Cape Verde, driving , dancing, drinking…

In Featured Articles, Lifestyle, Suzuki by Maggie Barry

MY husband is dancing, stamping and clapping in rhythm on the sand as the drummers bang out the pace.

This is bizarre since I regularly have to persuade him to get up with me and have never seen him dance before on his own although half the restaurant is up too.

I am putting this down to the fact it is pitch black on the beach save for the fires surrounding the African dancers, his delight that many of the drummers and fire eaters are wearing Partick Thistle colours, but mostly to the local Grogue and Pothene that Jenny Smith poured down our throats at the start of the evening.

We are in Cape Verde – or Cabo Verde – as it’s known where Jenny from Newtongrange and her partner, Richard Scott from Edinburgh run the quirkily named Giggling Gecko Adventures and tonight is Saturday Night Fever at the Morabeza beach bar.

This is the island of  Boa Vista also known as the Isle of the Dunes the third largest of the the Cape Verde archipelago and the one lying nearest to Africa. It has a dry climate, masses of sandy beaches, an interior desert and some charming and friendly people who will never miss the opportunity to voice the island motto – No Stress.

It is also quite a small island –  a mere 19 miles by 18 miles which means you can actually go round it in a day. With this in mind we hired a feisty Suzuki Jimny from Jimmy the car rental man.

He bellows with laughter when say I am very pleased to see that both he and the car have the same name. “Not the same at all, not the same at all,” he cries grinning.

And he is even more delighted at the end of the day when I tell him we visited his home village of Bofarreira  where a gap toothed granny entertained the tourists by singing to them outside her grocery store the Mercearia Elvis, yes Elvis, while her elderly son accompanied her on his guitar.

Now I am no musician but I am pretty sure she only had one song in her and her son only one chord but she was quite happy to repeat herself again and again as we all snapped her  photo.

Parked beside our Jimny in the village square were five Toyota Land Cruisers, a car I had always considered the vehicle of choice of the Taliban in Afghanistan but w I discovered also of the Tui holiday company in Boa Vista where fleets of them all  liveried in pale blue with a red smiley mouth on the door regularly bounce along the road carrying tourists to off-road destinations. 

When we visited Boa Vista’s famous shipwreck, the Santa Maria five of them were just leaving giving us the vast beach to  ourselves.

The story goes that when the ship foundered 60 years ago the locals helped rescue the crew and passengers and the next day came back and ‘rescued’ what was in the hold.

 “Where on earth did they come from,” asked my husband looking round at the isolation and the mountainous turquoise Atlantic breakers foaming through the wreck to the shore. Even getting to it had been a challenge over rocks and gravel before we hit the sand dunes and engaged four wheel drive.

Where is Cape Verde?

Boa Vista ‘s capital Sal Rei is probably the most built up and busiest part of the island although when we dropped by for lunch at a restaurant off the harbour sleepy, sunny and slow might also describe it.

There is a lovely breeze permanently sweeping the island which tempers the heat. This has created a healthy kite surfing and kite flying industry and it means as you lie on the beach you can watch them dance colourfully in the sky.

Farther east in the mountain villages, sheep (tails down) and goats (tails up) still skip about at ease and hens stutter across the street. On our way through the interior we spotted untethered  mules and horses wandering about. 

The All-New Suzuki Jimny
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The pace of life is peaceful and easy and now is the time to visit these lovely islands while they are still unspoiled and barely commercialised because vast changes are a-coming.

There are plans to build a 5000 bedroom hotel to the south of Boa Vista where there is the magnificent 12 mile long Santa Monica beach.

 I may not be a genius at maths but if you allow just two people per room plus enough staff to look after guests that is going to have a massive impact on an island which boasts just 16,000 residents.

Next time I visit the wreck of the Santa Maria I may not be able to get near it for squads of other tourists like me.

Maggie Barry and her husband travelled to Boa Vista on a Tui holiday from Manchester  and stayed at the Riu Karamboa all-inclusive for £1799. Car hire (60 euros) from Mendes and Mendes in Sal Rei and the Saturday Night Fever Adventure (130 euros for two including food and some drink) courtesy of Giggling Gecko Adventures.