Along the western shores of Santiago

Travel

The shores of Santiago were the first to face the Portuguese colonisation in West Africa. This is why this one of the ten islands of Cabo Verdean archipelago boasts the title of the historically most relevant. Santiago has been ‘competing’ for ages with São Vicente island, given that the port in Mindelo received a lot of traffic and was an important place for encounter of many nationalities, for trade and on the way to more distant lands. Whereas the history of Santiago is often more related to searching of the cultural identity of Cabo Verde, and the rituals over there considered more connected to West Africa.

I had a chance to explore the shores that faced the colonisation, slave trade and trying to empower European, or Portuguese rules over this strategical island in the middle of the ocean back centuries ago. One of the most magical places is Ribeira Preta: a wide beach with the black, volcanic sand. To get there you need to hop on one of the colectivo trucks – forget about the safety, but don’t forget about admiring the mountain and ocean views on the winding, cobblestone road.

If you are lucky, you will notice the egg nests of the turtles, that picked this remote location for their reproductive purposes. It is now a protected area, as Cabo Verde is trying to preserve its ecological richness.

There are many fishermen villages on the way, such as Chão Bom, or Ribeira Preta itself, that are an ideal destination for the surfing and nature-seeking lovers.

Other than that, it is not too far away from the mountain side of Santiago Island, with a very interesting town of Assomada.

Last but not least, if you are in Praia, don’t miss visiting the UNESCO side of Cidade Velha (‘Old Town’) which was the first capital and port of Cabo Verde in the colonial times. You can find here the oldest road built in West Africa: the colourful Banana Street as well as Parochial Church and Cathedral.

I would like to end up the Cabo Verde saga with the memories that stay with me even after 3 months: the sound of the magnificent waves crushing on the remote shores, the smell of cachupa, the taste of wine and the sunsets over the neighbouring volcanic Fogo Island, the openness and hospitality of the locals, regardless of the poor conditions, and sound of crioulo – language, almost as gentle as the music that made its origin on this very special place on Earth. I hope to revisit these magic islands sooner or later, orbigadu e te logu, Cabo Verde!

Advertisements

Women Who Travel

Personal, Travel

This post is not dedicated to any particular journey I’ve made. This post is about women who travel: independently, in a creative and respectful way. Just the way they live their lives. They are no abstract protagonists, they are represented by women I know in my family (starting from my awesome Mother), my friends and colleagues, and finally: myself. However, the happenings from last week in Ecuador proved how fragile our freedom for travel is. I want to dedicate my own personal Women’s Day tribute for the memory of all the female travellers who lost their lives because of sexism, misogyny and fundamentalism.

There is so much anger in me, although initially there was simply immense sadness when I heard about the unbelievably brutal and pointless murder of two Argentinean women travelling in Ecuador. Sadness gave way to anger when I analysed the language of the press coverage: initially putting the blame on the travellers to be behave reckless, inappropriate, and visiting the dangerous places. Calling out to parents, why the hell they let them travel alone. In 2016, really?!

This could be me. I travelled alone (not even with the other friend!) thousands of miles in my life, simply because I like discovering things at my own pace. Other times, I travelled ‘only’ with my Mother, or my female friend(s), and I met so many great, like-minded women on my way! I always try to inform myself about the place I’m travelling to, the customs and things to take into consideration, and I never seek out the dangers for the sake of adrenaline rush. Still, I was mugged only once, the luggage that got lost, got back to me through the seven mountains and jungle, and I never had problems with unwanted sexual attention, as I knew how to handle such situations within clean communication and in a respectful way, if needed.

Still, I have to consider myself luck, as this shit is still happening, at a very creepy scale. Unnamed authorities calling us to cover our bodies, be accompanied by men or family or stay at home at night, as if we were an object to carry. I am very frightened to see this conservative trend taking over in many countries around the world and I want to voice my scream against the freedom of women around the world, the explorers, the curious, the mindful and the half of this beautiful world!

Don’t let us scare off, close at home, force into relationships for the only sake of protection (disclaimer: I don’t have anything against the great couples, I’m just putting a broader context!) which ultimately leads into manipulating us more easily. At no other times women had a better financial situation and travelling was considered easier than nowadays, in general. I would like to embrace all my experiences that made me a person that I am now: open for changes, diversity and uncertainty in life, able to risk and step out of my comfort zone to deep dive into something new. And I would like to thank to all the amazing people I met on my way that acknowledged the fact I love travelling alone, and making it an unforgettable story of its own.

RIP Maria José and Marina.

Poeira de Deus

Travel

My journey to Cabo Verde is not over. After having visited the islands Santiago and Fogo, I started researching about the whole archipelago more and more and it seems that the journey through the available material is endless. Each island represents a very unique history, culture and even more often: a dialect.

So during the cold evenings in Berlin, drinking the flowery moscatel and refreshing white wine from the volcanic soil of Fogo I managed to find a documentary about the Rebelados – a community that inhabits the mountain ranges of Serra da Malagueta, and refuses the catholic religion, that was historically imposed on Cabo Verde by the Portuguese colonisation that lasted until 1974. I find it particularly interesting to see the beautiful mountain landscapes and fascinating celebrations, such as batuque.

I have spent one day hiking around the Serra Malagueta range, and nearby towns such as Assomada and São Domingos, that are the centre of communication to/from Praia and Tarrafal. Also, they offer a bustling marketplaces with food, clothing and what-not. Having in mind that Cabo Verde is a remote archipelago with the majority of its population living abroad, and scarce possibilities for agriculture, many of the goods taken for granted in the Western societies, here are often a basic need to be fulfilled (such as food, or even water).

In some places rain has not appear in years. Even though Santiago is considered the island with the most tropical climate (and hence: cases of dengue, malaria and ultimately – zika are rare, but contrary to other islands of archipelago, may happen due to the presence of the mosquitos).

The magnificent views, however, and the hospitality (morabeza  – the word originating in Portuguese creole) can make up for the certain hostility of the climate on these remote islands. There is a beautiful story to it called ‘God’s powder’ (Poeira de Deus): on the 8th day after creating and sculpting the world, God threw the rest of the powder into the ocean, creating 10 islands of Cabo Verde. Believe or not, I think there is some truth in it.

 

Ilha de saudade – the sad stories from Cabo Verde

Travel

I have written quite a lot about the cheerful, colourful and paradisiac side of Cabo Verde. I believe there are even more adjectives to describe the archipelago, given that there are 10 islands, each of them of a very special characteristics. Yet there is one thing they have in common: the remoteness, from the African continent, not to mention the other parts of the world.

I was always attracted to remote islands, and even more when I read the book from Judith Schalansky. As she said in one of the interviews “Islands, especially those that seem most remote, are perfect places. They capture your imagination. For people who feel stressed, the island is an ideal image of a place where you can find peace, and where you can finally concentrate on what is really important. Maybe that’s where the question originates: What would you bring to a desert island? Each utopia wishes for a new beginning, for a chance to do everything differently. All it takes is untrodden territory and an answer to the question: Is another, better life possible?”.

Is it always the case though? Cabo Verde was uninhabited until the discovery and colonization by the Portuguese explorers in 15th century. Since then, they became an important shipping and commercial route, also when it comes to the shameful slave trade. This shed light on many people of Cabo Verde asking for their actual origins.

During my stay on the Santiago island, I was also faced with rather unusual place to visit during holidays: a concentration camp. I never heard about the concentration camp on the beautiful location like this, and more about the camp that was running for over 40 years. It was build in Tarrafal in 1936 by the authoritarian government of Salazar and was torn down only with the independence of Cabo Verde in 1975. There is an interesting documentary (“Memories from the camp of the slow death” – due to severe and dry conditions) about the survivors of the camp, mostly political prisoners from the former Portuguese colonies, e.g. Guiné Bissau, São Tomé or Angola:

The feeling of saudade – longing, separation (knowing that the majority of the Cabo Verde inhabitants live in diasporas outside of the archipelago: mostly in Paris and in Lisbon) is also reflected in mornasthe musical style originated in Cabo Verde or in the look of homeless dogs, wandering around from the town centres to the beaches, and all you need to do is to carefully get acquainted with them as you go along.

Thinking about it a bit more in-depth, Cabo Verde lays nowhere and at the same time, at the crossing of the routes from East and West, North and South and the influences of other cultures and political issues were reflected on this very special islands.