L1602 – Praia engagement

Today we had our final hors d’oeuvres before the main course – South America – by way of a half day visit to Praia, capital of the Republic of Cabo Verde (otherwise known as the Cape Verde Islands). The islands are located 350 miles (570 km) off the coast of Western Africa, and obtained independence from Portugal on 5th July 1975. Praia is located on the south of the largest island, Santiago.

Prior to arriving in the islands, those of us doing a shore tour provided by Fred. Olsen were given a letter explaining that tourism is still developing in the islands, and that for example the guides are still developing their skills and command of the English language; and that the transportation is basic.

We arrived in Praia slightly later than planned, due to strong headwinds. This wind proved to be a blessing when walking outside as it made the hot weather much more bearable. This was particularly relevant to me as I had chosen the shore tour which was a 2.5 hour guided walk around the town.

The tour started with a drive up to the town centre, which is located on the top of a hill called the Plateau, a little distance from the port. For this we were allocated to some basic minibuses, but having squeezed on board we then sat on the quayside in the heat for quite a few minutes, while quite a heated argument played out between the driver and our guide in their local language. After much arm waving and shouting, the guide instructed us all to get out of the minibus, and get into another parked close by. It was an eventful start to our tour in a very different culture.

We struck lucky with our guide, he was a colourful character (one of 11 children) who had lived for many years in the U.S.A., and therefore spoke very good and clear English, albeit with an American accent. He told us he had family in the U.S.A. and a new young family back in Capo Verde. He proved an entertaining and knowledgeable guide.

As we walked through the town the African culture was very apparent, and quite a contrast to our previous ports of call:

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We saw the City Hall, and the Presidential Palace, complete with armed guard:

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At one stage I also spotted a local species of kingfisher, but unfortunately only obtained this out of focus snap of it:

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At the end of the walking tour, to our surprise as it was not part of the tour description, we were taken to a cafe to sample complementary local snacks, and for those who wanted it, generous measures of either local wine or local beer. This was accompanied by two local musicians playing and singing local music. Once the alcohol had started to take effect, the guide and some of the waiters enticed some of the ladies in our group to dance along to the music, much to the amusement of the rest of us:

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After a most interesting and different tour, we reluctantly squeezed back into minibuses for the drive back to our waiting ship. We now have 3.5 days at sea crossing the Atlantic Ocean before we reach Brazil.

Postscript: The strong winds meant that it was not safe for our ship to turn around in the harbour, so we had to sail away from our berth sedately in reverse until well clear out the harbour before completing the turn. These manoeuvres accompanied a sailaway party on deck, with the stirring voice of our guest vocalist (and man mountain) Anthony Stuart Lloyd, who sung many rousing numbers such as Land Of Hope And Glory and Jerusalem. Quite what the locals made of this sight and sound I am not sure!

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