Dec 12, 2010 Cape Verde arrival.
This may be the saddest place I have ever been to in my travels. First let me explain that it is a small group of islands off the coast of Africa, desert volcanic land outcrops in the middle of the ocean. The startling beauty of the islands from the ship as we sailed to the port is almost indescribable. I was trying to get ready for the day, having had an extra hour sleep last night, and could not tear myself away from the visuals out the full window and on the veranda from our stateroom.
Blue sky, large beautiful sunrise filling the sky with color. Small flat roofs in the distance predicted a “town”. Very sparse vegetation makes it easy to see all there is to see from the ship. The buildings bright clay colored, golds, reds, whites. Surf crashing up on the rocky shore in some places. This is a sight to behold.
A few large and small rusty ships along side of us as we pulled up to the pier. Up for breakfast on buffet so we could see the landscape while I enjoyed a cup of decaf Earl Grey tea, lovely egg white omelet with shrimp, red peppers, onions, jalepeno peppers and grated swiss cheese. A bowl of fresh berries, black, blue, strawberries and raspberries. A slice of gluten free toast with sugar free blackberry jam. I can hardly contain my excitement for the day ahead. It looks like a very warm day so I dress in white, with walking sandals, a shawl to protect my shoulders from the sun’s rays. White sunglasses to complete the outfit. Away we go.
Easy disembarkation from the small cruise ship we have come to love as “home”. We have read about this island. Once integral part of the slave trade. When I heard that, read that – I became startled and anxious. Will it “feel” like its history? Will the sights and tales of days gone by be obvious to us tourists? How much poverty will we see? What about the pain of such a tragic past, from not so long ago. We can see fortresses up high on some rocky peaks. My anxiety builds as I take it in – as much as I let myself take it in.
I feel overwhelmed in moments. In a flash, repeated over and over, the reality does indeed hit home. Buildings that look great from the ship are in major disrepair. The stone buildings and cobblestone walk ways, the broken glass or non existent window coverings, bars on some windows, people on the streets. Remnants of some other time. No pride here, police evidence is everywhere. Why?
We begin the 15 minute walk to town. We have a map provided by tourist representative that is at a desk inside the ship. We can believe what she says, sanctioned by the Oceania line and on board. Funny how we take for granted the subtle convenience of “knowing” who you can trust and not. In a truly foreign country such as this …. it would be impossible to know this.
Historical facts replayed in my mind … history of Portugese dominance and governance – now independent country. What does that mean? What to expect? Is this a safe place to be? Why does a cruise ship dock here? What is my learning in such a place at such a time? We want to find an internet cafe so we can check out email and send a Facebook entry from such a foreign and exotic location. We head out on our adventure.
We have arrived on a Sunday. Nothing much open here – an indoor market. I am afraid to enter. Sitting on the ground, walking around the sidewalks, local folks, men and women, not many children. Hands out asking for money – some more persistent than others. Begging is clearly accepted here. Maybe this is how it is in this country? We don’t understand the language, however many of the locals say “hello” and try to get our attention with hands out and pleading eyes.