache. We paused near a low stone walk and I sat down and poured about a tablespoon of water into the crown of my hat to start cooling my head, and shrugged off my day pack so the breeze could begin to dry my back. Ian went off down the gentle slope and into one of the few buildings across the road, several hundred feet away, and I worked on chilling out.

We had attempted to hike a circuit of Monte Gordo, São Nicolau's highest peak and most vaunted "must do" hike, which includes a national park with various solicitously cared-for trees, and views of other islands on clear days, but we could not find a single aluguer to take us in that direction, because everyone on the island was going to a huge festa in a town just behind Vila (and up about 1000 feet), which was in the opposite direction. To go on foot would mean repeating our first crushing hike up the ribeira, which was not going to happen.

After about an hour of waiting for a ride and asking various drivers to take us, we decided instead to complete the remaining 2/3 of our attempt from yesterday, which involved our hike up to the plain, a short traverse across the high, yellow fields, and then a steep descent down into the valley where the festa was going on, celebrating the last day of the week-long post-Easter celebrations. The calendar for today included some sort of horse event scheduled for 3 pm, followed by a bike race and a foot race from the airstrip to the village (maybe 5K), and then some boxing. We thought we could make it in time for the horse event, and then walk home (our familiar trip down the same road as yesterday's 1/3 of the hike), ready to flag down an aluguer if one was heading back to Vila.

At my recovery on the high plateau, Ian soon returned with cold Sprites. As we were drinking them and appreciating the pastoral views of distant cows and goats, an aluguer stopped on the road near us. I heard a voice say "touristas!", and then about a half dozen young men, dressed to the nines in fancy colored pants, their hair slicked back, joking and pushing each other around--clearly in high spirits--asked the way to the festa. We laughed with them and pointed to the track over the saddle that we were going to take ourselves, and off they hurried into the sere wilderness. Only in Cabo Verde is that how you get to a party.

We arrived at the festa on rubbery legs after a decline as steep as our climb had been, and began to ask around for the horses. No one really seemed to know, making vague gestures and indicating vague times. We wandered, looking for the food area, or the bar area, or the toilet area, and eventually found a bar with a bit of shade under a thorn tree, and the only other white people around. They were French but spoke English and Portuguese well, and like us, were completely baffled by what was happening, and where, and when, but then we realized that no one seemed to know.

We had some beverages out under the tree and shared stories (they were 4 months into a 5-month trip to mostly Lusophone countries), then Ian and the woman went in to return bottles and ask for food, as she had heard that traditional stew was going to be available. The bar owner told her that his wife had made some stew for the day, and a guy at the bar was sent to lead us to the owner's house, where lots of people were coming and going, and the wife pulled out bowls and spoons and served us large portions of goat cooked with green banana, cassava and potato, and would accept nothing in return.

Leaving the French couple back at the bar, Ian and I eventually found the horse event, which consisted solely of 8 horses being ridden back and forth, and around, the local soccer field at varying velocities of gallop. Not racing, just running back and forth.

After the riding demonstration, the riders all went back up the street toward what came to be clear was the "center" of festivities, with a giant speaker blaring Kriolu pop music. People milling in the street were suddenly cleared away and a red and black striped plastic ribbon was hurriedly held across the road, and moments later the winner of the bicycle race broke through. About 30 seconds after that, the second and only other cyclist, the loser, crossed the line, and the street filled again. We never saw a runner.

We took our leave of our French friends, who wanted to stay for the boxing, and began walking back toward Vila da Ribeira Brava and home, pausing at the edge of town to buy, for about 7 cents, two more frozen plastic baggie fresquihas, these of a tart and delicious tamarind juice.

We flagged down a pick-up aluguer at the top of the steep and winding descent back into town, and rode home in cooling, breezy style on benches in the bed.

There is no place even remotely like this, anywhere else on earth. I recommend Cabo Verde to everyone, and I hope you all stay away :-)

Tomorrow afternoon back to Sal, then the red eye to Lisbon, a day there, and back in Seattle Wednesday night. What a trip!!!

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Last Day's Hike

Not easy. We started at the far end of that town, near sea level. We're at 2000 feet, not quite to the peak of our first hill. We are definitely getting our money's worth!

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Purely Positive

I've been a bit of a griper in the last couple posts so here, on our penultimate night, I wanted to make another list of pure delights. There have been MANY.

In no particular order (because I've had a beer and some ponche and can't be bothered to line things up):

Yesterday we hired a driver to take us to Juncalinho (note my name hiding in the middle), the last town one can drive to along the peninsula that strings out east from Vila. São Nicolau looks to me very much like a miniature version of Africa, with a long peninsula appended where Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia are.

This man was the son-in-law of Dona Valentina who runs our current pensão, and his wife, her daughter, has opened a bar, shop, restaurant, and pensão in Juncalinho. As this multipart establishment is the only establishment in Juncalinho, this was a good connection to make.

There is really only one attraction in Juncalinho, which is a natural ocean pool (lagoa) formed in the ancient lava flow--a clear turquoise jewel, and a magical place to swim when the sea is calm. The sea was NOT calm, with irregular and massive waves boiling and crashing into the lagoa. Instead of risking having our lives dashed out of us, we climbed over lava rocks to look into another magical (and treacherous) pool, and we saw TWO JUVENILE OCTOPI in a crystalline cleft in the rocks, who were apparently just as interested in us as we were in them. They never crawled completely out of the water, but very close!

Lunch, ordered by Dona Valentina and cooked and served by her daughter, was a beautiful and delicious experience with brightly-colored grouper and SALAD (which can be hard to find on São Nicolau), amongst other things.

The husband and driver also manages the road-building crew, so we got to have first-hand views of the repair work being done in multiple places along the Vila-Juncalinho coast road, since the torrential rains of 2009 washed it out. I didn't get a picture of it, but in one place, about 20 men, doing the back-breaking work we traditionally allocate to chain gangs, were accompanied by at least as many social and curious goats.

