Cape Verde 2006

Cape Verde / Capo Verde / Kap Verde – January 2006

This travelogue is about our family trip to Cape Verde in January 2006. Me (Erik) and my wife Birgitte traveled with our children Anders (2 years on this trip) and Johanne (6 months). Why did we go to Cape Verde? We were looking for a destination with warm weather and a reasonable distance from home (Denmark) – and maybe a bit exotic. At least very few of our friends knew where it was.
The plane tickets and visa was bought through Svante rejser in Denmark. We booked hotels through e-mails to the different hotels.

Walking Guide: Santo Antão - Goldstadt Wanderführer - it was great and we used it often. It has 38 routes all over the island, and I met one of the writers, selling maps to Hotel Blue Bell - Lucete Fortes. The worst about the book is that it wants you to buy a map and the GPS points beside, so the book does not include even a small overview map, which is very annoying. If you have to choose, I recommend the map. The book is in German. Their web-site is the best for Santo Antao that I found:

Saturday 28.1.2006
0 degrees outside. We went with the train from Århus to Copenhagen – Anders’ first train-trip; he was not that thrilled, though we had tried to tell him how fun it would be. The trip to Lisbon went fine, and this Anders found exciting and enjoyable. He showed the ‘plane’ sign over and over. There was extra space so Johanne could lie down. We had brought 2 small mattresses for the kids (tip for traveling with children). The flight onwards to Sal was an hour delayed and it was now midnight, our time, before we moved on. It was raining. Anders fell asleep in my arms and we got an extra seat in the plane, so he could lay down between us and sleep. Johanne was upset and cried so Birgitte had to sit with her the whole trip (3½ hours). We were in Sal 1:30 local time (GMT -1). Passport control, baggage and pickup went fine and we had money changed. 1€=107 Capo Verde Escudos (CVE).
The Hotel Atlantico in the nearby town Esparagos was featureless.
Today’s fact: The plugs here are the German format, big round. 220 Volts.

Sunday 29.1.2006
We slept fine until 8:00. Not that long, but we were semi-awake anyway. Breakfast and Erik took a stroll through town with Anders and later we all went. It seemed very Latin-American. The temperature was 22 degrees and windy.
We were picked up at 15:00 for the airport. Anders loved the planes and was totally thrilled. Today he started walking a lot, without holding on to something, and we were so moved by this and happy for him. Anders is hyper mobile, which means that his joints are very flexible. Therefore we were very happy that he could walk before his 2 years birthday.
A soccer team was on the plane for São Vicente, and they had just won something. They had cake for everybody on the plane – in plastic glasses.
A beautiful flight, with views over St. Luzia and a landing with views of the island in the sunset. The taxi wanted 800 CVE to drive the one kilometer to Hotel Foya Branca, and the first left us immediately when I suggested 500. The next also said 800, but accepted 700. We later learned that other tourists had the same experience and that they even have a pricelist with that price. It is an out righteous sum for the short drive. I don’t know if it is because the taxi drivers wait so long for a drive or just because people might pay it anyway… I suggest you wait for the free Foya Branca bus which passes almost every hour all day (easily recognized), or you walk – 1 kilometer towards the ocean.
Only one other foreign couples on the plane.
We had food in the restaurant and Anders was so tired and Johanne in the war-mood, so the staff had to take her for a while. Fortunately there were only a couple of other guests. Actually all the days, only 4-10 other people were here, and the resort with 3 pools could probably handle 2-300. We paid 110€ per night for a junior suite, which is two rooms.

Today’s tip: The conversion is quite awkward to Danish kr (divide by 100 multiply with 7), so we tried to think in Euros instead – dividing by 100).
Today’s fact: The language is a problem. They speak Creole and Portuguese, a little French (some learn it in school) and a few knows a few words in English (usually they can say ‘little’, when asked). We found very few who made greetings.

Monday 30.1 São Vicente - Mindelo
After breakfast, we took the free shuttle into Mindelo (15 minutes). Our twin-stroller was source of much attention – probably not seen here before. The center does not take long to see, if you follow the harbor. We made our shopping in a supermarket and a couple of other errands. The afternoon was relaxing with the children at the pools. Early dinner – and the children slept, so we could go to the restaurant.
Today’s curiosity: We had wrapped Johanne up and put her in the pram outside – but the staff had resolutely put her inside the restaurant, so now it was much too warm for her. Well, it took some time before she found out and woke up, so we enjoyed our evening. In Denmark, the children sleep outside down to about -5 degrees.

Tuesday 31.1 São Vicente
After breakfast, Erik took Anders in the backpack and went for the very nice walk out to the lighthouse on the western edge. It took half an hour each way on a path 70 meters above the sea with sheer cliff sides. Good views from the lighthouse to the north towards Santo Antao.

