This week’s tale comes from HF Holidays’ Worldwide Product manager, Jane Sedgwick. She shares her tale from Cape Verde, one of our exciting new destinations for 2016.
Situated 1,000km south of the Canary Islands, and 600km west of the African coast of Senegal, the Cape Verde islands rise up out of the Atlantic Ocean in a volcanic archipelago. Portuguese is the official language, with Creole being spoken more often than not by the locals.
Being only 6 hours flying time from the UK, it’s an ideal destination for our winter months, which happens to be the dry season in Cape Verde.
“I visited the islands in October, at the end of the wet season, (HF Holidays’ guests will be there in the dry season) but between the three islands of Santiago, Sao Vicente, and Santo Antao, I experienced a range of landscapes, culture and walks, and at the end of the trip really felt like I had got to know the ‘real’ Cape Verde, rather than the ‘tourist’ Cape Verde.
Due to the nature of the terrain, the walks are steep in places, sometimes challenging and the tropical climate can make them seem more difficult than they actually are. The walks vary from being in the central highlands on Santiago, to a spectacular undulating coastal walk on Santo Antao. Two of the walks have significant descent of over 1,000m. Budding geologists will have a field day, particularly on Santo Antao. There’s also time to explore the cultural town of Mindelo on the island of Sao Vicente.
We spend 4 nights on Santiago, before taking an internal flight to Sao Vicente for 2 nights, and our final destination is the mountainous island of Santo Antao, accessed by an hour’s ferry crossing.
The local guides are superb, and they know so many people on the islands, you really feel like you’re getting to the heart of Cape Verde. It’s a poor country, with lots of unemployment, you’ll walk through some villages that don’t have electricity or running water, or road access, and rather than encountering groups of other walkers, you’re more likely to meet locals carrying something on their shoulders, or in my case, men carrying crops on their backs, and wearing no shoes.
Despite the poverty, the people we met were genuine, and friendly. On one walk we passed a farm half way down the mountain, which was occupied by a 92 year old farmer. He invited us in for a tipple of his home produced ‘grogue’, rum made from sugar cane. This local firewater is produced in many places on the islands, it’s very strong. I’m sure the 92 year old looked as well as he did, due to his daily alcoholic intake!
The roads (where there were roads) were sometimes cobbled, and whilst I wouldn’t have wanted to drive along them, our driver was excellent and we felt totally safe in the vehicle.
Food was simple, but healthy. We had lots of fish, tropical fruit and vegetables. The local dish is cachupa, a bean stew which can be made with chicken or fish, or both. Lunches, when included, are provided by the local guides and are quite substantial, but we had taken some snacks with us from home, there aren’t any shops around once you start the walks. Our local agent who arranges the tour holds a strong belief in sustainable tourism, so all money spent stays on the islands.
The hotels were comfortable and the air-conditioning at two of the hotels was very welcome. All hotels have outdoor swimming pools. The hotel on Santo Antao was slightly more basic, but the surroundings and scenery more than made up for the lack of luxury. It’s still a comfortable hotel, but hot water is intermittent and service in the restaurant can be a bit slow, but this is real Cape Verde.
For a different kind of holiday, try Cape Verde Island Hopping. You’ll need a sense of adventure and a reasonable head for heights. Don’t expect lots of varied wildlife, there are no snakes, but you will see spiders hanging in their webs. You’ll also have sensational views,”
Thank you Jane for sharing your tale of Cape Verde, it sounds magical.
This new holiday for 2016 has already sold out for the first two dates, and November has limited capacity, so we’ve added an additional date 1 December 2016.