Tonight we supped at the modest-appearing Bar Belinda, where we've become regulars. Belinda is a sweet young woman who seems to have free WiFi, allows charging of devices, has a flat screen TV that is tuned to patrons' tastes (there's been an American crime drama, sports, and tonight Portuguese-language music videos), and feeds various single elderly men, all of whom treat her like a daughter. Her food (two options per night, served with rice and salad(!) and some sort of potato) is the best version of its kind, and last night and tonight we had some sort of slow-cooked pork, which was the most delicious I've ever had.

In addition to mouth-watering food and a friendly atmosphere, tonight watching the music videos were a young man and woman, and when a particular video came on, they sat up and took notice. We were sitting in the courtyard and didn't have a clear view of the TV, but I noted their interest and suggested to Ian that maybe they knew the singer. "She looks a lot like that singer," said Ian, who had a clearer view. I craned my neck, and sure enough, she did!

After the song ended I stood up and went into the dining room. "Com licensa," I asked "mas, é vocé???"

"Estou!", she replied, and there followed delighted praise and equally delighted acknowledgement. It was Paulinha, a Cabo Verdean from the capital, who is a huge name in the Lusophone music world. She's on São Nicolau for a big concert tonight, and invited us to come to the show. As it was already 8 pm and they were just heading off to do a sound check in the next village over, and we are old fogeys, we decided to simply support her by buying her CD when we get home.

We've been playing a lot of cribbage the last few days, and discussing the statistics of cards (there are essentially infinite possibilities for how a 52-card deck can be shuffled, for instance), including how likely it is to get a flush in the crib, where all four cards plus the turned over card have to be the same suit. In our hundreds of games and multiple years and several continents, we'd only ever seen it happen once, for Ian, somewhere in Greece. Anyway, last night as I was choosing which cards to put in Ian's crib, I noticed that I was going to give him two of the same suit (I rarely pay attention this, but for some reason I had last night). I decided that the thrill of seeing him get a flush in the crib would be enough to make up for losing the hand, but in the event, he didn't get the flush. But in the next hand, I DID. We laughed a lot about this, and the serendipity of the Universe offering something just because it's funny. This afternoon before dinner we were playing again, AND I GOT ANOTHER FLUSH IN THE CRIB. We laughed very much (Ian won both games).

We went for a hike today, yesterday's ice pack (Ziploc freezer bag from home and handy in-room tiny fridge's freezer box), and much mental cajoling, convincing my ankle that it could make it for two more days. It was hot, and dusty, and steep, and delightful. We had chosen a three-part circular track with various exit points, and agreed, drinking in the cooling breeze on a high ridge line, that completing the first part was exactly right.

We have finally found the right mini market, out of the great number of them in town (most carrying only washing up liquid and bland, European biscuits), and had a delicious lunch of fresh goat cheese, fresh tomato, fresh pear, and ham-flavored Ruffles, followed by a succulent, nutty coconut treat; the proto-Brachs Neapolitan Candy. Chock full of delicious!

Also--kids hamming for the camera! Dogoyles leering down from rooftop decks! Goats galore! Speeding down a cobbled road in the back of an open pick-up! Veritable gourmet meal of soup, the best-cooked tuna in Cabo Verde (i.e. NOT well-done), wine, and a chilled coconut custard, on the edge of dirty, gritty, port-town Tarrafal! Outrageous, alien landscapes!

And one of the best: after a long day of truly satisfying physical, mental, and social exertion: leaning out our window, in our best Cabo Verdean style, and watching the world go by :-).

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Things Fall Apart

A seminal novel by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe; also, what happens to even moderately UNsedentary, youngish middle-aged Americans, when they decide to take a hiking vacation in a tropical mountain range.

Here is my list of woes:

My right ankle is sore and no longer bending in all the ways an ankle should bend, which, for our last two days here, is seriously limiting the hikes we can do, which in turn is causing me emotional distress.

I am no longer so nimble as I used to be anyway, and my super awesome camera has been not only an amazing tool for capturing a sense of this place, but also a millstone around my neck. I've been carrying an extra several pounds of delicate equipment, care for which has cut my already depleted nimbleness, and whose weight, I'm sure, has contributed to my ankle problems.

I also have some healing blisters, and interesting calluses on the soles of my feet.

I have a warty growth on many of my fingers; a condition inherited from Ian which flares up in hotter climates. At least he has this, too.

I have a sunburn on my lips, or an allergic reaction to my sunscreen lip balm, or some combination of the two, which is painful and also unattractive.

AND, we only have two days left before we begin the multi-day journey home. This last complaint is a bit like the old saw about airplane food--it's bad, and there's not enough of it--but it's true. At home waits doctors, and jobs, and responsibilities, and living in a city with a human population the size of all of Cabo Verde--but none of the goats, which is a sad lack.

I don't think there's anywhere in the world that we have felt so safe, including at home. We can leave our windows open, passports and lots of cash out in our rooms, or carried--anywhere at any time--at no risk to ourselves or our belongings. People are helpful if you ask (leaving what they're doing to show you what they mean), and leave you alone if you don't. Ian was welcomed into a local bar to watch a football match the other night, with warmth and comradeship.

There is not a lot here, and most of it is hard come-by, and all of it is not just generously shared, but often proudly and delightedly so. Cabo Verdeans love that we love it here.

But it's a hard life here--miles and miles of cobblestone roads are built and repaired by hand, in dusty, and steep, and often blazing hot conditions. The rainy season is torrential and two months long, washing out roads, causing major rock slides, and isolating many villages reached by traveling up the normally dry riverbeds (the ribeiras). Food is grown on steep, narrow terraces, with carefully administered water (because there is no rain during the other ten months), using no technology more advanced than donkeys; or caught in the ocean using biblical methods--nets and lines, and 16-foot open, handmade boats. The people here are tough; some of the toughest on earth.

