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 :-).
one-fingered on my phone