Throughout my 20s I spent my holidays in either the Greek Islands or the Canary Islands. Proper girls holidays. Lying by the pool with a book in hand in the day, followed by a night out with cocktails and dancing. Notice I said pool not beach? Bargain holidays are seldom less than 30 minute walk from the beach. I had fun, some great memories and I wouldn’t change that for anything.
At some point in my twenties I went away with a boyfriend to Cyprus. We didn’t stop for a second, he made me go to dull museums and drive around the island albeit mostly getting lost and I hated it. I just wanted to lie by the pool. Oddly enough he lasted long enough to go on a second holiday and we went to Florida, and drove around a lot. A lot! He wouldn’t let me go to Disneyland and by the time we got to Clear Water, I begged for us to stop for a few nights so I could relax. He didn’t last as my boyfriend much longer after that.
My 30s hit a new era. With a boyfriend who also liked to lie by the pool, we did one of those all inclusive package holidays. We got an amazing deal to Dominican Republic and you won’t believe how happy I was to be in my dream destination: the Caribbean. It was lovely, and we enjoyed the inclusiveness of the trip too. Not having to think about money when away is great.
Given how much we appreciated the all inclusive part of the trip we decided to do another. Whilst looking on a holiday web site I saw a destination I’d not heard of before: Cape Verde. It surprised me as I thought I knew all the package holiday destinations. It was a brand new destination and being billed as ‘African Caribbean’ but a lot cheaper and shorter flight. Having loved the Caribbean I had to go.
We stepped off the plane. I was expecting that normal gust of warm air that hits you in the face like a sauna. I was greeted by cold wind hitting me in the face. The coach took us from the airport to the hotel and all we saw was sand, sand and more sand. When we got the hotel it hadn’t warmed up and the wind hadn’t dropped yet. We saw all the lobsters around the hotel. When I say lobsters, I mean people that had severe sunburn. We slapped on the factor 30 pronto, remembering how close to the equator we were.
The next day was warmer, but the wind was still going. It was warm enough to sunbathe, and we did so by the pool. There was something strange about the pool – it was empty. All the sun loungers taken but not one person in the pool. I dipped my foot in: ouch! It was ice cold. That will be why then. We went to the beach, and watched the roughness of the Atlantic, I think there were big chunks of time it wasn’t safe to swim. The water was the opposite to the warm bath-like-water in the Caribbean, but that didn’t stop us borrowing the boogie boards and having so much fun in the rough water. When we left our towels on the sunloungers on the beach we’d weigh our towels down with books and everything else, but it would be a sure thing that we’d return to our towels on the floor.
I was there for 2 weeks. The wind stopped once. Once! And when it did it was so hot, I couldn’t wait for it to start again. Sure enough after 5 minutes it did, and didn’t stop again. When the wind was at it’s most gentle, I looked at the palm trees and thought if I didn’t know better I’d think there was a gale blowing. Made me think the wind must always blow in the same direction and that is the way the trees grow. I find that an interesting point, and I’m not sure why.
We did a couple of trips, one where we went around the island. We saw the salt crater and floated in the water. We even saw a mirage! Yes a mirage. Apparently it is always there at the same time every day. We had driven across the sand and knew there was no water. We knew for a fact. Yet where we stopped I would have sworn there was a big pool of water. Awesome!
We also did a trip on dune buggies. Oh my! So much fun. So! Much! Fun! When you’re on an island that is mostly sand and lots of sand dunes, this is the best way to see the island. We even arrived at a beach that is miles away from a road. It was something special for me to see. Annoyingly I’d forgotten my camera on that day, but I’m pretty sure the memory is far more accurate and detailed than any photo could have been.
One day we went into the resort centre. We saw so much building work, looked like hotels after hotels being built. I wonder if they are all full now. We had been told that the locals want to chat to us to improve their English. So we stopped, had big chats about Cape Verde and where we were from. At the end of the conversation they would ask: “would you like to come into our shop?” and we’d say “No thank you” and they’d reply “Have a nice day.” I wonder how tourism has changed and if this is still how they are today.
We walked back to the hotel along the beach. The never ending beautiful quiet beach where we saw no-one except maybe a kite surfer. Such a contrast to the busy beaches in the Dominican Republic.
So did I think Cape Verde was anything like the Caribbean? Absolutely not. It is it’s own country with it’s own identity. Why did it give me the travel bug? Because it was somewhere I never expected to come across. It challenged any idea of how a country can be. It surprised me. It stopped me from wanting to just lie on the beach; it made me want to get out there and experience more. It made me realise that there are places we’ve never heard of before, that are nothing like what we would expect in a million years. I crave to go to another country one day that surprises me in the same way.