But the compensations are your family, and your friends, and your community, and your surroundings. Evenings in the squares, festas, camaraderie, trust, companionship, and a palpable regard for the equality and sanctity of human life.

My dream, until I can return and bask (strenuously) in this place again, is to figure out a way to share some of Cabo Verde with the rest of my world.

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Thursday, April 24, 2014


I happened to take this dogoyle picture with my cell phone, which means it is already a reasonable size to post to my blog via email. But this is not, actually, all that unusual of a pose for dogs here, and I have a plan to make a mini-album of them when I get home and have computer access again. Dogs are funny.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Lunch on the Atlantic

Yogurt cups (the most reliable, transportable form of protein we've found on São Nicolau), fresh bread, raw almonds, bottled water; wind, rock, sea, sky.

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Third album, and still a bare fraction of...

Calin Taylor shared an album with you.
Third album, and still a bare fraction of the shots ;-). This includes pics from our long coastal walk, Ponta do Sol, and the day of many pearls.

Our plan is to actually make up a short(ish) slideshow of the best pics, and have everyone over for a viewing on the big screen when we get home. Enjoy!
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Bark Bark! Cock-a-Doodle-Do!

Ribeira Brava is home to numerous dogs and roosters--at 4:47 this morning, about a billion of them.

I've been enjoying crowing at the roosters as we walk to and fro through town, watching their various reactions. A couple have ignored me, but most have glared indignantly about them and, with a sharp BOK, marshalled their scratching hens (usually two or three wives) into an alarmed, clucking group, scurrying around not unlike chickens with their heads cut off. Live, intact chickens are not necessarily smart, although they clearly speak to each other.

I learned to crow by listening to my mother, who sounds so authentically rooster that she was attacked by one she crowed at when she was in the Peace Corps in Brazil. None have yet attacked me, but at least one turned an angry yellow eye on us and huffled menacingly in our direction. We hurried away.

Ribeira Brava, like most towns we've been in here in Cabo Verde, is stone and/or cement block and plaster, and in this case, built in a steep valley of basalt with cobbled stone streets and sparse vegetation; so, essentially, a massive echo chamber.

I assume that half the dogs and roosters we hear in the night are actually echoes. I assume this in part because I've experienced, first hand, a dog getting in a shouting match with his echo: Hoover, on Orcas, used to get into a vicious circle with the dog across the valley. We had to try various distractions to get him to stop barking long enough for his opponent to give up.

But actually a billion dogs and roosters, or just half that number and their echoes, is pretty immaterial in the middle of the night.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Spectacularly Unmet Expectations

For our first night back in Mindelo, Easter Eve, the day of gut-troubling curvy roads and high seas, Ian found us a place to eat that was listed in one of our guide books.

When we travel these epic journeys, the division of labor is generally 95%-5% me at home: planning, reserving, packing all but Ian's clothes, canceling mail and papers, and generally adding High-End Travel Agent to my unconventional list of jobs. Once we're at our destination, however, the proportion flips, with Ian coming into his own on the ground: scouring guide books, maps, and local papers, and taking over the bulk of purchase interactions ("You can be the man," I say).

It works for us, and appeals to both our strengths and the amount of flexible time we respectively have. We trust each other, and have largely commensurate tastes and interests.

I wasn't so sure about trusting Ian last Saturday night, however.

He had read about a restaurant called "Tapas" in Mindelo, not far from our inn, up from the port and the center of town. Guide books for Cabo Verde leave something to be desired; streets on maps are often wrong to varying degrees, and points of interest are poorly noted, or not noted at all. In the case of Tapas, we decided to take an exploratory trek to locate it before dark, and see if we could suss out whether or not it would even be open.

We wandered in what we thought was the vicinity for several minutes, and finally got close enough that a young man working in a nearby pharmacy was able to step away from work and point it out to us . . . an unassuming storefront on the bottom floor of a building fronting a wide, gritty, wind-blown and trashy vacant lot. There was little sign of activity, except for a partially open door.


As we were readying ourselves for dinner that evening, after an episode of mild, ambiguous anxiety for me and coma-like afternoon sleeps for both of us, I thought about how I might play my cards to get out of walking through the windy night and that now dark vacant lot.

I could come up with nothing legitimate (even after a week and a half here my first impression of Cabo Verdeans being scrupulously honest and trustworthy holds), AND I AM SO GLAD.

The meal we had at Tapas was, by any reckoning, one of the best meals I have eaten in any restaurant, anywhere. The interior was an oasis of quiet charm, with soft lighting and quietly stylish wood accents. We ate a mix of dishes, each the pinnacle of its type: a fresh tomato salad with onion and olives; linguiça in a spicy tomato sauce; thinly-sliced tuna carpaccio; crisp and buttery garlic bread; breaded and fried local goat cheese with honey; and followed by a divine fried banana with a brown-butter syrup and two little balls of housemade vanilla ice cream.

We were as enchanted with this meal as we were with our first glimpse of Fontainhas (well, almost). Every bit of it was the most delicious it could possibly be.

We stopped outside to take a picture of the incongruity--this savory oasis in a sea of blowing sand--and as we were ruminating on our pleasure, we began to notice a high-pitched whine in the air, which all at once became piercing, and a strong gust of wind whirled the sands of the vacant lot into a shrieking vortex and flung it into our faces. We ran, heads bowed, and when we paused to look back, Tapas had vanished into the swirling cloud, and scudding trash was all that was left.

(no, not really, but it was a magical meal.)

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We're at the airport on Sal, sitting in a cool and gently breezy cafe on the sparsely populated second floor of the terminal. We just had tasty tuna salad sandwiches, and Ian is just leaving to meander around the modest shops, in search of a magazine, or maybe a newspaper, or maybe a book, or maybe some other mild entertainment yet unknown.

