Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I Got 5 On It

This week the magic number is five. Unfortunately, there is no way I will be able to visit all ten islands of Cape Verde before I leave, which was part of my original master plan. I’m more than a little jealous because my friend, Rob, just came north from Praia and took a day trip to the uninhabited island of Santa Luzia to complete the cycle. My only consolation is that it took him almost four years to pull it off, while I’ve only been here for nine months and change.The good news is that after a great vacation last week, I can say that I’ve visited half of them. Islands number four and five for me were Fogo and Brava, and like each island in this country, they both brought their own flavor and fun to the party.

After a three-day conference in Praia, I headed to the airport early Thursday morning for the start of a loooooong weekend with a few friends who would eventually be renamed “Drew’s Angels.” They were great company the whole way through, but some of them aren’t exactly morning people.* (see picture below)

In typical Peace Corps fashion, we approached our vacation with the same flexibility that has kept us narrowly sane over the past few months. The last minute planning got off to a great start when my phone rang just before take-off. It was my friend, Ronise, calling to tell me that she was actually going to be on my flight to Fogo. I was little confused because, like I said, I was already buckled in with my tray-table stowed. But she was for real, and I few minutes later, I saw her climb on board, bags in hand, to settle into the last remaining seat. Only in Cape Verde... if I remember correctly, the flight attendants were actually standing up and walking around during take off on the way here from Boston.

Our fluid plans stayed fluid, even after we landed. Taking it one step at a time, we asked the taxi driver to take us to a place with cachupa for a start. I was set on heading straight to Brava that night, after finding out that a family friend has a pensão on the northwest coast of the island.** I did some lightweight lobbying of the other folks to come along with me, and after a few short hours at the travel agency, we had four roundtrip ferry tickets in hand.***

It’s tempting to try to share every step of my vacation, but that would probably be more interesting to write than it would be to read. By now I hope you appreciate that I try not to let this blog devolve into a list of “and then I did this, and then I did that.” So, as a compromise, I will to share one highlight from each day of the trip. Here goes:

Thursday, May 24 - Praia / Fogo / Brava
The best part about our first day of vacation was killing time in São Filipe until our boat left for Brava later that night. This involved a long breakfast, lugging our bags down to the black-sand beach to bake and chill, then settling in at a nearby restaurant for a few more hours of serra, drinks, and zouk lessons (thank you, Ronise).

Friday, May 25 - Faja d’Agua & Nova Sintra, Brava
After spending our first night at Pensão Sol na Baia, we woke up refreshed and ready to explore Faja d'Agua. No contest, the highlight of Friday was our visit to the piscina, or natural pools that are formed by the tides on the coast of Faja. A picture is worth a thousand words, so here goes a thousand pictures...

Saturday, May 26th - Nova Sintra, Brava, São Filipe & Cha das Caldeiras, Fogo
On Saturday morning we braved the waters back to Fogo, then piled in a hiace to head for the center of the island. Cha das Caldeiras is known for two things: the volcano, and the wine that is made from the vineyards at the volcano's base. We decided the tackle the latter challenge on the first day, which brings us to our highlight of Saturday: manecon and music at Casa Ramiro’s. When we left at 10pm, after hours of dancing and “wine-tasting,” it felt more like 1am. Luckily, it wasn’t, because tomorrow would not be easy.

Sunday, May 27th - Chas das Caldeiras & São Filipe, Fogo
Bright and early, we headed for the volcano to find out what we were made of. I had been told that the summit is the quietest place on earth, and I was not disappointed. I took the animal-style approach on the way up, then took advantage of the spare time to take a nap on top of the world. The way up was the kind of fun that hurts... the way down was just plain fun.

Monday, May 28th - São Filipe, Fogo
Our visit to Fogo coincided with the annual “Festa São Filipe” music festival. The music was cool, but it ranked a distant second place to the good old fashioned company that we shared with friends on our last night in town. Four other volunteers from other parts of the island joined us, along with folks from Fogo and the Philippines. Thank you, Emma, for putting us up, and for putting up with us for one more night! Good times...

Pura Vida,


* Fortunately, I was prepared for Averie’s morning side-eye. During our nine-week training, we lived in the same village and had language classes everyday at 8am. So you could say that I knew not to trifle with her before her first cup of coffee. For more on the side-eye, click here.

** Sol Na Baia is owned by Jose Andrade, a Cape Verdean painter. The entire place was decked out with his completed works, as well as a few in progress.

*** It took longer to buy the tickets than it did to actually travel from Fogo to Brava.


  1. What a beautiful place to see!! Nice pics

  2. Hi Drew. It's Jane Adams from St. Paul's. Your blog is fantastic.
    I have a question about electricity in health clinics in Cape Verde. I am doing research on electricity and health. Cape Verde, compared to other African countries, has a relatively low rate of maternal deaths in childbirth. What did you see in terms of working electricity in health clinics, if anything? Thanks for your consideration. Best, Jane jadams@spes.org

    1. Hi Jane... thanks for your interest. You're right... Cape Verde is waaaay ahead in certain health areas, such as maternal health and infant mortality. Unfortunately, I doubt that this is because of stable electricity. In the capital city, Praia (where 25% of the countries population lives), the power goes out several times per week. It's much better in São Vicente, where I live. I would guess that the major health facilities have back-up gas-powered generators, but I am not sure. I'll look into it and try to put you in touch with someone who knows more about it. Ciao