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: http://m.heraldsun.com.au/travel/holiday-ideas/a-load-of-grit-but-no-pearl-in-mindelo-cape-verde/story-fnjjv4qv-1226854662353).
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