We seem to have lost our drive for travel, which is not a bad thing. So far in this trip we have accomplished every goal we knew had, with the exception of actually setting foot on São Nicolau, which we'll do after our short flight from Sal in a couple hours.

We are relaxed, comfortable, unhurried. We have no expectations or hopes or needs for the last leg of our trip, so we're free to experience events as they unfold.

It's an exceedingly restful place to be.

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Sunday, April 20, 2014


Mindelo seems to be solidly behind Lisbon's Benfica football club, which has just won its league championship two games before the scheduled season ender, simply because they have accrued so many more points than the next two teams, including defending champions Porto.

I don't really know what this means in the sporting world, but in the world of Mindelo on Easter evening, it means finding any red shirt you have, pulling out your Benfica fan gear, and either rushing on foot in a river of exultant, screaming humanity, or driving, horn blaring and echoing through the amphitheatrically arranged streets, down to Praça Nova, to join the parade of revelling fans.

We were briefly a part of this exuberance, having a need to visit an ATM at Praça Nova, and Ian captured a shot of the exuberance from the safety of the ATM enclosure. We retreated back up the hill to the (relative) quiet of our lodging, with me periodically raising my arms over my head and shouting "BENFICA!", which seemed to go over well (and was probably a better choice than plugging my ears against the painful blaring of increasing numbers of car horns).

So far, the revelling seems to be avoiding the metamorphosis into rioting, and many police were on hand.

Sports fans: enthusiasts the world over. I don't really get it, myself. Screaming crowds? Run away!!!

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

On the Road Again

We've just been deposited at the ferry terminal in Porto Novo, about an hour before our boat leaves to take us back to Mindelo. I'm not at my best this morning, as my body seems to think I had an infusion two days ago (amazing how biorhythms develop), and so I'm more tired than one would expect, and more prone to nausea and, clearly, migraines.

Anyway, the early morning, the bolted bread and cheese, and the long, winding coast road have not been my friends so far today--and the strait that the ferry will cross is WINDY today, but Ian bought me a little latte at the ferry cafe, the loo in the fancy new terminal is clean and functional, and physical things are looking up and settling down.

We were able to pay our bill yesterday afternoon, and it was quite reasonable--a little under $250 for the week, including the room and the expertly done laundry. We chatted with the marido for a few minutes, who was sitting outside on the sidewalk next to a young man from town, talking about religious things (Easter is in air), and I was able to say in Portuguese, quite earnestly (although I would've used a different word if I'd had the time or the language for a philosophical conversation about faith) that Santo Antão makes it clear that God is good. The marido complimented me on my Portuguese, saying that most Americans don't know any, and my accent is good (which I think is true for the scant few words I know).

Dedei herself, this morning as we were leaving, said "Beijinhos!" and pulled me to her for kisses on each cheek.

Ah, Santo Antão. Já tenho saudades para você!

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Day of Rest

Yesterday Ian and I hired a van to take us about an hour through the hinterlands and deposit us back on the coast, at a town called Cruzinhas, the other end point for the northwest coast trail which passes through Fontainhas and back to Ponta do Sol.
We blithely assumed, based on our guide book, that we would have a longish but relatively gentle and level stroll. It was suggested that we begin the 4 1/2 hour trek in Ponta do Sol, as the steeps in the 1/3 of the trail leading to Fontainhas and Corvo, the following village (and familiar from our 2010 trip), were much more extreme than the ones in the 2/3 of the trail from the Cruzinhas end, which were described as "undulations". It was suggested we hit the steeps first when we were fresh and energetic. As we are staying in Ponta do Sol, however, we wanted to stick our feet directly into cool water in our teeny tub at the end of the day; not try to negotiate multi-leg, sparse, and unpredictable transit back home.

The walk set out in the guide book included Chã da Igreja, a small, picturesque village with a lovely steepled church, up on a plateau above the ribeira that ends at Cruzinhas. We passed through Chã da Igreja in the van, however, cutting a couple kilometers and some elevation off the distance we'd be walking. From Cruzinhas we could actually see Ponta do Sol, which made it seem quite close.

It was windy yesterday at 11:30 when we began walking, and the landscape near Cruzinhas is quite different from the Ponta do Sol end, with sand and scrubland and a very "Wild West" feeling, as Ian put it. One expected to see tumbleweeds, but what we of course saw instead was a well-maintained dirt soccer pitch.

For our first 40 minutes or so in this desert, it felt like Exfoliation Alley. At one particularly sand-blasty point early on, where fine black grit was blowing sizeable drifts across the rising cobbled trail, I pulled off my hat to protect my camera, and tied the extra headscarf I'd brought tightly around my nose and mouth, squinting to keep gritty eyes at a minimum. Fun!

We quickly discovered that "undulations" has a different definition from what we thought. To my mind, "undulations" refers to something no more extreme that the rolling hills of the Palouse in Eastern Washington at the outside, albeit stonier in this application. What "undulations" actually meant in this application was "regular, steep losses and gains in elevation, from sea level to several hundred feet above, along a mostly cobbled, but occasionally collapsed, narrow trail clinging to mountainsides, above precipitous drops to wave-battered boulders below. For about five miles, before it really gets hard for the last two."

We had brought along fresh cheese and delicious, chewy rolls, lots of water and some electrolyte pellets, a couple granola bars, and a couple pieces of fruit, and when we reached what at first appeared to be the only completely abandoned settlement we've seen here, noted as Chã de Mar on the map, we wedged ourselves into a sliver of shade next to a roofless stone house and enjoyed a delightful meal on a plain above the crashing sea. Up the ribeira from the five stone structures, however, was an ant-sized man tilling a green terrace under a small cement-block structure, and a couple minute tethered goats sending occasional bleats drifting down toward the shore.

