Day trip To Santiago Cape Verde

Santiago Market

It’s 06:00 hrs. The sun is still below the horizon but the birds are waking up. There is a slight breeze and the trees are stretching and yawning. The temperature is cool but I already know it’s going to be hot and sunny. I’m guessing around 30 degrees with few clouds.

I went downstairs at 06:00 even though my transport wasn’t until 06:15 however the vehicles are parked outside the apartments and the driver was there. I got on the minibus and went with the driver to all the pickups. We then headed off to the airport to catch the Binter airlines flight to Boavista then onto Santiago.

There was only my 2 English guests from Sal,  everyone else was German or Dutch. At the airport no one knew what to do (just like they had never been to an airport before!) So they all followed me. That meant I was at the front of the queue. The person in front of me was Marcos my hotels customer service guy. He was going to Boavista for the weekend. In front of him was our Boavista airport controller who has been here covering.

Check in was easy as I had no luggage, however they printed the wrong name on the boarding cards (which I didn’t notice) so for a few minutes I was Mahatma Gandhi. This got corrected after the airport security which was hilarious as my guests has a metal knee. What was funny was he was wearing a vest, shorts and flip-flops, so nowhere to conceal anything but they still searched him.

In the departure lounge we waited for 10 mins and as we did a guy playing a guitar broke out into song. It was really cool and everyone started bopping. We had to get on a bus to drive less than a minute to the aircraft.

There was someone sat in my seat so I just sat next to them and we were soon off to the runway. You would have thought Lewis Hamilton was driving the plane as I have never been as fast on the taxiway. The pilot didn’t even stop when we got to the runway we just did a sharp right and accelerated and up we went. 12 mins later we were landing in Boavista. I thought we had to disembark and go through security again to then get back on the same plane but the crew said stay on board just switch seats to what’s on your boarding cards. This was hilarious because the plane is the size of a Skoda and your hallway is wider so people were climbing over each other.

We finally settled down and the cabin crew collected our boarding cards. This was followed be asking if we had luggage, this confused all the passengers who didn’t speak English or Creole. Everyone was waving hand luggage in the air, very funny! About 20 other people got on board at Boavista and we were off. Not having pole position wasn’t going to stop this pilot getting to Santiago. I’m sure there was a big sale on in some Santiago shop and he didn’t want to miss out on that 40″ plasma TV. There was no stopping him whoosh up we went. On the 1 st flight we were given a bag of mixed nuts (no nut allergy people allowed then?). This flight was to be 20 mins and we had the full treatment. A glass of water, a boiled sweet and a wet wipe.

The views from the plane were amazing as the pilot announced we were at eight thousand feet and then all of a sudden we were at two thousand and touchdown. I had only just managed to drink my water and suck on my boiled sweet before tray tables up, window blinds up and we were getting off. This time we just walked into the Nelson Mandela terminal, I thought he was ill but Terminal!

Santiago Nelson Mandela

Joy the guide had got on the aircraft in Boavista and announced that the people there hadn’t had breakfast so we would have 10 mins to buy snacks at the airport. This was a bad move as everyone from Boavista went straight to the snack bar to buy something. This meant the 1 girl behind the counter couldn’t cope, although I managed to get a cold hot dog which had been forced into a brioche. Joy intervened and sent us all to the mini buses outside, this is where we were split up into English, German, Dutch but a few German and Dutch got on our minibus. This is where “T” our guide introduced himself and gave us a briefing, he was from Santiago but sounded American. Time was to be tight as we had a plane to catch at 16:10 so we were to stick to the schedule. The morning was going to be historical and the afternoon sightseeing. Sounded good and off we went to Praia and what a difference from Sal, buildings, cars, people and electricity. Although the electricity is fairly new here (for some).

Colonial Building

“T” was very good as we stood on the plateau above the town of Praia he brought the place to life and whisked us back to the 15th century. Leprosy and other nasty diseases, those people were stuck on a small island which is just off the coast. Soon to be a hotel and resort complex. Wow that rep will have to fill in a lot of sickness forms. We walked past the canons and the military buildings everyone snapping away with the cameras. Including one guy with a really nice Canon 70D camera he didn’t know how to use, opportunity there for a photography session. The buildings were very colonial, pastel shades of lemon and blues. Some of the buildings had a damp problem but it was all very nice. T gave lots of information that his history teacher would be proud of and took the group around the plateau, through the square and to the fruit and veg market.

