Wednesday 13th January
The alarm was set so that we could get up in time to see our arrival in Porto Grande, the port of Sao Vicente, in the Cape Verde Islands (pronounced cap verd) . The islands are almost in a horse shoe shape lying on its side. We were going to the second most populated island of the group.
The dawn broke and it was just like a sunset over the dark craggy mountains of the island - beautiful! The bay of the port is part of a sunken crater so the peaks almost go round us in a circle.
After breakfast we left the ship and as we weren't taking any of the ship's excursions, made our own way through the port area to the town. Out of the shadow of the ship the heat hit us and it looked like it was going to be a hot day! We walked past the 'James Cook' from London (looked like an exploration type ship, which would make sense given its name), a big white yacht with blacked out windows (no name) and other ships being replenished or loaded with cargo. The port is a big replenishment station due to its position in the Atlantic. On some of the walls along the quays were paintings (graffiti) of some of the ships that have been here to replenish.On some of the pictures they had added each year they had been here.
Outside the port gates we ran the gauntlet of men trying to encourage us to take a scenic taxi ride with them around the island. We had been advised on the ship that these would be genuine, but it was up to us to negotiate the price with them. We elected to do our own thing and turned left out of the gates. We came upon a little white sand beach and walked along the road beside it to the other end. We sat for a while on a concrete bench and then walked back into the town at the other end. The islands gained independence from Portugal in 1975 but the population has mainly African heritage due it being the centre of the slave trade between West Africa, the Americas and Europe. The buildings are old colonial style and there are very few modern ones around. Many of them are painted in pastel shades, with white edges, and white window and door surrounds. Many of them are not well maintained, and some of them are falling down. As we walked around we went in to the buildings housing the fish market and the fruit and veg markets - a riot of colour from both the produce and the Cape Verdeans buying and selling. In the middle of the main square there was a hexagonal building with a different cafe on each side and dotted around the square were several 'bandstand' type buildings with independent market stalls, including clothes, secondhand shoes, handicrafts and more fruit and veg. Martin struck up a conversation with one of the handicraft sellers and we are now the proud owners of a little black wooden turtle - made in the image of the turtle on the 1 escudo Cape Verde coin - whom we named Jack in honour of its seller.
We walked around some of the back streets and noticed the 'Chinese shops' we had been told about on the ship. These were fairly recent to the island and sold 'everything and anything'. As we were white it was obvious that we were tourists and one lady shouted 'Welcome, welcome to my Country!' to us and other passengers from the ship.
We went back to the ship for lunch - to get some relief from the heat, and to get our swimming gear. Afterwards we went back out to the beach and sat for an hour or so and watched local lads on skim boards skimming up and down on the shallow water left by the waves as it goes back out. Martin had a swim in the turquoise sea which he said was quite warm. The idea had been to get a bit of sunbathing in, but grey clouds soon came over and it got a little bit cooler (so it was very warm, not hot), which was good, but then it started to rain - big, far apart, splatty raindrops that don't really get you wet because you dry quickly in the heat anyway. But we packed up and went back to the ship - it wasn't far off the time we had to be back on board anyway.