Christmas in Cape Verde

sunset on Sao Vicente

sunset on Sao Vicente

It was a kind of deja-vu, leaving Senegal for Cape Verde, since last year for Christmas I had moved from the non-festive towns of Morocco for Portugal. This year, I celebrated Christmas in the portugese-speaking islands of Cabo Verde, leaving the islamic chaos of Dakar on a too-cheap-to-miss flight.

the sleepy, volcanic town of Calhau

the sleepy, volcanic town of Calhau

We started in Sao Vicente, where the cultural capital city of Cape Verde, Mindelo, was the perfect place to take in the holiday festivities. People flooded the streets, and even the nights were warm enough to wear pink and white dresses to mingle in the central square, eat out, and evesdrop on a live concert happening at the Porto Grande hotel.

the deserted streets of Calhau

the deserted streets of Calhau

On Christmas eve, we explored the other side of Sao Vicente, where the supposedly excellent beach town of Calhau was more like an empty ghost town. In our 3 hours there, we only saw 3 cars pass, 2 of which were buses, and 5 other people: a lady on her balcony, a couple men with a young girl in their holiday home, and 2 tourists that were also searching for some charm in the town. Nothing was open, not even the windows on the blocked up houses, no cars in the driveway, or signs of life in the streets. We finally ran into 2 men on the road out of town, casually drinking beers as they strolled, who pointed us into the direction of a hotel that may be open. It turned out to be an oasis of life, with atleast 5 other people sitting around the french-owned courtyard and tapping onto the free wifi.

Christmas day gift exchange

Christmas day gift exchange

christmas day greetings

christmas day greetings from Santa Clause’s mom

We hitchhiked out of the town, and made a lot of village stops on the way, since we had accidentally been picked up by the local Santa clause delivering presents to the neighbours. He was paid in beers and we paid him in chocolate, and we drove past his mother for the saddest wave hello.

the hilltop villages of Ribeira Grande, Santo Antao

the hilltop villages of Ribeira Grande, Santo Antao

the colonial town of Ribeira Grande

the colonial town of Ribeira Grande

We took a ferry from Sao Vicento to Santo Antao, which was such an unbelievably beautiful island I dont think its even worth trying to describe. They say pictures paint a thousand words, but no picture can really do justice for this island, or any of the Cape Verde islands for that matter. They were all very different, with a different atmosphere and dramatically different environments. Santo Antao was the most impressive because of the huge, steep, green moutains that we had to weave through, and the road always seemed to be laid on the peaks of each montain, so we floated around in the clouds looking down at these little sea-side, cliff-hanging villages like ant-towns, and wondered how the road ever got us up so high or how it would ever lead us back down alive.

Roadtrip Santiago, from Tarrafal to Praia

Roadtrip Santiago, from Tarrafal to Praia

The last island we visited was Santiago, home of the country’s capital and international airport. We were warned that Praia was boring and dangerous, but, quite frankly I liked it. We stumbled upon some art cafe that I cant remember the name of, but the owner was the wife of the late Vadú, a famous Cape Verdean singer, who died in a car accident in Santo Antao. She was the first and only local to speak highly of Cape Verde, but we had already made plans to continue north to Tarrafal. Its a small, cobble-stoned street with a perfectly placed central square, a small beach with everything you need on it, and I made some very good new friends there. On the beach I met 2 boys with their 2 dogs, and one dog liked me slightly more than anyone else, and I showed a little favouritism to the 13 year old boy who inherited my Freewaters sandals. At the square later that night, I befriended a sobbing 9 year old girl, who´s world turned right side up after we bought her a coke, gave her my hair elastic, and let her braid 4 plaits in my hair. I hope she never cries again.

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