The Best Way To Explore Sal.
Today I’m off on the half day island jeep tour and I’m taking my Zoom audio recorder. The plan is to have a throughly good time and record my first podcast.
Listen to it here. Sal Secrets
I was picked up in the land rover at 7:55am and headed to collect more people. The driver was Paulo and he only said about 2 words all day. We met the guide at the next pickup point and another three vehicles. A total of 27 people altogether, was going to make this a very good day.
We headed out of the resort of Santa Maria and along the only road north. Within 10 minutes we were at Muderia a small bay resort on the west coast. The jeeps pulled up next to each other and we all followed our guide. I had introduced myself to everyone in the Jeep and told them to ignore me talking to myself as I was recording a podcast. I think my fellow passengers were a little sleepy as no one offered me their names.
Our guide jumped on the sea wall, gathered us all together and introduced himself. Vander is his name, he pointed out that it is spelt Wander but pronounced Vander. We received our briefing for the day followed by 5 minutes for photographs. Vander explained a little history of Sal and pointed out Montana Lyon.
Lion mountain is actually two hills attached to each other, one slightly bigger than the other. This gives the shape of a lion lying down, however this morning no one could see it. I guess it was still too early for some. I interviewed Vander for the podcast and discovered he’s from one of the other Cape Verde island and has been guiding for just over a month. He also has some great ideas for a website and is looking into developing it whilst he is here in Sal.
Back in the jeeps for some amazing off-road driving skills by our driver Paulo. The terrain was rugged and dusty, we could have easily been driving the Mars Rover. Winding through some unusual territory with the vehicle bouncing from side to side. Vander was right in saying we were in for a free massage. We passed right next to Montana Lyon and along the coast until we stopped on a peak covered in dark red stones.
The view was dramatic and you could see for miles in each direction. All around us people who have visited previously had balanced stones on top of each other. In Scotland these are called cairns and are used to depict a pathway which is hard to follow. Everywhere else in the world, I believe they are known as a Zen relaxation symbol. The symbol of a balanced life.
Our next destination was to be Palmeria which means palms. This is the islands port, although small all imported goods arrives via here. Every two weeks a cargo vessel delivers the food for the tourist industry. Sal is so sparse and flat it has very little rain, therefore very little grows here. Vander gave us a nice walking tour around Palmeria. He explained about the economy, fishing and grog Cape Verde’s moonshine.
As it was Sunday the local villagers were just coming out of the small quaint church next to the quayside. Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best and were walking through the streets of the village. The atmosphere was excellent and it was great to see the local population going about their daily lives.
I ventured off from the group to get some photos and record some audio. The wind was buffering in the microphone so I may not be able to use the recording. I will edit it together and add to it in the studio. The group caught up to me and we headed back to the jeeps as we were now going to the blue eye of buracona.
I’ve been to the blue eye twice and have never actually seen it. The first time it was extremely windy and we couldn’t get close. The second I didn’t get the opportunity to walk down to the viewing point. So this time I wasn’t missing out and wow I wasn’t disappointed. The blue eye or buracona was 5 million years in the making and is a combination of volcanic lava the Atlantic ocean and Sal’s sunshine. It is a tube in the earth’s surface which is open to the sea, as the sun shines through the tube it creates the illusion of an eye looking back at you.
I wandered the wooden board walks as did the other people on the trip. All of them with their cameras out snapping away at the incredible scenery. Here your imagination can run wild as the atlantic waves crash against the old rugged volcanic rock face and the sea spray is forced upwards into the air.
A mirage has to be seen to be understood and today was not disappointing. The desert wasn’t vast nor was it sand dunes. This dessert was almost martian. Apart from the trees lining the road in the distance. On the horizon was a lake, a huge lake but we all knew that it didn’t really exist. This was the intensity of the sun heating up the ground which in turn lead to a heat haze rising into the air. Bending down to be closer to the Mars like surface and this lake of nothing more than the power of the sun grew infinitely.
Vander suggested we all walk to the lake we could see but then explained that it would never get any closer or quench anyone’s thirst it was just a mirage.
We drove on a dirt road towards Sal’s capital Espargos and skirted the edge of a shanty town. Extreme poverty right in front of us all but the people seemed happy and just got on with life. Their priority is food, water and shelter. These people have no interest in what’s happening in the rest of the world, that town is their world.
The radar station on the edge of the capital is a great view-point. The buildings that make up Espargos are laid out in front of us. Some colourful and some just concrete shells that you would think no one lives in but they do. The airport runway is clearly visible and accepts responsibility for allowing thousands of visitors to the island each year. The airport has a major part to play in this part of the world and was the first in Cape Verde.
It is now time to move on and head to the volcanic crater which is responsible for the island and provided it with its riches for decades. Until of course the tourist started to flock here and enjoy the sunshine, hospitality and great beaches. Pedra Lume means fire stone and was the first town on the island, has the first church and was the focal point for the islands salt industry.
Today Pedra Lume is the salt Lake, Cape Verde’s answer to the dead Sea. A lake which contains 26 times more salt than the sea and is situated inside a fully enclosed volcanic crater. The only way to get inside the crater is through a tunnel cut into its side which was used for extracting salt. The crater is below sea level and the magma chamber is now full of sea water. This sea water seeps upwards and into the base of the crater. The water slowly evaporates leaving raw salt behind.
In its heyday 25 tons of salt a day was extracted out of this crater and transported by cableway to the waiting trucks. Today only about 3 tons a month is recovered and that is mainly for the tourists to buy.
We head down to the lake most of the 27 people I’m with strip to their costumes and float in the lake. I grab a coffee in the cafe at the edge of the crater and once again I hear the laughter as people experience an amazing sensation in the salt Lake.
The lake is our last stop, once everyone is dry again, it’s back in the jeeps and we head to Santa Maria. Everyone very happy with their experience of discovering the hidden gems of Sal. I thank Vander and Paulo for my day and head to my apartment for a siesta.