Friday, January 25, 2013

Siblings Abroad: The Island Life

After our mom flew back to the U.S. my brother and I went to Cape Verde, a little Portuguese-and-Creole-speaking island nation off the coast of Senegal.  We didn't get out to as many of the islands as we would have liked, but we did enjoy the ridiculously blue water at the beaches around Praia, on the main island of Santiago, and we walked along the black sand beaches and climbed up the volcano on Fogo.

One of the nice things about Praia are these little outdoor gyms plunked down along the shoreline -- I thought they were playgrounds for kids (and kids do seem to like them) but there were a decent number of adults using them, too. Also, tidepools.

To get from one island to another you can take a ferry or a plane. We went to a little travel agency and got tickets to fly to Fogo and then ferry back; it was just what worked for our schedule and price range. The airport was pleasant and had wireless internet and truly magnificent vending machines. Hot chocolate, cold beer, ginger soda, Kit Kats, ham pizza-flavored chips, yogurt flavored gummies - you name it and drop some change in and a metal coil will push it your way. The prosciutto-flavored Ruffles were really good, but I think the best snack we had were the bananas. The Cape Verdian bananas are exponentially better than the bananas we get in the U.S.

We spent an afternoon in Sao Filipe, the main city on Fogo, and then headed up to the caldera to see the volcano. It was beautiful, and it was cold, especially at night. The next morning we got up early to hike up to the volcano peak (2,829 metres (9,281 ft) - the sunrise was nice, and the shadow of the peak on the rim of the caldera was really neat.


 Once we got up to the top there were sulfur vents and a spectacular view ans two gaggles of pleasant enough middle-aged French and Belgian tourists (though one of them apparently thought that French was some sort of secret language and made a comment about our inadequate footwear; she was quite startled when I replied that our sneakers were working just fine, thanks).

At the tippy top there was a part where you had to scramble up and over using a cable hand-rail, and, feeling a little loopy from the altitude, I chickened out. Ben and Josef, our guide, went all the way up, though, and then came back for me. They were quite gracious about it, even.

   Like Mt. Shasta, coming down was much more fun (and a zillion times faster) than going up. On Fogo it was gritty volcanic sand instead of snow (our shoes were packed painfully full of rock powder by the time we had bounded all the way to the bottom) but it was still really fun to careen full-speed down a slope that we'd spent all morning walking up.

There were more sulfur vents at the bottom of the hill (I stuck my hand near the opening of one and it was hot and steamy and smelled of egg) and a variety of other minerals that made for these lovely rainbow-ish swathes of color across the smaller craters. 

We cruised back to the little compound where we'd let a room, eating tiny apples from the apple bushes and tart grapes from the grape bushes (impressive that things grow in such a sparse landscape) and had a very nice lunch of leftovers. 

I have to go back to my site now (work stuff beckons) but will be back in a week or so to post the best of the rest of my travel photos. Hope you're well & enjoying 2013 so far!

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