Cape Verde

… no stress

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Everything about the trip to Cape Verde started with an idea, since summer. My husband and our godfather are both called the same, and their name day is, in Romania, a national holiday, and it’s also being followed by another national holiday.

This being said, I and our godmother thought about taking them someplace nice for their name day. Of course, we didn’t tell them anything specific, just that we will go somewhere so that they can schedule vacation days at work. They didn’t even know that we were supposed to leave together, the four of us.

The first option:

Morocco. Infinite sand dunes, spices and various flavors, oriental influences and special experiences. We thought we found everything that we needed, we agreed on the route, but we encountered the first problem: our godfather didn’t have a valid passport. So, we ended up telling him.

Our godmother just told him he needed to go and take the passport, and he had all the paperwork worked out, and then the two of us realize something: in the desert temperatures go as low as 32 degrees at night.

And we were supposed to spend the night in tents, to get to know the local feeling. The godmother and I both hate being cold. So we realized that, in the end, it won’t be Morocco after all. However, the surprise was already broken for the godfather. It was only my husband that had no idea about what was happening except for the “we’re going away together, just the two of us” thing.

The second option:

Tenerife. The sun, nice weather, lots of places to visit, endless fun things to do. We found plane tickets and accommodation options and I had sneakily taken a picture of my husband’s ID so I can make the reservation. We were supposed to have a layover in Milan and a full day layover on the way back, so we also had the chance to visit this city too. Since we had already messed the surprised for the godfather (and for no reason), we decided to involve him too in these decisions.

Everything looked spectacular, we were two months away from the departure time and we started to look more into planning the activities. It’s a good thing that we didn’t make any reservations because my special luck strikes again and our first flight, the one to Milan, got canceled.

Just like that. It was still OK that we had some time left to be able to reorganize. After we excluded the obvious options of finding other connections but felt we couldn’t rely on the Milan-Tenerife flight anymore, we decided to just give up on it and ask for our money back.

The third option:

Barcelona. Warm enough to feel comfortable, lots of things to see, good food, good and frequent flights – we started to include this in the search criteria by now. Our godparents were happy with it, we thought about going also to Seville so we don’t get bored by staying one full week only in Barcelona, we also thought about renting a car and visit the whole coastline. While I was looking for activities and possible circuit options, they were having a short city break in Rome with some friends and couldn’t actively look with me, but we weren’t in a hurry.

Meanwhile, some protests start in Barcelona, a tentative of a group of people to create a Catalan republic independent from the Madrid government. It didn’t look like a violent situation, but it already made me feel a little insecure, especially after London.

When our godparents came back from Rome, we schedule a meeting for our version of Netflix and chill, which is beer/wine and Catan, and we found out that they will not be able to join us after all. Since we had last spoken, they found out a situation appeared and their personal life would change, so they wouldn’t be able to travel for some time.

So, here I am. With an imaginary surprise, money already spent on the tickets to Tenerife, a limited amount of money available for this trip, vacation days already set up at work, fewer ideas and no one to rely on, except for our godparents, who were still there for me for any advice I would need. Sounds great, I know. And I start searching and reading and especially analyzing what I want. And I realize I really wanted to see the beach, I was already sick of being cold.

I didn’t have money for the Caribbeans, Seychelles, Zanzibar or The Maldives, no matter how much time I spent searching for it in my account. I did find a nice offer for Sri Lanka, but after the last experience in Asia, I was a little afraid to organize such a trip by myself.

I felt I wouldn’t be able to handle everything that I would like to see, and I would definitely need his advice, but I really wanted to still keep it a surprise for him, since the other parts of it didn’t exactly go as I hoped. And I started to look into more and more obscure places, somewhere around the Equator’s line, to be sure the weather was going to be sunny.

I have also thought about the Azores, but they didn’t look like sunny enough to make me happy then. Apart from that, my husband already went to lots of places, and it’s pretty hard to find new places to take him to. And while looking around randomly on a map, with enough zoom to see any island larger than a few square miles, I stumble upon Cape Verde. And I click on Google Images. And I fall in love.