Strawberries

The fruit and veg market is pure hustle and bustle, it was brilliant. Veg downstairs fruit up and the fruit tastes amazing, I bought enough strawberries to feed a family for a week and they tasted, well like proper strawberries. The ones in the UK taste like plastic compared to these. The weather was scorching and we all kept diving for shade but T was always on the lookout for a shady spot to park us. Market ticked off the list it was Church time, so we headed back through the square and into the church. Yep! It’s a church. T had us all lined up across the road and in the shade whilst he phoned the driver. This saved us the walk back to the bus which was appreciated by everyone, T then gave everyone a bottle of hot water. Of course it didn’t start off hot but leave things in a hot vehicle and this is what happens.

Santiago Plateau

Next stop was at the top of a valley at a fortification that looked brand new. Apparently it was destroyed in a war and had recently been renovated. The view was stunning the valley was full of plantations and around the back of the fortification you could see down to the sea and the village below. Impressive! We headed down to the village past the derelict (ruined) cathedral and to another church. At this church we happened to meet a school of children who were on a field trip. I think the church was over looked as everyone started chatting with the kids and it seemed everyone including the children enjoyed it.

Village Vista

We headed down Banana Lane and into the village square, T stopped at a table outside a house. The table had bottles of alcohol on it and souvenirs. Here there was an awkward pause, until someone bought something and then of course most people bought something.  I’m guessing this is one of T’s relations. T sent the non shoppers ahead to the restaurant, “head to the red building in the square” I’m sure that’s what he said but the red building I found was the local laundry, worth a look.

 

I eventually found the red and white restaurant overlooking the sea. Amazing view and great food. We all got a drink and a buffet followed by mango. Most people wanted to stay at the restaurant forever the view was unbelievable. Turquoise water, waves crashing over rocks in the sea and local kids playing on the beach. Amazing how children can just find stuff to play with, some had found an inner tube off a truck or bus and were using it as a big float. There were old wooden, hand painted boats on the shore and the beach was pebbles. So every time the waves hit the shore there was a whoosh and the noise of pebbles being pulled into the sea.

Fishing Boats

After lunch it was sightseeing (driving around). This was fun but odd as a few people fell asleep on the bus. Occasionally T would shout ” photo stop” and everyone would jump out of the minibus and take photos of random things. Some of the views were spectacular, I noticed the geology. I remembered what I learnt in the Grand Canyon so I knew how the surrounding mountains were formed. It was a slow volcanic eruption over thousands of years which created Santiago as the rock formation was layers upon layers of volcanic rock “pwah pwah” technical name I picked up in Lanzarote. We headed off track (cobbles) up a steep hill to a sugar cane fermentation village (moonshine). This was incredible as at first we walked down a dusty path through the forest to a shack and huts made of what looked like tobacco leaves. These huts were distilleries and turned sugar cane into booze., I felt like I was in the Amazon and had come across a lost tribe.

Forest Village

 

Once we had walked back up said dusty path, passed the goats and plastic rubbish everywhere. We headed back to the airport, this was to be a highlight as there were random animals all over the roads. We actually saw a chicken cross the road, everyone was in fits of laughter. We went around a corner into a village were a couple of guys were chasing cows down the road. There were kids on the street selling a natural version of Red Bull apparently it grows on trees. Then the village of pigs and goats,  every house seem to have a pig and goats. One goat had only 3 legs which I thought might have been tomorrow’s tea. The way people live on Santiago is basic but everyone seems really happy. We got to the airport with 5 mins to spare, went through security again, they search the guy in the vest, shorts and flip flops again and off we went. A great day  but a tiring one.

Santiago View

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About John Holt

John Holt has worked in the travel industry for over 14 years and comes highly recommended by Trip Advisor for his practical and candid talks on travel destinations. Spending 18 months as a "Local Interest Specialist" for a leading tour operator John has become known as having more practical information than Google.

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