Portuguese Africa – Cape Verde, Santiago Island
The word “island” itself has some kind of magical attraction. Living on an island, you lose touch with the world; an island is a world in its own right. A world from which one may never return. Agatha Christie. The Ten Negroes.
In the first part I told of a short trip to Angola Portuguese Africa – Angola. Now the African island nation awaited us.
Since there were no direct flights from Angola, we flew from Luanda first to Lisbon and from there to Cape Verde. The flight was pleasantly memorable because I was able to take pictures through the porthole during the day.
Most of the air route was over the Sahara (Niger, Algeria, Morocco). There are huge sand dunes in the foreground. The scenery is cosmic. Immediately I remembered my five days in Algeria Algerian Sahara, day four – a party in the desert.
And these mysterious circles are irrigation fields. In the center is an artesian well from which stretches a horizontal pipe with many holes for water. The pipe moves in a circle and moistens the soil, turning it from dry to fertile. Corn, wheat and other cultivated plants are grown here in the desert.
We land in Lisbon. Unfortunately, on this trip we did not visit the Portuguese capital, although its airport was visited three times. However, we did not have much time for transit, so we decided not to risk it.
At 21.00 we flew to Praia. Our flight time was just over 4 hours, so we arrived in Cape Verde at night. We got our visa at the airport without any problems. Then we checked in to the hotel and in the morning, our acquaintance with the first island began.
First general information.
The Republic of Cape Verde – a state in West Africa, until 1986 the name was officially translated into Russian as the Republic of Cape Verde Islands. It is located in the Atlantic Ocean, 600 km from the coast of Africa, opposite the border of Mauritania and Senegal.
The official date of discovery by Europeans of the Cape Verde Islands is 1460.
On the left is the flag and coat of arms of Cape Verde. The equilateral triangle on the coat of arms is blue as a symbol of unity, equality of civil rights, with a white torch inside, symbolizing freedom, earned by many years of struggle.
The yellow float at the top, overlapping the two circles, is a symbol of honesty and dignity. The chain of three yellow links and the two green palm leaves at the bottom symbolize the unity of the people in times of drought. The 10 stars on the flag and coat of arms represent the 10 inhabited islands of the state.
The Cape Verde Islands are an archipelago of 10 major and 8 smaller islands, roughly subdivided into Leeward and Leeward groups.
In four full days we visited three, unlike each other, islands. They are marked with red arrows and numbers (in order of visiting order). 1 – Santiago Island, 2 – San Vicente Island, 3 – Sal Island.
Getting to know Santiago Island began in the center of Praia. Many of the houses are a colonial Portuguese inheritance. It was on Santiago Island that the first settlers appeared in 1462. Below I will show you the specific place where it happened.
In 1466 the mass settlement of all the islands by Portuguese colonists, officials and exiles began. Later, the Spaniards, the French and the inhabitants of Genoa.
In 1495 the islands were officially declared a possession of Portugal. Later, in 1581, Cape Verde became a colony of Spain. Fifty-nine years later, Portugal resumed its rule.
In 1963, the armed struggle of the PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde) against the Portuguese authorities in the archipelago began.
In November 1974, an agreement was signed in Lisbon declaring the country’s independence and a transitional government of the autonomous Republic of Cape Verde was formed.
On July 5, 1975, Cape Verde’s independence was officially proclaimed.
Now back to the specific island and the beginning of our journey. Today the capital city is home to nearly 160,000 people. Cape Verde’s total population is 540,000. That turns out almost a third of the population is in the city of Praia.
In the morning we went to the main market. Sellers here are very positive, in addition to smiling, ready to treat you to any edible product. You can not even go to breakfast, half an hour at the market and you are full.
When we got out of there, we heard some loud shouting and decided to check what had happened. It turned out that there was a rally going on near the court building.
It was the same as everywhere else – people wanted more money and the impossible: truth and justice. The event ended unusually – protesters with placards and flags marched through the streets to merry, dancing music.
We decided not to waste time and hurried to take a rented car for a ride around Santiago Island. Here’s a map of it and the points I marked under the road and at significant stops.
In the first minutes once we were outside the city, the scenery seemed bleak to me. Outside the window was kind of boring, even this picture says it:)
Then it got a little more cheerful, there were rare, green landscapes. But, note the light haze. Cape Verde has no change of seasons, a year-round mild climate with an average temperature of about 26 degrees Celsius. The only weather problem is the harmatan wind, which brings sandy dust from the Sahara from October to May. On one island it was noticeable a little more, on another a little less.
