D1602 – Captivating Catfish

In my earlier post L1602 – A day on the tiles, I described my visit to Mindelo on the island of São Vicente in the Cabo Verde Islands. Just over a month later I found myself back in this remote port, this time for a full-day visit.

When I went up on deck to watch our final approach into the port I very soon noticed how windy it was, but it was only after we docked that I found out how significant that was, when the Captain came on the tannoy to say he very nearly had to cancel our visit due to the strength and direction of the wind – fortunately the direction changed at the vital moment.

The wind did bring a positive benefit – the visibility was so much better than on my last visit, for example from the ship I could see across to the neighbouring island of Santo Antão, which on my last visit I hadn’t even realised was there!

As I said earlier, we were in port for a full day, which meant I was able to do a seven hour tour around the island. Some of the places listed in the tour description were the same as on the short tour I did on the last visit, so I wondered how much would be new, but as it turned out there was no need to worry as it proved to be an excellent tour.

The tour started in a similar way, with visits to the African and vegetable markets in the local town. The relief I had photographed on my last visit looked so much better in the clear bright sunshine:

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This time we were able to go into the town church we just walked past last time:

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We then reboarded our small coach and took a different road out of town, heading for the east coast of the island and the small fishing village of Calhau. The road was the same bumpy cobbles though, and we were well shaken, as well as stirred by the stark and barren landscape. At one point we made a short photo stop to see where water from a well was allowing cultivation of crops, whose green colour really stood out like an oasis in the bare brown rocky landscape:

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On reaching Calhau, a few houses were clustered around a small beach and jetty, with a couple of the small wooden fishing boats pulled up onto the beach. Initially we were given a few minutes to walk around and take photographs, but when the rest of the fishing fleet came into view the local guide decided we would stay longer until a couple of the boats were brought ashore so we could see their catch. This was the great benefit of the longer tour – everything was more relaxed, stays could be extended, and we could have the time to really take in the places we were visiting. Their catch proved to be very colourful:

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Reboarding the coach once more, we headed north – this time on a nice smooth tarmac surface. This was the far end of the American-funded road we used on our last visit, and we stopped at the same viewpoint overlooking the dunes of wind-blown sand from the Sahara Desert. This time I walked across the big dune to get some photographs from a different angle:

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After a much longer stop than last time, we continued to drive north, and then east out to Baía das Gatas – Catfish Bay. We visited here on my last tour, but only to a bar on the edge of the village for light snacks and to hear local music. This time we drove right into the village, which I now discovered is on the most stunning wide sandy bay, with clear turquoise water:

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Here we had around 45 minutes free time before we were to cross the coast road to a restaurant for a buffet lunch. Some took that time for a paddle or a swim, predictably I set off exploring with my camera. Sheltering the bay from the Atlantic waves was a stone breakwater, and I walked around the bay and along this to take some pictures of the surf:

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It was idyllic walking back along the beach, stopping to pick up the occasional shell, and drinking in the stunning beach scene before me. All too soon it was time to rejoin my fellow tour passengers for our lunch. We ate outside, and sitting there under a parasol eating good food, listening to some great music from a different local band, and looking out at the beautiful bay I thought I could really get used to this!

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After our very leisurely lunch, and another short walk along the beach, sadly it was time to drag ourselves away from this little piece of paradise. We drove back along roads familiar from the last tour to Monte Verde – the very brown Green Mountain – where last time we had very hazy views from a viewpoint part way up the mountain. To my surprise and delight, this time we drove past this viewpoint and on up the narrow twisting road to virtually the summit of the mountain. From here there were great views of Mindelo, Baía das Gatas and across to various neighbouring islands:

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I also spotted a kestrel hovering on the breeze:

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We then took our coach back to Mindelo, and after a drive around the town we were taken back to the waiting ship, just in time for our sailaway. There was just time to grab a couple of shots of the town and the local beach from the ship before we set sail. As we left the band were playing in the stern, albeit with some of the entertainment department holding down equipment in the strong wind! Passing the dramatic north-west coastline we said farewell to a lovely day on São Vicente:

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I thoroughly enjoyed one of the best shore tours I have done in a long time – not just for the stunning scenery, particularly at  captivating Catfish Bay – but because there was plenty of time for everything. Usually at each stop it’s a rush to see and photograph most of what I want, this time I could really take in and enjoy everywhere I went.

 

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