The map shows a dotted line between Chã de Mar and a settlement we'd driven by on our way to Cruzinhas, up the ribeira and over a narrow, high saddle between soaring peaks--so, no easy way to any civilization in any direction--meaning, everything you use that is not rock must be carried in, either by hand or, if you're lucky, by donkey. Later in the afternoon, at the third village past Ponto do Sol, and the second past where the drivable "road" ends in Fontainhas, we saw two tween girls each carrying a 24-pack of soda into their home village (one balancing her cardboard flat of cans on her head and chattering away on her cell phone). The village, Formiguinhas, was probably 3 kilometres and several hundred feet of elevation gain and loss from Fontainhas. I am continually awed by where Cabo Verdeans stake their claims.

We eventually made it to Corvo and had cold Sprites and, in Ian's case, a shot of grogue, then struggled our way up the last steep pinnacle and over to Fontainhas, and then dragged our sore, stinking bodies and bedraggled feet back home just after the sun sank into the sea. Granted, I had paused to take about 600 pictures, but still--we were on that trail for more than 7 hours.

A mild and serendipitous migraine this morning (mine), and sunburned  calves (Ian) convinced us that today would be best spent lounging on our bed in our cool, breezy room, revelling in our complete lack of responsibilities.

Besides, we know we'll be back here someday.

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Please, Take Our Money!

We leave Santo Antão tomorrow morning on the 10:00 am ferry back to Mindelo, which means we will be picked up at 7:30 by an aluguer, to take us around the new coast road to our departure point in Porto Novo.

Because of the vagaries of my communications over the telephone making reservations, from back at home in Seattle, I have no idea what the charge is for our stay. I don't know the typical charge for one day. I don't know if there's a discount for staying a whole week, or if they'll offer us a discount for our various discomforts. We had two loads of laundry beautifully done, and I have no idea what that costs, either.

Our interaction with our hosts has been almost exclusively at breakfast at 9:00 am (which seems to be hours later than the other guests who have come and gone while we've been here), and almost exclusively with Dedei herself, who is a sweet old lady who speaks no English, and whose husband seems to be entirely in charge of financial matters. For days I have been exhausting my knowledge of financial Portuguese, attempting to chisel out of Dedei some idea of how much we need to pay them tomorrow before we leave, early in the morning. For days she has put us off, saying that her marido will let us know in the morning. Yesterday morning a grandson brought us a guest book in which to record our names, which seemed promising for a final reckoning this morning.

We have been getting all of our cash out of ATMs, and as there are limits to what one can withdraw in a day, we are anxious to have enough to pay our bill. "Talvez precisamos dineiro da machina (maybe we need money from the machine)," I tried this morning, as the factura from the marido did not materialize, in an attempt to clarify the urgency of our need to know, but to no avail. Later, later, said Dedei, but how were the clothes?

The clothes were great. She smiled broadly. We left, mystified.

Only about 1% of me believes that, because of the hassles, we'll be charged nothing for our room, so at the moment we are in limbo: what will we pay, and how, and when???

one-fingered on my phone

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Two More Pearls

I forgot two notable encounters from our delightful hike yesterday, which I will recount here now, but first, even though a couple mornings have begun poorly, the days have only shot up into the stratosphere of awesomeness as time has counted on. Today was no exception, but today's awesomeness cannot be confined to pearlescent anecdotes, even large, exotic, Tahitian pearls. Today's awesomeness was more along the lines of the Dom Pedro Aquamarine, and will need to be digested (mixed metaphor) before I can give it its full due.

But from yesterday:

As we arrived in Vila das Pombas yesterday, we saw two young adults riding horses along the edge of the narrow, cobbled, shoreline road. The young man was clearly Cabo Verdean, but the young woman looked European, and I assumed she was a tourist on a guided ride. Later, as we were making our way up the ribeira, we saw the riders again. The young man was still in front, but both were appropriately attired, English-style, with tall boots (although helmet-less) and the horses had English tack. We said hello as they passed and I held up my camera and asked "Posso?" The young man smiled and nodded, then gestured to Shadow on my ankle and asked in return, laughing, "You like horses?" Two notable things: he recognized a horse tattooed on my ankle from several meters away across the street, and he spoke to me in English, not French, as is almost universal here. Shadow, you now have an international reputation! (later, we saw the young woman untacking and cleaning her horse, in a narrow garage on a mountainside, clearly comfortable. Mysterious!)

Later, as we were heading down the narrow thoroughfare, an elderly man stopped us and asked Ian, jokingly, for his hat. The elderly man proceeded to doff his own light-colored baseball cap, revealing a balding pate. "Não, não," I replied, "ele precise!" I pulled off Ian's hat to demonstrate his own balding pate, and how he needed his hat, young though he is. The man nodded, but then, still laughing, pointed to my own hat. "Não!" I said again. "Preciso também!" I pulled off my own hat, and showed him, laughing myself, my own balding pate. We all laughed at that, and shaking his head, the man continued on his way, clearly bested.

Only two more days here, but we've heard that São Nicolau, where we spend our next full week, is Santo Antão's sibling amongst the islands, so we're thinking we'll enjoy it.

one-fingered on my phone

Rude Awakening

At 10 to 7 this morning we were jolted awake by someone trying to get through our outer door, the one that opens onto the balcony around the central courtyard, and behind which is a short hallway to our room and our bathroom (both windowed doors), plus two locked windowless doors. We both cried out, and Ian, who is closer to our bedroom door, was able to look out into our private hall in time to see a European man unlocking one of the windowless doors and going in.

Upon our return last night we had noticed a light on under that door, and our outer door had not been deadbolted, just pulled closed with the primary lock. The door to our own bedroom was not closed, but it was only ajar instead of wide open. We assumed the cleaner had left the doors that way.

It would appear that our hallway is not, in fact, exclusively ours. What we don't know yet is if our bathroom is. We haven't seen any signs of anyone else using it, but then again, signs would be hard to spot.

We have spread our belongings all over the bathroom. Every afternoon when we return home from our hikes, I've been taking off my bottoms and sitting on the little seat in the little tub, soaking my feet for 20 or 30 minutes, then finishing with a shower, all with the bathroom door open, and our room door open as well.