Soon, we stopped in the small town of Calheta de Sao Miguel (number 3 on the map). Here, for the first time, I felt what the real Cape Verde was like. This is exactly how colorful I imagined this country to be.
Fishing bays, colorful boats and colorful people around all this beauty.
It was very nice to see graffiti on the islands. Street art is one of my favorite subjects to photograph when traveling.
In the same locality, it was memorable how, at our request, two girls showed the dance moves they use at the annual carnival.
The island of Santiago is the largest of all. We had crossed it from the south to the north (80 km one way). To the northernmost point, the old lonely lighthouse, we didn’t make it more than a mile and a half (number 4). You can see it in the center of the frame.
We felt sorry for the rental car. For several kilometers we drove off-road. At the very end we came to the place where we started to pin the rocks with our bottom. There was an obvious risk to be stuck here for a long time.
The surrounding scenery. We didn’t meet any cars or even locals here. Only wind and rocks. Personally, such places and moments evoke delight in me, which is not always shared by the rest of the participants.
On January 16, 1832, the ship Beagle with Charles Darwin on board visited Santiago Island. Darwin gave an overview of the island, describing its geology and topography. I liked his description, very similar to what I saw and what Santiago as a whole is like today.
” From the sea, the surroundings of Porto Praia look deserted. The volcanic fire of past centuries and the stormy heat of the tropical sun have made the soil in many places unsuitable for vegetation. The terrain gradually rises in flat escarpments over which conical hills with blunted tops are scattered here and there, and an irregular chain of higher mountains stretches on the horizon …”
Our next point on the map of Santiago was the famous town of Tarrafal (number 5). It is located 70 kilometers to the north of the capital.
The local kids look curiously at our car and shyly respond to the photo shoot. By the way, 71% of the population of Cape Verde are mulatto (of mixed African-European descent), 28% are Africans (Manjak, Balante, Bantu, and other nationalities), and the other 1% are Europeans.
And this is the main beach of the city. We did not have a chance to swim here, just enjoyed the beautiful bay and the colorful boats.
Fishing boats here are cool, in addition to individual numbers, some have a drawing that brings the owner good luck.
Tarraffal is known not only in Cape Verde, but also in many countries around the world, because on January 26, 1936 there was formed a brutal Portuguese prison for political prisoners, which existed until April 25, 1974.
Tarraffal was the main concentration camp for political opponents of Portugal. Political criminals and revolutionaries from all of Portugal’s African colonies were taken there. Details are in a separate article.
In the afternoon we went back by another road. In some places it was quite unusual and fundamentally different from the morning route along the ocean.
Note the number 6 on the map above. Practically in the center of the island is the town of Assamada. A couple of kilometers away is a unique nature park with baobabs and dragon trees several hundred years old.
Along a narrow, serpentine road, we got to the main, the oldest and largest tree, which is probably more than a thousand years old. It is impossible to photograph it even vertically.
I’m sure for many residents of the capital and the rest of the island’s population centers, this revered place is one of their favorites.
After sunset we drove into Praia. We spent the night and left in the morning for the second island, then the third. Read about that in the next two parts…
Two days later we returned to the island of Santiago. We had half a day at our disposal for the things we had not had time to visit at the beginning of the trip.
The most important point was the town of Cidade Velha (number 2 on the map). Here is the only UNESCO site in Cape Verde. Remember I wrote above that the first settlers in the Cape Verde Islands appeared in 1462. Well, it happened exactly in this place.
The Portuguese navigator Antonio Noli founded a town here called Ribeira Grande. For a long time it remained a key seaport at the crossroads of Africa, America, Europe and India, where ships replenished their supplies of food and fresh water. It also served as a transshipment point for slaves exported from Africa to the plantations of South America.
For many years Ribeira Grande surpassed all other cities on the west coast of Africa in wealth. In 1497-98, even the ships of Columbus and Vasco da Gama entered the bay of Ribeira Grande.
In 2009, the historic center was inscribed in UNESCO as “Europe’s first colonial outpost in the tropics.
With the decline of the Portuguese Empire, the commercial importance of Cidade Velha began to decline. In 1590, Philip II commanded the construction of a fort to protect against attacks by the English and the French.
During the War of the Spanish Succession in May 1712, the town was taken, sacked and set on fire by French pirates under the command of Jacques Cassar, and in 1770, the governor of the islands moved his residence to Praia.
A few monuments remind us of Sidadi’s golden age: a marble pillar in the main square (16th century), the ruins of an ancient cathedral and the well-preserved Portuguese Forte Real de Sao Filipe.
