Exploring Mindelo, Cape Verde

We had to be up early this morning and along to our assembly point in the Neptune Lounge for this morning’s excursion, which was called “A Taste of the Island” and would let us explore Mindelo in more detail from our brief look around yesterday.

We were allocated bus number 8 as we made our way down the gangplank and to the row of vehicles and smiling guides waiting for us. The bus was quite old and had rigid plastic seats, so not exactly National Express then. Our driver was called Rafael and our female guide was Swali; she was very smiley and friendly.

We set off and the first part of the journey took us along the route we’d walked yesterday. There seemed to be fewer people and cars around than there was yesterday, and Swali explained that today was St. Vincent’s Day as as that is the name of the island today was a public holiday. When we got to the pier we alighted from the bus briefly for a photo stop. A large mountain dominated the skyline and and it was explained to us that this was known as Monte Cara, which means “Face Mountain” as, when you viewed it with your head on one side, it looked like a man’s face in profile.

We also saw a monument with an eagle on top with its wings spread; this was to commemorate the first Lisbon to Rio crossing in 1922 by the Portuguese aviators Cabral and Coutinho. Apparently the aviators would take few days of rest in Mindelo before continuing to Brazil.

Back on the coach we drove along the coastline until we came to the small museum and craft centre. We spent some time in there looking at the various artefacts, including hand-woven baskets and wooden carvings.

We then came to the Governor’s Palace, where the crowds were greeted by a brass band, resplendent in smart uniforms with brass buttons, and there were some other uniformed men (maybe policemen?) who were standing to attention in a row. The road had been closed off to traffic, and there was a sense of anticipation in the air. The Cape Verde flag was flying, and one of the uniformed guys was then handed the flag of St. Vincent, which he then raised on the flagpole to a ripple of applause. Apparently the President was due to visit, so we wondered if we’d see him.

We then moved off down another street, looking in the shop windows on the way, then we came out on the other side of the Governor’s Palace, just in time to see a gleaming black Mercedes sporting the Cape Verde flag on its bonnet and the registration number of “PR CV”. The President had arrived. He got out of the car and, as he was mounting the steps of the building he looked around at the crowds of mostly black faces. But spotting our party there, white and obviously foreign visitors, he gave a little wave to us and, being British, we all waved back! 🙂

Once we were all back on the bus again, we wended our way up the twisting and turning mountain road on our way up Monte Verde, which is called the green mountain because of its abundance of orchill lichen growing on the rocks. The roads looked quite precarious as we went higher and higher, but we did have some terrific views as it is the highest point of the island. When we got up as far as a bus can go (it obviously couldn’t go all the way to the top) the wind nearly blew us off our feet. It was also quite uncomfortable as it was blowing sand and grit about, which stung against our skin. So we didn’t stay out too long, and soon sought refuge back in the bus again. Swali told us that it was often very windy in Cape Verde; I suppose it’s due to the location of the islands in the middle of the Atlantic ocean.

The next part of our trip took us back down and along the coast to Catfish Bay. Cape Verde still had a strong Portuguese and Brazilian flavour so were treated to a display of the traditional Brazilian combat dance that the boys and young men do, in which they use both their arms and legs while the other one has to duck to avoid them. There were also some female dancers dressed in very colourful costumes with bright feathers. While we were watching the dancers we were also offered some local snacks and drinks; I enjoyed a Vinho Verde (Portuguese wine which is a pale green colour with a light taste) along with some home-made cheese, fish fried in some sort of batter and a type of cake made with cous-cous.

It was then time for us to return to the Braemar. Once back on board we dumped our stuff in the cabin, got washed and then made our way up to the Marquee Bar for an al fresco lunch which we enjoyed with the inevitable cold beer.

What would I say about Mindelo? My first impressions were that there wasn’t an awful lot there, but the place slowly grew on me and, to be honest, the fact that there isn’t much there is part of the attraction. It’s a charming little town with a lovely coastline and colourful little buildings and seems very laid-back. I would hate to come back in 20 years’ time to find high-rise buildings and four lanes of traffic. Less is more, as they say.

After our usual post-luncheon nap we got ready for dinner and enjoyed a delicious meal once again. Then it was the usual mad scramble for seats in the Neptune Lounge for tonight’s show which featured a comedy magician called Martin Daniels. Turns out he is the son of the famous magician Paul Daniels and he was absolutely brilliant. Not only was he a very funny man, but the tricks he did were very impressive as well. We had a good laugh and thoroughly enjoyed his performance.

As ever it was along to the Coral Club afterwards for the quiz. Did we win? Did we heck! We still have a quizzer’s famine so far as we usually win two or three quizzes during the course of an average cruise, but so far victory had eluded us.

Then the late show in the Coral Club was called “Girls’ Night In” and featured Emily and Lauren from the show company. It was very enjoyable. On all the Fred Olsen cruises we’ve been on the entertainment had been very good; we can’t fault it at all.

We finished off the evening with a couple more drinks then it was back to our cabin for the night. Braemar was at sea once more, and tomorrow we were due to arrive in the Cape Verde capital, Praia.

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