We sleep in the buff, and we've been wandering at will.

I know that this is all simply a misunderstanding, and that it will be worked out. We weren't supposed to be in this room; we were supposed to be in the one with the faulty shower. There were no mysterious locked doors in that hallway. And Ian managed to catch the man as he left soon after waking us, and the man spoke little English, but was able to tell Ian that he is here just two nights so tomorrow he'll be gone--but I'm sure all his prejudices about Americans being rude and entitled (the yelling, the deadbolting of the common door, the complete colonization of the shared bathroom) have been strongly bolstered by this experience.

Ah, travel.

Yes, the stranger is staying just one more night. No, he is not sharing the bathroom. There is a separate, small loo out on the balcony over the courtyard. His room is likewise quite small, and would presumably usually be used for a child, in a family traveling together. The residencial is utterly full tonight. We can live with this.

one-fingered on my phone

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Best Laid Plans . . .

. . . don't belong anywhere on vacation.

If you expect a postcard from us and don't receive one, don't blame the Cabo Verdean postal service.

We set out today for a destination a couple towns down the coast road, intending to have an easy day of it after our physical and emotional exertions on top of the island yesterday*, with postcard writing and sitting in a seaside cafe on the agenda, and maybe a gentle stroll up the greenest ribeira on the island, Ribeira de Paúl. It's the only valley with a small river that runs year round, and it's lushly verdant, with innumerable terraces of sugarcane, sweet potato, cassava, beans and legumes of all kinds, banana, papaya, mango, breadfruit, coffee, corn, lettuces, and in one case, cabbages the size of the twirly teacups at Disneyland. Goats, pigs, and cows are pastured/penned all over,  including up into the clouds, and chickens are everywhere, cluckingly debating whether to cross the road.

On arrival in Vila das Pombas at the base of Paúl, we stopped at the seaside cafe for water and a use of the loo, then somehow found ourselves, after a number of both individual and interactional miscommunications, hiking (not unhappily) up a steep ribeirinha off to the side of Paúl, and into exotic farm country.

This is the kind of spontaneity that one can dive into when one has more than a couple days in a place, and we were richly rewarded for following whimsy.

Roughly in order, here are some of the pearls we found:

Little baggies, filled with half-cup-sized orange- or pink-colored sweet "juice" and frozen, sold out of a tiny mercearia found just after we'd turned off the main road. Diarrhea waiting to happen I'm sure, but we tore open the end opposite the knot with our teeth, and proceeded to suck and chew the delightfully frozen treat with the Cabo Verdeans around us (we did not discard our empty baggies on the track).

An exchange of greetings, usually Portuguese but occasionally French, with virtually every adult we encountered, and many of the kids.

Directions successfully asked, given, and followed, that allowed us to cut our potential trail by several hundred feet of elevation, and hours of leg-to-stub-grinding trekking. We have yet to correctly associate the scale of the map with the scale of our abilities, at least from the start.

Finding that the footpath we changed to was exactly the kind of rarely-used, narrow-but-safe track I had been hoping for with the dizzying heights above Fontainhas.

Discovering below us, as we crossed the saddle between peaks on our path, the field of giant cabbage, and soon after finding that this path was, in fact, a shortcut thoroughfare for folks returning home from work or school at the end the day.

Having two young girls chewing sugarcane come upon us as we ate a late-afternoon snack of peanut M&Ms, by the side of the footpath, and orchestrate a sweets trade. "Chocolate?" asked the younger one, maybe about nine. "Queres?" I asked in return, and Ian offered several to her, and I gave the rest of mine to the older girl. Then Ian asked for some sugarcane--he'd been wanting to have some for awhile (it was a common treat in Zimbabwe), and the girls broke off big pieces for us.

Finding, back in the main road, an aluguer to drive us the rest of the way down to the coast. We were exhausted and footsore.

The pearls continued into the evening back in Ponta do Sol, with dinner at a small locals place which had one option on the menu for the evening--fresh white fish with a delectable parsley, garlic, olive oil, and unidentifiable herb sauce, followed by a congenial conversation, mostly in Portuguese, with some tipsy patrons from the bar, who were quite impressed that Americans came to visit, but assured us we could cut our travel time in half by taking the weekly TACV flight from Boston to Mindelo (via capital city Praia). We pretended to be surprised and excited by the option (we are petrified by it);

And then a carnival of fish buyers at the Boca da Pistola, as we left the restaurant for home around 9 pm, all clamoring for the bullet tuna being brought in in great quantities by the fishermen in their open wooden skiffs. Seriously, it seemed like most of the town was there, and folks left swinging two or three fat, foot-long fish by their tails.

And now, well-earned rest!

*we were several thousand feet short of "on top of the island"

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Bits and Pieces

Kids here in Cabo Verde have discovered that education is a soft spot for tourists. The young man in Mindelo who approached us for notebooks--very specifically notebooks and not money--is on his way to medical school in Toulouse next year, on a government loan. He pays back his loan with five years of service in Cabo Verde once he completes his degree. He took us to a stationer's and we bought him three notebooks, plus a small sketch pad for Ian.

Today's grade schooler in Ponta do Sol just asked for cash, but he had a sheet of notebook paper with a statement that he was collecting money for his school, and a list of donors, amounts given, and homelands. There were maybe eight donors so far; French, German, Dutch, and us. This seems to be pretty common; we gave schoolchildren money last time we were here, in 2010, in the exact same way (although out on the footpath that runs from Fontainhas west to even smaller cliffside settlements).