After visiting the fortress we went down to the town. We wanted to spend twenty minutes here and leave for the capital. But we couldn’t. There was an extraordinary atmosphere here. On the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, boys were playing soccer. I spent a long, fascinated look at the moving silhouettes.
Beach restaurants beckoned and tempted us to stay. We did not resist and stayed for dinner.
While it was being cooked I ran through the colorful streets and realized that a whole day here would not have been enough for me. A fabulous provincial place with an unhurried rhythm of life.
When the sun had already begun to set, we quickly rushed to Praia. I wanted very much to visit this lighthouse at the southernmost tip of the island. I saw it from the plane.
We didn’t manage to take beautiful pictures, but we climbed to the top of the lighthouse and even caught the moment when the signal light was on. It was my first time, a very romantic moment that will stay in my memory for a long time.
The island of Santiago, of course, is interesting and notable for several attractions, although we did not have time to visit everything, but the next island gave even more unforgettable discoveries and creative impressions…
Cabo Verde History and Present
Six hundred kilometers off the west coast of the African continent is this small country, Cape Verde. The Portuguese word for its name translates as “Cape Verde Islands”. So it was named by the Italian traveler Aloysius Cadamosto, who visited these lands in 1456.
Kite Beach, Sal Island, Cape Verde. Photo by ClaDae.
Cape Verde in numbers.
Before we get acquainted with this exotic for us country, here are some dry statistics concerning this state:
- The Republic of Cape Verde is located on 18 islands: 8 are small and 10 are large;
- occupies an area of 4,033 square kilometers;
- The population as of 09.07.2019 – 545,688 people;
- the capital of the state is the city of Praia, located on the island of Santiago;
- official language – Portuguese;
- The national currency is the Cape Verdean escudo.
The main part of the country’s population (about 90%) are Catholics.
Ribeira Brava, Sao Nicolao Island, Cape Verde. The author of the photo is Niko Luiggen.
Cape Verde – stages of history
To say that no one knew about the islands before they were discovered would be wrong. The Cape Verde Islands were on the route of the ships that rounded the west coast of Africa. The ancient scholars Pliny the Elder, Claudius Ptolemy, and Marinus of Tyre mentioned these territories in their works.
However, the development of Cape Verde began only after the colonization of these lands by Portugal.
Let us list the main milestones of the beginning of the historical development of the country:
- 1462 – settlement of the islands by settlers from Portugal, Spain, France, and Italy.
- 1471-1475 – the beginning of a lively trade in slaves from the African mainland.
- 1495 – year when Portugal officially colonized the islands.
- 1533 – formation of the first city of the archipelago, Ribeiro Grande.
- 1581-1640 – The possession of Cape Verde passed to Spain, after which Portugal regained the lost lands.
During these times the islands were experiencing a period of boom. The slave trade flourished here. Slaves were transported to the cane plantations of Brazil, for coffee picking, and other hard labor in various countries.
Ships bringing coffee, sugar, indigo, cane and cocoa from both coasts of the Americas stopped here to rest. All this contributed to the prosperity of the settlements and, at the same time, attracted the eyes of pirates. The famous corsairs of the time, the Englishman Francis Drake and the Frenchman Jacques Cassar, participated in the raids on the archipelago. The latter went down in history because he destroyed to the ground the first capital of the country Ribeiro Grande, so it had to be moved to the city of Santa Maria (the future Praia).
With the prohibition of the slave trade (1878) the importance of the Cape Verde Islands declined. Gradually the people were freed from colonial dependence and became free in 1975.
Windsurfing, San Pedro, San Vicente Island, Cabo Verde. The author of the photo is Marian Diaz.
The islands where Chunga Chunga lives
If we talk about the geographical location and climate of the archipelago, it is extremely favorable for living. Remembering the song of the famous Soviet cartoon, “Chunga Chunga”, we can say: yes, this is where its characters lived. Bananas, mangos, pineapples and other goodies are plentiful here. Comfortable stay on the islands at any time of year contributes to the geographical location and climate.
It is always warm and the climate is mild. In the coldest month, February, the thermometer does not fall below +21 ° C. It does not scare the visitors and the infamous rainy season. In the fall they occur, but not as much as elsewhere.
All the islands are divided into two groups. San Vicente, Santo Antão, Santa Lucia, San Nicolau, Boavista and Sal take on the ocean winds, belong to the Navetrain. The islands of Brava, Santiago, Mayu and Fogo are part of the Leeward, sheltered islands. The rest are small in area, and are of little interest.
Cape Verde has a large number of volcanoes, already extinct or active. The highest is located on the Fogu, its height is 2,829 meters.
Vineyards and a volcano, Fogo Island, Cape Verde. Photo by tivitto.