I fall in love with the large, wild beaches, the rich vegetation, the women with fruit baskets on their heads, the turquoise sea and the colorful fish. The plane tickets were a little too expensive, almost like the ones to Sri Lanka, but I felt more confident to take care of everything when it came to this place. So, I thought it was worth it, and I made the reservations, I added an island tour and thought about adding everything else on the spot if we wanted something more.

From all of the available islands, I choose Sal because I could be sure the weather was going to be OK, without any chance of rain due to the monsoon season. Still, I had to tell my husband we were going to the beach because we needed to take some stuff from his parents’ house and I couldn’t secretly put them into the car he was driving. And maybe it sounds weird, but I wanted him to be able to pack his own bags and not add the ski gear too.

It was actually quite funny because I used his Booking account to make the reservation, because we have some discounts gathered there, and whenever he received some emails from the accommodation place he just came home and showed me the messages. He basically had lots of options to find out the destination but stayed strong.

Getting into Sal, Cape Verde

On the departure day, at the awful 6 in the morning, we go to the airport with our eyes still half-closed. When we left the checked-in bag at the counter, the nice guy in there asks me about the visa. For a brief moment, my husband woke up, asked me where in God’s name I’m taking him so that we need a visa, and especially if we have it.

Apart from that, he received a printed ticket where the destination was written, but it only stated “Sal”, which was not of great help. But I decided to tell him a few things because he resisted so good until then, but he was too asleep to care so much for the moment.

He started to care a little bit when we realized we could lose our connection from Lisbon because our departure was getting late. We talked to one of the flight attendants which was helpful and allowed us to stay in first-class when the plane was getting ready for landing, so we could be the first that gets out of it.

We started running like crazy through all the airport because, of course, we landed at gate 10 and we were supposed to take-off at gate 40 or something similar. We were the last ones to embark, and they closed the door right behind us. We then started to hope that our luggage reached the plane too.

The first shock you have, when getting out of a plane and coming from a 35 degrees weather, is when all 86 degrees swipe your face with all of Sahara’s dryness at a time. We started to gradually lose clothes and until we reached the visa office, we were already wearing T-shirts and the rest of our clothes were tucked in our backpacks.

Of course, the visa was just a formality, and the biggest joy was finding our luggage on the conveyor belt spending its time relaxed like it didn’t have to run all the way through the airport in Lisbon.

So far, so good it seemed, but we were feeling that we were a little late and that the taxi driver that should have waited for us could have given up on waiting. Of course, he didn’t, they’re so much more used to being late than we are, and they’re also more “No stress” oriented, no wonder this is the usual saying in these islands.

After a short ride through the Martian looking island, we reached the accommodation, a small apartment in a relaxed residential area, but close enough to the beach so we felt ready to get there as soon as possible.

The beach in Cape Verde

And we reached the beach. And I fell in love again. The beach was huge, as we discovered that week, and it was not at all crowded. I rarely saw sunbeds, and almost all people were just coming by to stay right on the sand with a beer, or on a towel near the shore. The sand was so fine my legs were easily sinking in it.

It was so fine I still find some of it in random areas of the house because we managed to bring some with us. I tried to take one of those instagramable pictures right where the waves were touching the sand, but I didn’t manage to do anything else than to put a lot of sand in my swimming suit, all over the place. That’s a sensation to die for. Really, do not try it at home.

Funny story: do you remember the wooden statue from Bali, bought the summer before, and lost somehow, that we were thinking we managed to throw away by mistake? Well, we found it. Right after we had reached the beach, we started to unfold our beach mats and the statue fell right in my arms. After I had stopped laughing, we realized what happened.

We have put the statue, well packed in protective foil, in a beach mat, to protect it from the long way home. We packed it so good we forgot where we put it. When we arrived home, we opened everything from our bags, but we didn’t even consider opening the beach mats, which we since then taken to my in-laws, then back to Bucharest, then in Cape Verde. Basically, our statue has traveled quite a lot.

