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"

one-fingered on my phone

No comments: