The people of Cape Verde, we have nothing. However, we are happy. We choose to be happy
This was said to me by a most wonderful man that we met in the village of Povoacao Velha , in Boa Vista. We had arrived in the village on quads that we had hired, covered in dust from the one road that cut through the baron, luna landscape of Boa Vista. The landscape that we had travelled through was arid, dry, and literally, like the surface of the moon. As we got off the quads, a few of the locals walked up to us, calling friendly greetings and telling us where we could get welcome cold drinks from. It was our first encounter of the real Boa Vista. The island of which we discovered really was an island of two sides. Im going to cover where we stayed etc in another post, but, rather than just an itinerary, I wanted to share with you some of our actual experience, the real feel of Boa Vista, Cape Verde.
Boa Vista, Cape Verde – Choose to be Happy
As we walked along into the small village square, glancing around we saw that there were a few of the woman of the village, sitting out the front of their homes, busily chopping vegetables or tending young children. Older children were running around the streets with sticks, laughing and playing, their mum’s watching on from the kerbs of the street. The men of the village were gathered around the benches in the centre of the village, some carrying water from the pumping station, some working with wood, carving out African masks and boats to sell in the tiny village shop. It was a colourful, vibrant village, just on an incredibly small scale.
We had spent seven days in our resort, relaxing and recharging our batteries, which was much needed from our last difficult twelve months. However, we were ready to explore our surroundings more by day five, so booked an intimate quad tour to take us around the island. Now, Im not sure about you, but I have never driven a quad before, and being the clumsy calamity that I am, knew this could result in me face down in the sand! The twists and turns of the unmade, rocky tracks that we had to navigate, could prove challenging to me. I was a little worried, Nik and the boys a little amused…..they are evil. I actually didn’t need to worry, I drove that thing like a boss…(if a boss drives like a granny at about 5 miles per hour for the first 10 minutes) Yes, steering did prove to be a little bit of an issue for me initially, but lets ignore that shall we…
Back to the village.
There is no mistaking the poverty that is in Cape Verde once you are away from the plush resorts that we as holiday makers stay in. As you wander across the island, there are homes that are little more than shacks, makeshift shelters that people are living in. We were told that many of the workers from the hotels live in these “shanty towns” as they are called. No running water or electricity means that the homes are pretty dark, so lots of people are outside. Traveling through the harsh landscape of Boa Vista, passing these homes, I had never been more aware of my privilege.
Reaching the tiny village of Povoacao Velha, about 20 minutes ride, the homes are a little more solidly built, but there is still no running water and the electricity is only available for a few hours per day. The villagers were obviously proud of their homes though, we felt no feeling of discontent, and the outsides had been painted in various pastel colours. Some had beautiful African artwork and turtles painted on them. Boa Vista is incredibly proud of its turtle conservation efforts, and you will see their love of turtles reflected everywhere over the island. They really care about looking after them, and have a beach that is dedicated purely to the turtles.
One of the locals offered to show us around the tiny village. “No Stress, No stress” he kept saying to us. A term that was very much on most Cape Verdians lips. Of course, they are hoping that you will buy some little carvings or trinkets from the shop, but we felt no pressure. He was proud to take us along the cobbled paths to show us around the village, although also very matter of fact about the poverty there. The village shops, along with fishing and growing their own produce, was how the people supported themselves in the village. We were shown the tiny local school, and it was explained that schools are always painted yellow, as is tradition on Boa Vista. Then on to the pumping station that supplied the village with cleaner water, (although its still not drinkable), with the ladies of the village filling up their huge buckets to carry on their heads, back to their homes. Goats were strolling around the villages, seeking out shade from the sun alongside the cats and street dogs. Cats stretched out lazily, dogs alert and ready to play with whoever wanted to. There was harmony with the animals and villagers. Being a huge animal lover, I always look at how a nation treats its animals. Nations may be poor, but there is never a need for cruelty, and the people of Boa Vista showed compassion and kindness to its animals. Little lids of water were left out for the smaller animals to drink, dogs and cats seemed to be very welcome, and we learnt that there were organisations on the island working on a neutering programme for the street cats and dogs. We never saw any harshness or cruelty, which made me so happy.