Wednesday 1.2 São Vicente tour
Through the hotel, we had contacted “Capo Verde Safari” (991 1544). The owner, a Portuguese and a former owner of a clothes company (about 600 employees). The company had had to close – lazy workers, he said. Half the population of Cape Verde works abroad, primarily in Portugal, Brazil, Holland (!) and the US. We paid 7500 CVE for a tour until 13:30. His normal tour was more off-road, but because of the children, he made some adjustments. We visited Calhau (the islands summerhouses village), Praia Grande (deserted), Monte Verde (750 m) with great views to St. Luzia, Mindelo and Santo Antao. Vi continued on to Baia das Gatas (place for a famous festival), Salamansa – probably a typical Cape Verdian village. The children were happy to be photographed and see their picture on the camera.
The weather was not so nice today. The waves went high and the sunset was beautiful.
Today’s fact: Almost everything is imported and therefore also often quite pricy. E.g. a Magnum ice would cost you 3½ €. Fact 2: There are no universities on CV, so students have to go to Brazil or Portugal. But one is on the planned for Mindelo.


Thursday 2.2 Mindelo
We took a trip to Mindelo – to the harbor to buy tickets for tomorrow (1200 CVE, return). We looked for a book for a friend of our neighbor, but did not find it. There are no book shops in Mindelo. Went to the fishing market, where everybody wanted to hold Anders and Johanne and say ‘Hola baby’ and ‘Hola bibibi’. The women showed Anders the fish and he was about to pry out the eye of one of them. In the supermarket and the bank (to pay 300 CVE for a hotelreservation mistake). The afternoon was spent at the pools. Today a group of Finns from a cruise-boat were visiting the pools.
Fact: On São Vicente and Santo Antao there were very few people. Of those we saw, most were Dutch, French and German.

Friday 3.2 Ponta do Sol / Santo Antao
Up early for the first bus at 7:15. The hotel drove us to the ferry and we walk right on board. It was full of the Finns from the Cruise ship. They were all on a day tour to Santo Antao. Departure at 8 and arrival one hour later. Shared an Aluguer (a mini van) with 4 other tourists for 350 CVE each. The south side of the island is barren, but the road quickly winds up to 1400 meters to Cova do Paul. The road continues down again to the northwest. We made a short stop at Delgadas, which is a ridge with sheer drops to both sides. One of the most beautiful drives you can imagine.
We checked into the Blue Bell hotel in Ponta do Sol. Erik and Anders went for a walk along the coast towards Fontanhas. We went to a point (altitude 191m, N17o11.532’/W025o06.178’) where we could see village. Amazingly beautiful coastline with vertical drop offs most of the way.

Saturday 4.2 Ponta do Sol (Corda-Coculi)

Chartered a minibus to Corda (970 m) on the main road (1400 CVE – yes, it is expensive). In corda, we talked to many children while preparing the descent through the Riberra . We followed the route 205 (buy a map, or the German book with 32 trekking routes). 3 hours said the book, and it was also our walking time, though we carried 2 children. It was a very beautiful descent with views of two valleys. At the bottom, we took a minibus to Ribera Grande.
From [CORDA] 995m N17o08.298/W025o05.322 – before the school. Just follow the path, no way to go wrong. Through Figueiral (228m N17o19.391/W25o05.854).


Sunday 5.2 Ponta do Sol (Xôxô)
We opted for a short walk today, because of the children. We took a taxi to Xôxô (pronounced sho-sho) – 1400 CVE. It is in a valley, 8 km from Ribera Grande and you leave the same way as you have come up through. The walk is not steep. Starts at the village of Xôxô in 169m (N17o08.290’/N025o03.981’) in the Riberra de Torre, which relates to the amphitheater at the start. For a long way we followed with a woman (20 years, had a 3 year old baby). She was on the way for a weekend with her parents in Ponta do Sol. The route was fine, but primarily at the beginning. There was lots of water, which flowed on and next to the road. The only place where we saw water in Cape Verde.
We had coffee on the harbor. The fishers came in with their catch which was quickly cleaned. HUGE waves – maybe 5-6 meters, crashing into the harbor.
Fact: Cape Verde is one the driest country on earth. A few decades back, it was much more green, but now it is getting drier and drier.

Monday 6.2 Ponta do Sol (Fontainhas)
We would have to leave Blue Bell tomorrow, because of the president election. One of the two parties had booked the hotel, so we called Pedracin Village and booked a room (more about this place later). The election would be on the 12. and the election teams were out with propaganda all the time – the last election, 4 years ago, was only determined by 17 votes, where Pedro Pidres won over President Carlos Vega.
We left for today’s hike at 14:00 and walked along the beautiful and dramatically coastline to Fontainhas, where the ‘road’ stops. We continued up to the Corvo pass with splendid views to the two coves. We did not have time for more, unfortunately and Anders was not up for much more walking today. We caught an Aluguere (200 CVE) back, which Anders enjoyed enormously. Back at 17:30

Fact: This time Pedro Pires won again with 52% this time.