A dreamy week followed, especially because we’re used to being very active when going somewhere, and this was a different type of vacation from this point of view. We tried to integrate into the “No stress” view of the island, and we spend all day on the beach, ate, drank and slept.

The beaches are amazing. You won’t hear any music, and you won’t stay next to each other with lots of people, the cleanliness is on point (this is something that depends greatly on education; I am sorry to say, but I think this is due to the fact that I have only heard German, English, and Spanish the whole week).

The only thing we found in the water that wasn’t supposed to be there was a pair of Oakley sunglasses that my husband was more than willing to adopt, because they were just waiting to be taken care of. The waves tend to increase near the shore, right about where the water is as high as your knees, and they managed to get me down a few times, throwing me around like a doll and putting water and sand in places I would rather not speak of.

But the water is very clean, and it gets clearer after you go a little farther away from the shore. As far as snorkeling goes, near the shore there’s not a lot to see, since there are no corals around so the interesting fish are not very interested in coming so close to the beach; the bottom of the sea in this area is covered with the same fine sand with an interesting texture from the waves’ moves.

We tried to record a few videos in the water, with the camera from my father in law, but we’re both so talented that you’re better off searching Youtube than relying on our talent.

Diving around Sal, Cape Verde

One of the days my husband went diving and I went snorkeling offshore as grown-ups do. We found a really nice diving center, where we met people with impeccable English. One of the ladies was actually from Germany, and she was married to a South-African so they decided to set up in Cape Verde. It was probably the best way for both of them to be close to home, without counting Sahara, of course.

Also, a guy was speaking some Romanian, and was claiming that he had some Romanian friends, but looked like a guy that actually had Romanian girlfriends, to be honest. My husband said the dive was interesting, but not like in the Gili Islands (I would hope so!). He saw a half a meter water turtle, a cuttlefish, a moraine and different types of fish, while visiting some wrecks, but without entering the area (you need a different PADI certificate to do so).

When it comes to me, and you know how scared and panicked I am, I could still say I enjoyed myself.

First of all, I had a life jacket on, and I’ve closed it with all the options I found.

Second, I had a buoy tied to my hand, that I walked around like a dog to the boat, into the boat, while snorkeling, in the boat on the way back and in the car.

Third, I had fins I had never previously used, and they were the long type, harder to handle, especially for people as athletic as I am. All of this together with a full face snorkeling mask, for people that cannot breathe through their mouth so that they cannot use regular snorkeling gear.

Well, considering all of this, I was still hanging by the side of the boat when I had to get down from it in the middle of nowhere. My husband and the diving guy had already left, so I didn’t have any moral support, and the guy driving the boat spoke little to no English, but he managed to somehow throw me into the water yelling that I cannot drown with that vest I was wearing. I think it’s because the boat was tilted due to me hanging from a side of it. As I was saying, I have my fears, but after I gather my courage, I cannot stop anymore.

Which actually happened, after I managed to gather my strength. I had some fun above a wreck where some interesting, colorful fish were gathering, I also managed to use the fins once I got the hang of it (not with my feet straight, as the lady suggested, but how I felt it worked for me) and to take advantage of the higher propulsion power the fins were providing.

My buoy actually started to get on my nerves because I had to carry it all around, and it bugged me now. This is how I am after I work past the fear, I start to become arrogant and to forget how I used to hold myself to the side of the boat just 20 minutes ago.

Exploring Sal Island

Another day we took an island tour that we had previously registered for on TripAdvisor. Hint: if you have a choice, stay in the car when taking the tour, not in the back of it, exposed to the environment. And this is because even though a big car will come and pick you up, the available car seats will be three or four, and the other people will stay in the back, with the wind in their hair. Looks romantic, but I don’t think it is.

But the driver was actually nice and he was driving not very fast specifically to address this and especially in the deserted areas, where the sand would have been a problem for even the most understanding type of passenger.

The first stop was at a very rocky bay, a place where the sea was very violent and the surroundings looked quite untouched, and we could see some surfers in the middle of those huge waves, people that come to Cape Verde just for the currents that swiped me off my feet.