We have discovered, for sure now, that we have no interest in becoming mountain climbers. Our hike today took us up the hill behind Fontainhas, along a well-established, switching path, that began by climbing steeply up an almost sheer cliff face, and continued on up a narrow ridge, into the clouds that gather around the peaks here on Santo Antão, the first place, for perhaps thousands of miles, to sidetrack Atlantic weather. We reached 1250 feet in elevation, having started at sea level, and decided not to climb the last few meters to the ridge. We were breathless and dizzy from the sheer drops as much as the exertion. Nevertheless, we kept coming across signs of farming. A goat pen here, a narrow patch of legumes there, even a scraggly cherry tomato plant sheltered under a rock at a curve in the trail.

I wish I could take a helicopter ride around here, to really be able to explore the endless valleys and peaks and cliffs and farms and villages and improbable architecture. I'm really glad I can't.

We have hot water in our shower-- scalding hot--so hot they seem to be trying to make up for years' and continents' worth of only cold.

Tuna shows up everywhere. Our Sunday Breakfast omelette yesterday, our mixed salad last night, some pastries we picked up at a local bakery for lunch.

Yesterday when we had just arrived at Ribeira Grande for our hike up Ribeira de Torre, and were paying our aluguer (shared taxi) driver, a group of three young mothers and three little girls passed us on the narrow sidewalk. One adorable little cutie about three years old, wearing a bright pink shirt and her hair in cornrows and clattering braids with pink beads at the ends, squealed and hugged my leg as they passed. Her mother looked as surprised as I did, and we both laughed.

I want to come back here, again and again and again.

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Can't seem to add these to the existing ...

Calin Taylor shared an album with you.
Can't seem to add these to the existing album, but here are some pictures from leaving Mindelo to Ribeira de Torre yesterday, 13 April. This is maybe 10% of what I've actually taken, so you're lucky.
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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Dogs Will Be Dogs

I took a picture of this smashed frog today as we were hiking up the Ribeira de Torre, just to prove, I guess, that at least at one point some such creature existed here in this arid land. We continued on, some kilometres up the road.

At the point where we stopped and turned around, we saw this very businesslike dog.

We finished our Sprites--delicious as only long, hot treks and a serendipitous mini-mart with a fridge can make them--and began back down the hill.

Periodically, when we could tear our gazes away from the unreal landscape, we noticed the dog, still making his way down the hill preceding us. Suddenly, maybe a quarter kilometer in front of us, he veered to the sidewalk and flung himself down, where he proceeded to roll back and forth with great focus and pleasure.

"Do you think he's rolling in the frog I took a picture of?" I asked Ian.

The dog stood up as we approached and brought himself back to reality, then with one last spurt of abandon, rubbed his face all over the sidewalk, then trotted on his way down the hill.

By this point we were close enough to recognize the big yellow leaf also in my picture and see that sure enough, he was rolling in the frog, flat and desiccated though was--the one dead animal (aside from caught fish) we've seen anywhere around.

Dogs are funny.

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Trouble in Paradise

We had a lovely afternoon and evening yesterday. We started with a tramp to Fontainhas, which, during the uphill way out we remembered as being much closer, but it seemed quite close on the downhill way back. We ate a delicious dinner of local pork linguiça, fried eel (perhaps one that we saw caught while we ate our lunch earlier), and a filet of fish cooked with olives and a spicy sauce,  sitting outside in the cool evening air by the wall of a balcony looking west over the last strains of the sunset.

There was live music in the bar downstairs. Four men, playing guitar, singing, beating a handmade drum, and shaking intricate rhythms with a seed-pod rattle, performed familiar and new Cabo Verdean songs, and we sipped our dessert ponche and grogue at a table on the street, where we could admire the music along with a gaggle of dancing preschoolers from the neighborhood backing the restaurant.

At one point, two of the little kids whispered and tugged at the singer and he chuckled, stood up, replaced the stool he'd borrowed from a neighboring table, and followed them off. He returned a couple songs later, the kids, presumably, now safely in bed.

I was so happy, and then we came home.

The floor in the bathroom was wet, very wet, with a puddle spreading from under the very new acrylic shower pan. It was late; this is a small family-owned-and-operated residencial, they don't really speak English, and my Portuguese is not up to the vigors of home repair. Whatever was going to happen last night was on us.

We had been given only two towels (and no bath mat), and they appeared to be as bright and new as the shower pan, so as home owner myself, I was loath to drop them into the wet mess on the floor. A couple days earlier, Ian had found in his pack a sponge from the Lisbon hotel we stayed in during our last transit back to Seattle from here (a sponge? How strange!), and so, armed with the sponge, I proceeded to mop up the floor (finishing with most of a roll of toilet paper).

As the floor got drier, I was able to pinpoint where the water was escaping, and the ominous /squish/ I had heard and felt earlier when standing in the shower to wash my feet, was explained.

I made us pack our bags this morning before we went up the street for breakfast (I want a room ASAP where the dirty water drains to the outside), and Ian used his translation app to find some key words: shower drain; flood.

At breakfast we made clear that there was a problem, but the little old lady in charge, who cooked a delicious tuna omelette, could not understand what we were trying to say about the drain, and let us know that her husband, who spoke a little English, would be back from the next town over around noon. We left our cell phone numbers so that he could call us when he arrived.

In the event, just now at 10:30, a man too young to be the husband arrived, assessed the problem, noted that it was, in fact, a big one, and left to see if there was another room where we could move (we will move, but to another room or to another lodging remains to be seen).

Ian, for his part, said that he was relieved to have an excuse to not immediately go trekking around steep, treacherous hillsides in the blazing sun of morning, and I suppose I agree, but I'd prefer to have had the option, at least. That said, it's best for me to be close to a loo in the early part each day, and the loo part of the bathroom is perfectly functional.

It is lovely to lounge on our comfortable bed in the shade of our open-windowed, breezy room, with the sounds of the surf crashing on the lava shore a block away, and birds twittering, and nowhere we have to go, and nothing we have to do. The shower won't be our problem for very much longer, and we still have until next Saturday to hike our feet to nubs and our legs to stiff pegs.

Ah, travel.