Tuesday 7.2. Pedracin Village / Anders’ 2 year Birthday
Goodbyes to Manuel and the two women from the restaurant, who had taken much care of the children. We paid 1000 CVE to go to Pedracin Village. From the internet we had difficulty to place it on the map, but it is situated between Coculi and Bocas de Ambas. Beautifully situated with mountain views all around.
After the afternoon nap, we walk to Bocas Ambas and return to 17:30. A very ‘funny’ dinner – the 3 new waiters are monitored and trained and are told to be very formal and have an eye open for everything. They makes mistakes several times, e.g. they put all open wine bottles on a center table and then pour up when needed. The German couple, next table have a laughter break down when the waiter fail for the 3. time to bring the right bottle to them. The wine we got today tasted, by the way, like a Port. Strange. Haven’t been so lucky with wine on this trip. We didn’t celebrate Anders’ birthday so much; it will be done back home with the grandparents. We gave him a small plane (12 cm), which he flew around with for a long time.
Fact: Children don’t pay for a plane seat before they are two. We found out that the child just has to be less than 2 years old before leaving home.

Today’s comparison:
Blue Bell:
Plus: The staff are very caring with the children, good breakfast, refrigerator in the rooms, they speak all languages, ‘close’ to many of the hikes, had baby cots.
Minus: Slow and late dinner (opens at 19:00), no AC, no quick lunch (only ‘full meals’).
Pedracin Village:
Plus: Very beautiful, both the place and the views. Good food. Swimming pool
Minus: Much too ‘formal’, bad English, LONG way from civilization (expensive transportation), no baby cots.


Wednesday 8.2. Foya Branca – São Vicente
Had agreed on pickup with the driver from yesterday to Porto Novo (3000 CVE !). The biggest problem at this place is that it is a long way out in the mountains. It is a great location for the trek to Cha de Igreja and a couple of other hikes from Boca de Ambas.
An hour to the port where we are met by Carlos Vega (the president candidate) with hundreds of supporters (came with the ferry) – and loud music.
While waiting for the Foya Branca bus, we watched a fisherman catching octopuses in the harbor, emptying them of their ink.
In the afternoon, Erik went to Mindelo to reconfirm tickets and buy diapers, while the rest of the family enjoyed the sun and the pools.

Thursday 9.2. Foya Branca – Santa Maria (Sal)
Enjoyed the day at Foya Branca – Anders wanted to be in the frying sun. The temperature was maybe 28-30 degrees today.
Late afternoon we went to the airport where it again was a joy to watch Anders. His big eyes when the plane came down and he realized we were leaving with it. During the flight he fell a sleep of exhaustion. One of the president candidates arrived when we were leaving, with supporters all over outside the terminal.
Arrived on Sal, we were glad to realize that the taxi prices here were fair – 700 CVE to Santa Maria. We were the last passengers out, so our driver was happy to get the drive. The place we had booked, Capo Verde Palace, was also a bit of a joke. Erik had booked it from a link, where it said that the booking would be forwarded. It also went fine. Got a receipt about ‘übersetzung service’ – that they had translated my request from German to Portuguese and reserved a place for us at the Capo Verde Palace. I’m not sure it was what I had thought would happen – and should pay 300 CVE for this in a bank. And more funny: The owner was German… Well, anyway, it was only us at the place today, and they were quite surprised we showed up – with children. So we got an apartment with several rooms for the agreed price (5500 CVE x 2 nights). The owner (her) was extremely helpful and nice. She wanted to drive us to her restaurant, but again, much too late for the children. So instead she took me to buy pizza. First to her restaurant (Funaná) to pay for the room with Visa. Great pizzas from Chechu at Danish prices. The children were a sleep when I was back.

Friday 10.2. Santa Maria, Sal.
Nothing less than a fantastic breakfast. Very nice morning weather which was replaces by an unending cloud always just below the sun. We found out that this is where the German and Italians go. It is a real wild-west town with package tourists. The beach was fine, but except that, it is a weird place. Walked to Funaná where the owner had reserved reclining chairs for us. Relaxed until 16:00 with Anders enjoying playing in the sand. Supper and a couple of hours sleep before going to the airport at 23:00. We were the absolutely first for the 02:05 flight. Found the book for the neighbors friend and bottle of Ché – a white wine from Fogo that a friend had told us about. The flight home went better than hoped for. Though the planes were full, we were on both legs given an extra seat, since a row with 3 seats only have 4 oxygen masks, so we could not have both children on the same row, unless that 3 person moved. This meant that Anders could have a seat to sleep on.

What a great vacation; we warmly recommend going to Cape Verde, also with children.

Erik Futtrup 2006