Yesterday one of the young men who hang about the entrance to the marina took our laundry home to his mother where it was hand washed, dried and beautifully pressed and returned to the marina (a little late and we did wonder if we’d lost all our clothes but he came though eventually!), all for 1500 Escudos, I’m sure we could have beaten him further down on the price, but we didn’t think it was excessive for us and we were as happy to be able to give him some work as he was to receive it.
In a new Port of Call we opt for the local bus to give us flavour of what this place is really like. As we leave the marina there are the usual small group of young men standing around asking if we have any work for them – we don’t unfortunately, I would like to be able to say yes.
We are directed on foot from Mindelo marina to the fish market and told that the local busses stop behind there. Along the short quarter of a mile waterfront walk, we pass local beggars -dirty and shabbily clad, some with physical disability and drop a small Escudos coin into their hand. The minute you do so, other hands immediately appear – some just as needy, some clearly not so destitute. I draw the line at giving a coin to a teenage boy dressed in Nike trainers eating an ice cream – if he were really hungry enough to beg I don’t think the first thing he’d go and buy is an ice cream, he’s clearly just a chancer hoping these visitors will give, give, give, regardless.
The buildings along the front here are a mixture of homes and shop fronts – there is a very small supermarket just outside of the marina but as we make steady slow progress further down the rough, potholed road other shops become more apparent. Often just the doorway of a building has been lined with shelves and stacked with all manner of dried sacks and tinned food, beyond this open doorway residential accommodation can be glimpsed. Through another doorway there appears to be an old fashioned barber and I can briefly glimpse someone sat having a wet shave, brush foaming up his chin. Further still down the road the potholes get worse and we eventually come upon and area so bad that it has started to be resurfaced – there are half a dozen men working with a steamroller resurfacing the road and dozens more standing around watching – nothing better to do, they have no employment and this is an unusual and entertaining way to pass the time.
As we round the corner a market square opens up with all manner of things being sold, from fruit and veg in huge baskets, to fish and spices and clothes and bits of old bikes. There are chicken legs being barbecued that smell so good and ladies wandering around with big plastic boxes often balanced on their heads filled with local street food – samosa looking in appearance – the filling is pot luck, could be fish, could be chicken, could be veg – all equally as delicious, filling and cheap, the girls chase the lady down and go back for more. The Cape Verde street food is a big hit with us Davies’s!
Surrounding the market square are dozens of colourful minibuses, all with their destinations painted on the side, all with roof racks and all rather beaten up. Today we are trying to get to the north side of the island, just to see something other than Mindelo but with no clear plan in mind – we will get on the bus and see where we end up, a Davies magical mystery tour.
We sit on the bus and wait. There is no schedule, the driver will go when the bus is full. More and more people get on the minibus, their belongings are taken off them – big bags of groceries, a large box full of fish and are put up on the roof rack and covered with some netting. They chat amiably to each other and sometimes shout out the window to others passing. They all seem to know each other, maybe they take this bus home from the market in town each day, I get the feeling the five of us might be taking up some regulars seats – I put Nancy on my lap as I have seen other parents do with their young children and she carries on munching on her street food, unfazed – a pale red haired, sheltered European four year old, in a minibus packed full of locals, we feel a little conspicuous. I’m sure there are only seats for twelve but when the driver eventually pulls away I count nineteen people. There are no seat belts and apparently no speed limit either as we rattle out of town, the bus grinding and reggae style music blaring. I’m amazed that nothing is lost in transit from the roof rack. A short distance from the market, the ‘city’ rapidly becomes more and more ramshackle and quickly turns Into shantytown. After rattling along a rough cobbled road through the mountains for about forty minutes, occasionally stopping for an individual to get out a random, isolated hut half way up the hill, we arrive at a little village – Salamansa.
There are Small, block built, one roomed abodes with corrugated roofs (some without). People are queuing at a stand pipe in the centre of the village, waiting to fill their plastic cans full of water for the day – there is no running water out here, I don’t know about electricity. Outside most houses their is a washing line full of clothes blowing in the wind and I think back to our laundry that had been done yesterday, suddenly feeling like a wealthy white person on a sight seeing tour…I want to take photos but I don’t want to appear rude, it is enough to just experience this.
Without warning (at least not in a language we can understand) the minibus grinds to a halt in a back street and we are asked to get out. In a heartbeat filled firstly with anxiety and then relief we realise why our bus had been grinding so much – we have a flat tyre..and the driver has asked a favour of a friend who suddenly appears with his pick up truck and ushers us into the back. We pay the bus driver 300 Escudos (€3) and It’s now just us in an open topped pick up hurtling along the coastal road at break neck speed till we get at a beach at the northernmost tip of the island – the girls love it, big grins and the wind in their hair!
We get out gratefully (for a number of reasons!) and wonder how on earth we are going to get back from here? We needn’t have worried, the local minibuses seem to come and go all the time, there is a little settlement here as well as the beach. The beach is nothing to write home about, there are impressive Atlantic waves rolling in but the beach has beer bottles tops and glass everywhere, and stray dogs nosing at the bag full of our snacks for the day out. We spotted a Portuguese Man of War Jellyfish in the water and after an hour we hopped onto another local bus saying ‘Mindelo’ to the driver and hoping we would be going back in the right direction. The driver stops in Salamansa again on the way home and beeps his horn outside a house, an upstairs window is thrown open and an exchange takes place – the driver explains to us in pigeon English (which is by far superior to our African /Portuguese) that we are waiting for the occupant of the house to finish his meal before we carry on! This is fine by us, we sit and wait and watch the world go by. It is time for the local children to go home from school – they are clad in flip flops but their blue school blouses and shits are clean and pressed, they are immaculate and point and laugh a little at us in the minibus.
We get back to the marina without further ado…exhausted from our adventure…relived that it all worked out and excited to see more. There is a casual, cheap, rough and ready bar at the marina. It is full of mainly white Europeans travelling on their yachts who have stepped ashore for a beer or to use the bar wifi…it now all feels quite ostentatious after what we’ve seen today…