Our self appointed guide happily taught us about how the village was the oldest settlement of Boa Vista, thought to date back to the 16th century, and it used to be the islands capital back in the early 1800’s. The elders of the village very much believe that this village is where the story of Boa Vista was born. I loved that. It had a sense of pride in the village. Despite it being simple, it was clean and tidy. The village does have some tourists pass through it, which is great for their community, as it is very close to the stunningly beautiful beach of Santa Monica. It is in fact the closest village to the beach. Voted in the top 10 of most beautiful beaches in the world for many years, we said our goodbyes to our lovely new friend, gave him some Euro’s to thank him, and set off back on the quads to head to the beach.
Santa Monica Beach
Up and over sand dunes, the thrill of the speed of which you go down them, the sliding of the quad as the sand moves under the wheels, mean that we arrived at santa Monica beach laughing, eyes shining, full of high spirits and more than ready to wash the sand dunes dust from us. I was giggly with the fact that I had overcome my fear of hurtling down the dunes. Those buggers were high! I had promised my boys that I wouldn’t chicken out, so I just went for it and it was exhilarating. So much fun. Reaching the top of one particular sand dune, my breath was taken away at the little slice of paradise that stretched before us. Sparkling turquoise waters, white, icing sugar fine sand, and not another person on the beach. It was stark contrast to the landscape through which we had travelled. It really was an island of two sides! The beach is 18km long, so it is never crowded! If you ever get to Boa Vista, you MUST visit this beach. Its unspoilt (for now) and a real treasure. Our guide told us that we could stop for an hour, so that was it. I was off.
Now, I am incredibly self conscious of being in front of anyone in a swimming costume. My weight gain over the years has made me so. Other than my family, it rarely happens unless I really have to on holiday etc. However, call it a rush of blood to the head, or maybe high spirits from the thrill of the dunes, but I flung off my dress, kicked off my Havanans, and with a shout of “race you” I ran full pelt for the sea. Running like the devil himself was chasing me. I have no doubt that my butt was wobbling, my thighs were thundering and my bingo wings were flying, but I did not care. Not one bit. No Fecks Given. I knew how lucky I was to be on that beautiful, untouched beach. Nik and the boys followed suit, and with childlike abandon, we all dived into the ocean, relishing in its welcome coolness, letting the waves tumble us, popping back up from the waters surface laughing, spluttering and happy. So very, very happy. That moment then, that simple moment in time, was one of the happiest I have experienced. Me, my (soon to be completely) well husband, and my boys. Laughing until my happy, salty tears met the equally salty ocean. How lucky am I….
Relaxing back at the bar that night, I really felt that the feeling I had experienced today, that feeling of just relishing in and embracing where we were, really summed up how the Islands people struck me. They made the most of what they have. They realise that although money is scarce, living is tough, they know how lucky they are to live in a place with stunning beaches. Glorious oceans. They overcome their obstacles to have a bright and positive outlook. Despite having very little, they have “no stress” I sat there and realised that we could all learn so, so many lessons from these people. What our village guide said was playing on my mind. They choose to be happy. They have no material possessions, the very basic in utilities and comfort, but they choose to be happy. It was very humbling. It was a stark reminder of how spoilt we are. The saying “I Pity The Man That Has Only Richness In Possessions” has never felt so apparent.
So, there we have it. My first little insight for you into our Cape Verde trip. What do you think? I know it doesn’t cover the whats and wheres, but I was so overwhelmed with the feeling of Boa Vista, that is what has stayed with me, that I felt it needed more respect than just facts, itineraries and tips. I wanted you to get a feel for the people and the island. I will cover the other stuff in another post, I know its useful to know, but I wanted to share an experience, a memory, a story with you first. I hope thats ok…..