**NB: We have just been installed in the corner room next door, which still has the same view of the port, PLUS another window on the kitty-corner wall. And, a teeny-tiny tub. And plenty of time still to walk ourselves lame.

one-fingered on my phone

Saturday, April 12, 2014

It Worked!

Just arrived at Residencial Dedei, where we stayed last time on Santo Antão, and it is perfect! My phone conversations in Portuguese (at least three of them, dialing direct from home) left me in a complete state of uncertainty. Whether or not I'd managed to indicate that we wanted a room, and which dates; and whether or not I understood if they actually had one, had, to my mind, an exactly 50% chance of us sleeping here tonight.

Heads stuck out open shutters as we disembarked from our shared van and collected our bags, then the main door to the courtyard opened and we were welcomed in, with laughter and a mention of three calls on their part, and laughter, appreciation, and relief on ours.
Now, NOW, we feel like we've really arrived.

Not a bad view looking left out our window, at the Boca da Pistola (the fishing harbor, called, rightly so, "Mouth of the Pistol".

A whole week here!

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Photos, mostly taken with my fancy camera...

Calin Taylor shared an album with you.
Photos, mostly taken with my fancy camera, uploaded using my fancy cell phone data link. I'm a little in awe, and not quite sure this will work . . . nor am I sure I can add more photos, nor the format in which these will appear. Adventure!
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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Finally Feels Like Vacation

We arrived about an hour ago (note: one hour when I began writing; it's now been about 6) in Mindelo, São Vicente, Cabo Verde, birthplace of Cesaria Evora, the Barefoot Diva. She passed away a couple years ago, and they've built a new international (international with whom???) airport and named it after her. It is gorgeously clean and bright and airy. There is no sign yet of the inevitable corrosion from the salt air and oceanic weather.

Mindelo is the seat of the expansive music culture in Cabo Verde, as well as the port for the ferry to Santo Antão, and boasts a large, safe harbor in the middle of the Atlantic, which right now shelters, in addition to fishing boats and other commercial vessels, a couple possibly derelict steamers and many private sailing yachts from around the world. The charms that make it fascinating and delightful to us are not, fortunately, apparent to everyone (as this recent, grumpy article in an Australian paper demonstrates:

The Tony Parks (author of the afore-mentioned article) of the world, the ones who want first world luxury and hedonism,  and have a limited idea of what pearls can be, were crawling over Sal, where we landed late last night--with a planeful of families--after about 30 hours of travel door-to-door. 

Sal is virtually all beach; the scrappier parts away from the shore being plastic-strewn desert instead. I found the brilliant gold sand and glowing turquoise water blinding after the years we spent in controlled environments, mostly not able to sleep, getting here. West African touts peddling wares (Cabo Verdeans are generally reserved, scrupulously honest, and quite happy going about their business in spite of visitors: in other words, exactly what we like when we're traveling), a proliferation of water sports, ice cream parlors, cafes, and kitschy bars, and masses of resort hotels along the beaches, both built and under construction--confirmed for us that we had made the right choice to get out to the real Cabo Verde ASAP. We were not sorry to see Sal fall away as we took off in our twin prop TACV plane.

When we last came, in January of 2010, we flew to Praia, the capital city, and the other choice on TAP from Portugal. We chose Sal this time because of its proximity to the other islands we wanted to reach, and because it was new. And I will say: it wasn't awful in its bland beachy common-ness; it was just not us.

But here we are in the heart of the Barlavento Islands, having just finished our first real vacation meal (fresh grilled tuna with rice and veg), in this colorful and energetic town, with Cabo Verdean SIM cards (a mixed blessing, as I can use my phone almost exactly as I do at home), a comfortable bed, a shower with hot water, and tomorrow: nowhere to go, AND NOTHING WE HAVE TO DO.


one-fingered on my phone

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Up in the Air

I'm somewhere over Winnipeg right now, finishing my supper with a firm pear and a glass of Warre's ruby port.

Times certainly have changed since my first flight somewhere in the dim recesses of the past. PSA, the Friendly Skies, to California? There was probably some flight before then, but I remember the smile painted on the nose of the plane.

Ian just remarked, a trifle frantically,  that our flight time has only about 6 hours left to London, which means he may not have time for a movie after all, if he intends to get any sleep. It wouldn't be a bad idea to sleep, since our next bed is still about 20 hours and three continents away.

For my part, the pleasure of British Airways flat beds in Club World also makes ME a trifle frantic, because even though we're flying with miles and a companion pass (and so the actual price we paid was pretty small), it's a luxury with many options, and I want to get my miles' worth. Sleep, flat? Knit, with plenty of space to set out my yarns? Watch a movie I've been wanting to see (not Gravity, although that is an option), or a TV show (Girls)? Or, novelty of novelties, write a blog entry on my phone?

As I began writing, I thought of other travel journals I've begun on planes, mostly with the sentence "Are these seats getting smaller???" It turns out that yes, they were.

But shrinking seats is not an issue with a British Airways Visa and a (up until recently) flagrant spending style.
And so, here I am, feet up, quilt across my legs, trying to turn down the volume on the frenzy of the last few days while Ian's been out of town at a meeting and I've been preparing for this trip abroad to a not "developed", as we might see it, county. All this in the middle of keeping track of home sale ideas and home building plans, ancient dogs and grandmothers (Spackle turns 13 in July and Gma 99 in less than a month), recovering parents (Mom's hip is for doing great and she drove us to the airport), major astrological planetary interactions, and in general the struggles and inconveniences of daily life in a city. And, I'm writing this from my phone, which I am allowed to use, and which is now also my mp3 player, my backup camera, and my journal.

But we're heading for almost 3 full weeks in a place of stark, dramatic beauty, where people work hard to survive, and where even the color of the landscape is reserved and conservative. Blue sky, blue water, yellow sun, and dark gray basalt, with the only occasional green to remind you of the wonders of this world.

I am SO looking forward to this vacation

one-fingered on my phone