January 2023: For my wife’s birthday trip, she, her mother and I, visited the Portuguese speaking Islands of Cabo Verde and the Azores since the two island archipelagos are easily accessible via direct flights from Sata Airlines via Boston and from each other. Cabo Verde was my final African country visited (54/54). For me this was an amazing accomplishment because Africa is a magical continent that I first visited in 2002 when I visited Egypt. Back then I found Africa intimidating and I never in my wildest dreams thought I would one day visit all of its countries. I thought that if I only visit Egypt, then at least I can say I have been to the continent of Africa. Words can’t possibly describe how incredibly blessed I feel to have had two decades of adventures that have brought me to every African country.

 

About Cabo Verde

The mountainous, volcanic island archipelago of Cabo Verde lies 600 miles from the west coast of Africa and was founded by the Portuguese in the 1460’s. There were no prior inhabitants on the islands before the arrival of the Portuguese. The islands served primarily as a transit point for slaving ships from Africa to Brazil and other Portuguese colonies. Although the majority of African slaves were sent to the Americas, some stayed on the islands and were used for work on the island’s Portuguese plantations. The majority of the country’s present-day citizens are descended from these slaves. Others are descended from the Portuguese or a combination of both-mestizos.

 

 

Location of Cabo Verde

Route we took on Santiago Island

Driving Across the Interior Volcanic Mountains 

With only two nights in Cabo Verde, we stayed on the main island, Santiago Island. We flew directly into the capitol, Praia via Sata Airlines from Punta Del Gado, Azores. Once we arrived in Praia, we rented a car and drove across Santiago Island to Tarrafal, a small village located in the north of the island on an idyllic beach. Renting a car on the island is not cheap, and there isn’t a great selection of rental cars available. Our car resembled a small Geo-Metro with 4 spare tires installed. This restricted me to driving primarily on paved roads because I was too concerned with having multiple flat tires, which was not out of the realm of possibility. Driving across the island was beautiful, and even though the drive was only approx. 30 miles because road was so mountainous, constantly turning and climbing, and just too photogenic to not stop and take tons of photos along the way, it took hours to finally get to Tarrafal. Traffic on the island is pretty light, since most citizens do not have a car and driving was mostly stress free. We passed through some stunning countryside, volcanic mountains that looked like a drier version of Hawaii and some very impoverished rural villages of half built concrete structures.

 

Typical Village

Hawaii Looking Volcanic Mountains

There were plenty of places to stop and take photos along the high mountain ridges that we drove across. The island has a wealth of hiking trails. and the one that I really wanted to hike but didn’t have time for was the hike to the top of the island’s highest mountain, Antonia Peak- 4,566′. 

 

Antonia Peak-Highest Mountain in Santiago Island

Mountain Scenery

Villages Precaariously clinging to mountains

Paula admiring the view of Serra Malagueta Natural Park

Typical Village in the mountains

Paula in front of a cross along the route

Volcanic Mountain Tops

Festival of the Catholic Saint Amro in Tarrafal 

As we approached Tarrafal, we found ourselves stuck in a traffic jam of vehicles. A festival in honor of a Portuguese saint named Santo Amro. Cabo Verde is a Catholic country and practices many Catholic traditions like saint worship. Hundreds of Cabo Verdeans lined the streets wearing their finest church clothes, barbecuing, drinking beer and paying homage to Saint Amro. One by one I watched Cabo Verdeans lay their hand on a small statue of Saint Amro and pray to him, while others would kiss the statue hoping for better fortunes ahead in 2023.

 

Praying to Saint Amro

Praying to Saint Amro

Tarrafal was a nice quaint seaside beach town on a cove with a nice beach and clear water surrounded by a large mountainous hill. It was lazy and relaxed with a few bustling street cafes serving great fresh seafood and gigantic sugar alcohol infused Caipirinha drinks-Brazil’s national drink. The beach was nice, and I could tell that the town tried to keep it clean and collect the trash. The town had a rustic, African and Portuguese village feel to it and wasn’t nearly as touristy as I expected. There was a mix of concrete slab buildings with rebar sticking out and old Portuguese colonial era buildings. We stayed in a nice beach hotel that was out of character for the town with a balcony overlooked the beach and the town below. 

 

 

Colonial era Portuguese building

Tarrafal Seaside

Tarrafal beach

Paula on the Tarrafal beach

Concentration Camp in Tarrafal 

In my travels around the world, I have realized there is no place too remote, or too pretty to be immune to the terrors of war and human cruelty towards one another. Tarrafal is just another example of this. In the mid 1900’s Tarrafal was remote and used by the Portuguese dictatorship that ran its colonial empire to keep political prisoners and African independence fighters locked up, many of them perishing a slow and brutal death in the concentration camp which kept hundreds of prisoners over decades and inhumane conditions. The concentration camp is now a museum in Tarrafal that is preserved in memory of those that suffered and died within its walls. 

 

Tarrafal Portuguese Concentration Camp

Tarrafal Portuguese Concentration Camp prison Cell

Tarrafal Portuguese Concentration Camp Walls

Tarrafal Portuguese Concentration Camp

We spent our last night in Praia, the capitol in the old Portuguese part of town. Our stay in Cabo Verde was far too short and if I return someday, I definitely want to trek in the highlands, visit some of the other islands especially the active volcano of Fogo Island. 

 

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