The next stop, right in the middle of the desert, was the place where a powerful mirage called Fata Morgana appears when the temperature is very high. Here, in the middle of nowhere, is a shack where they say you can buy authentic Cape Verde souvenirs, made by the people living there. Of course, we fell into the trap and bought some fridge magnets painted on a newspaper page.

The next stop was near the Blue Eye, a small crater in the mountain where, at 12:00 sharp, on sunny days, the sun gets reflected by the water below and creates an effect similar to a bright blue eye looking back at you. But since that day was not a sunny one, everyone felt it was not worth it, so we didn’t even enter the area. But it was definitely worth it to visit the salt mine and the Pedra Lume Lake, a place in the middle of the island which is below sea level and is very, very salty.

Basically in this lake, you don’t swim, you only float. Swimming would not only be useless but also dangerous because you can get water in your or other people’s eyes. Apart from that, there’s also an interesting sensation that appears in some areas of the lake where the water is very warm. Don’t think about those situations in which warmer waves come when you’re at the seaside, it’s not like that, it’s just warmth coming from underground because the lake is in a former volcanic crater.

But the last and the most interesting sensation was a visit to a rather small bay where baby sharks can be seen. And there are lots of chances to see them since the “guides” bring bottles of fish blood that they pour into the water. So the baby sharks come along in water as high as our knees to see what’s happening, and you stay there and pray they don’t call their parents if they’re upset they came for no good reason. It is, in fact, an interesting experience, you’re afraid and excited at the same time.

When it comes to services, people are, of course, very polite, sometimes even too persistent, so you have to learn quite early to avoid long eye contact while on the street. Some try to convince you to get into their store and buy something, telling you about their big families they have to support, others try to make you believe they work at the hotel you’re staying at to have a fast connection with you and then they take you to their store.

No one exchanges Escudos at the official rate of 110 CVE/1 Euro, with a few exceptions like supermarkets or grocery stores. The only place we didn’t feel bothered at all, but only helped with advice and information when we needed it was this souvenir shop that totally deserves its great rating on TripAdvisor. The souvenirs are actually handmade as anyone can easily see and they’re very different than everything that can be seen at the other souvenir shops.

I’d include in this area also the food, which is of two types: local and very fresh or imported and very expensive. Basically, the island doesn’t produce much, the soil and the climate is not very friendly with nature. That’s why almost everything you can find in stores is imported and so expensive, especially because the imports are from Europe, so not close-by.

But the local food, mostly fish and other things that grow in the sea, is very good. And very fresh: you can look at the food on your plate, and you can tell that 2-3 hours ago the thing was still swimming.

As for the drinks, their specific alcoholic drink is grog, a type of rum made out of sugarcane, but I cannot provide more information because I bought a bottle for my colleagues at the former job and it’s still there, untouched. I’ll tell you more when the guys have a stressful time and they’ll feel the need to relax after.

Read here more things to do around Sal, Cape Verde!

Coming back from Sal, Cape Verde

The way back was quite uneventful for our taste. When we were getting on the plane it was the first time, after a week, when we heard Romanian from a couple behind us. The only problem was that my husband, although a very smart guy, wasn’t very inspired when he packed his bags and he put in the checked-in luggage the winter clothes he had on when we came, thinking he could unpack them in Bucharest when we’ll arrive.

But he didn’t realize that we had a four-hour layover in Lisbon starting from 10 PM. And Lisbon is usually warm even in December, but not at night. So, after two hours of shivering, he gave up his pride and allowed me to cover him up with my sweater that also had some girlish design elements, and he even had a hot tea. I think he was already scared because he was turning purple from being cold, and it didn’t look like he had other options.

And we came back home, at the full three degrees weather that was in Bucharest at that time, with some nice tan, a statue we found again, the memory of some cute turtles made in the sand by a guy with nothing better to do, with some kilometers of beach area still showing in front of our eyes and the sound of palm trees being caressed by the wind, and still wondering how in God’s name can those women carry those big fruit baskets on their heads.

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