Everywhere in the archipelago is dominated by hilly terrain, the islands are fringed mostly by rocky shores. Although the former name of the country, Cape Verde Islands, talked about the abundance of vegetation – it’s not much, mostly bushes and grass. The rest is rocky soil.
An interesting fact is that all the islands differ from each other: in area, vegetation, landscape.
The lack of worries about buying warm clothes and clothes made the population of the country kind and friendly. The locals are cordial and sing a lot. Their songs can be heard almost all night in the many small bars, where the population relaxes after work. By the way, locally produced beer, which is consumed by the people of Kaboverden performing karaoke, is in great esteem here.
The main profit of the state comes from tourism. Exotic, untouched by civilization lands attract foreign visitors. There are few luxury hotels and hyper-markets, there is a serene atmosphere, the background of which is the waves of the warm Atlantic Ocean.
The population, mostly mulattoes, descendants of European settlers and Africans, earn their escudos in agricultural work. Ten percent of the land is occupied by various plantations. The export of tropical fruits, coffee, brings considerable income to the country. In spite of the rich opportunities, fishing is not a priority. Seafood is harvested mainly for personal sustenance. Interestingly, about half of the exports are the products of local shoemakers. The natives supply quality products to local markets.
Pirate times have fallen into oblivion, yet taking care of your safety on the islands is a sacred thing. There are about 1,000 men in the armed forces and about the same number in the police force.
Cape Verde. Photo by Michael.
What is a tourist to do in Cape Verde?
You can get to this country by air or by water. There are two international airports on the islands of Santiago and Sal, and there are about 10 local ones flying between the islands. Ocean liners and ferries dock at Praia, Mindelu and Tarrafal. Railway transport on the archipelago is absent.
Sal Island, Cabo Verde Ideal place to stop on the way to South America. The author of the photo is Johan Van Moorham.
A classic tourist who is used to luxurious comforts, shopping, high-speed internet will feel out of place here. Cape Verde is a natural environment, natural beaches, rocky shores. You can walk or ride a rental bicycle. Zelenomyssk residents have not yet acquired public transportation. The most advanced way to get around the major islands are private cabs and shuttles. Internet is expensive, and its quality is far from continental.
The most popular forms of entertainment are diving, relaxing on small beaches, and walking along mountain trails. Cape Verde attracts fans of scuba diving, as there are ideal conditions: underwater grottos, coral reefs, exotic ocean inhabitants. The best places for such recreation are the islands of Boavista, Santiago, Sal, Santa Lucia.
Fans of extreme sports can try a rare kind: volcanic snowboarding – descent down the slopes of the volcano to the sands, lying on the coast. By the way, this sand is black – it contains particles of solidified lava. You can also go down from the mountains on a hang-glider.
In honor of tourists fishing. What fisherman will refuse to catch fish unseen in our latitudes in the ocean? The main thing in this fascinating case – do not miss the day of departure home.
The local food is of good quality. It is dominated by dishes of Atlantic inhabitants, of which the natives most revere tuna. Portuguese cuisine, a legacy of the colonial past, is still popular.
Interesting details of life in Cape Verde Let us tell you about some interesting facts, the knowledge of which will be useful to domestic tourists when visiting this island state:
- The fare on the local shuttle bus – 1-2 euros;
- Travel by ferry between the nearby islands – 35 euros;
- to rent a car (on large islands there is such a service) – 80 euros per day;
- The quality of local roads, it especially amazes our tourists, is of a decent level. Compatriots claim that the roads in Ryazan or Tambov are inferior to the local ones;
- the price for lunch in a café or restaurant: 8-15 euros, depending on the class of the public catering outlet.
Let us also note the main attractions of this island country:
- There is a statue of Jesus Christ in the waters near the island of Sal. According to local belief, this contributes to a good catch of fishermen.
- As you travel around the islands in the ocean, you can see packs of whales changing their location.
- A great deficit in Cape Verde is the sand. This building material is essential for the builders who use it to build buildings on the islands. Sand is mined by women who get it from the bottom of the ocean and fill huge wicker baskets with it. With this heavy burden on their heads, the women go ashore, dry it, and then sell it to construction sites. The government has forbidden such extraction, but in order to feed their large families, they continue to break the law.
The most revered person in Cape Verde is Cesaria Évora, a famous singer who died in 2011 and was born in Mindelo. She became famous in the world for her beautiful voice and distinctive manner of performance. Evora went on stage barefoot, for this reason she was nicknamed “barefoot diva”.
Cesaria loved her country so much that all the money she earned, gave to its development. Funding for primary education in Cape Verde came from the singer.