My roommate Renée and I recently went to Cape Verde for a 10-day jaunt of vacation-filled fun. To plan for our trip, we didn’t; we purchased our plane tickets ahead of time (by 10 days) and so relied on the email travel guides a few friends had sent us. To aid the way of future travelers, Renée and I took notes on the bits and bobs that made our trip what it was. Moral of the story is: go to Cape Verde, and take me with you when you go.

 

A Senegal PCV’s Vacation Guide to Cabo Verde

Information from Kellen Eilerts, Amanda Wybolt & Renée Philbeck,

Before you bounce/upon arrival:

Praia airport

TACV flight in Praia

Flights: Our Dakar to CV ticket (purchased 10 days ahead of time at the Air Senegal and TACV travel agencies in Dakar) was 167,700 CFA round trip (Air Senegal). If you want to go to Santo Antão via São Vincent in the beginning of your trip, it is recommended to buy your Praia to Mindelo (city you fly into on São V) ahead of time. We did that, and the ticket was 146,000CFA (TACV – this surprised us b/c we’d heard rumors of ppl getting this ticket for 80,000cfa round trip but who knows).

You’ll need a visa, it’s 2500 escudos or $40.00. You can get it at the airport but the guy who helped us was super grumpy. You can exchange CFA at the airport; they have a ATM machine.

 

Santiago:

Arriving in Praia: (K) Airport taxis lined up directly out front will try to get you to pay 1000 escudos to Plateau. Instead, just walk up the steps to the parking lot and head to the left towards the road. A cab will be by to pick you up within minutes and the rate will be 500. Cool cultural center/bar across from the main plateau plaza across from the outdoor restaurant, had live music/party every day we were in town.

Or

Street food

Street food for lunch in Praia

(A&R) Tell the cabbie in front of the airport you want to go to Quebra Cabana (pronounced Kabara Kabana) for 700 scoots. Fun bar on the water. Get a Carparinha or ten. If you’re there on a Sunday, you can walk down the road (away from the round point/stairs) to the first restaurant you hit on your right for the all-you-can-eat buffet and amazing-meats-served-on-swords fiesta for 1,400 scoots. It. Is. SO. Worth it. (We recommend staying for lunch, sitting on the patio for drinks, then eating dinner there as well.)

On the plateau a good place to eat is Café Sofia – good breakfast, coffee, beer, pizza. They also have a little cyber. Cabs know this place. If you want street food for lunch: when facing Café Sofia walk down the road to the right of the café until it dead ends (3-4 blocks), turn right on the road it dead-ends on and go a little ways till you get to stairs on your left. Go all the way down (don’t trip, they’re steep). At the bottom of the stairs, turn right and take your first left. Along that st are a bunch of stalls for food (we loved the chicken and bean plate, I think it was 150 scoots). Also, behind all the food is their fukajai-type market, worth a gander.

Assomada

Assomada

(A&R) Tarrafal is definitely worth a visit. First, it’s about opposite from where Praia is so the drive is “long” and really pretty. Second, the beaches are amazing, there’s a bomb pizza place, and there’s conch shell caves. We didn’t get to do it, but a PCV said that there’s a 4-hour hike you can do up over the mountains to a black sand beach that is famous for it’s big conch shells that aren’t broken into smithereens.

(A&R) Assomada (Aluguers [pronounced al-loo-gare] call it “somada”): Again, beautiful drive to the site, right in a valley. Lots of bars and cafes, nice place to spend time with good company. Drive from Praia is 300 scoots in an Aluguer.

 

São Vicente:

(K) Mindelo is nice for a bit of walking around and good food, most stuff is in very central harbor area, or one or two streets off of it that run parallel. Walking north from the harbor area around a mini-cape you’ll pass the shipping port before coming to an OK beach with cheap drinks. Ferry leaves from here twice a day – usually 8a for morning ride.

Renée and Drew walking in Mindelo

Renée and Drew walking in Mindelo

(A&R) Ferry ride is 600 scoots, you buy your ticket right at the port. There is a baller Chinese food place right near PCV Drew and Rory’s house (or you can get there by walking, about 20 minutes: from port, exit, turn left, walk along the water past the beach up the little hill, in open area on top of the incline/curve is a Chinese place on the left. Eat there. Do it.) Also, there are ninjas – a special police force trained in Brazil – in Mindelo. They walk around w/ masks over their nose and mouth, in all black, and apparently regulate the prominent gang scene. We didn’t believe that they were there either… until we saw them! Kinda scary, kinda wicked cool.

 

Santo Antão:

(K) You’ll arrive in Porto Novo. Not worth staying. Immediately walk up the street to the right and grab an Aluguer for Pàul (Note from A&R – walk up the street, don’t get in one of the cars w/ the guys who are all over your shit when you pass through the gate. More likely than not their cars won’t fill up then you are stuck which is lame. Also, ferry leaving the island left at 9am and you buy your ticket in town [near a gas station?] and then walk down to get on the ferry.)

Paùl

Paùl – view outside of Mer y Sol

Paùl: Definitely worth spending at least a night there as its gorgeous. (A&R) Good pensão (places w/ rooms for rent) is called Mer y Sol (when you’re in Paùl facing the ocean, it’s to your left down about 4 blocks, bright blue building) we got a room w/ two twin beds facing the ocean for 1,500 scoots each.

Definitely worth doing in Paùl – eating at Tí Lello. Italian pizzeria right around the corner (walking away from U. Rib road) from Mer y Sol. They only have pizza at dinner but the lunch (we got spicy spaghetti) is delicious as well. Let’s call a spade a spade – we definitely stayed in Paùl one night just to eat the pizza here. Bruchetta app is delicious as well. Just eat there. They make their own gelato as well.

ATM in Paùl is to the right (when facing ocean) from where Aluguers drop you off.

Trial of the cova climb

Trial of the cova climb

Upper Riberia: (K) From Paùl you can catch another aluguer up to the top of the Ribeira (about 15 minute ride, 100 scoots) to do the Cova crater climb (about 1-2 hours from the last village on the road). You may also have the option to have someone drop you off at the top of the crater and do the walk down, but climbing up to it definitely has more of a wow factor (though you can’t get a car at a top and will have to retrace the steps to the top of the Ribeira to catch a car back to Paul).  Note from A&R: the climb starts about 100m up the road from Chez Sandros, at the staircase as the road evens out and curves around the mtn to the left. It is pretty strenuous, will take you about 2 hours to get up, 1 hour to get down. Bring water. Really beautiful – do it! We got two other hike recommendations that we didn’t do, but they are: Cha de Igreja to Ponta de Sol and Paul to Pico da Cruz and back.

Our room at Chez Sandro

Our room at Chez Sandro

(A&R) You must go to the grogue and cheese (called “O Curral”) place halfway up the valley too, very cheap, famous among CV PCVs. You can’t miss it – has a little square knife and fork sign, painted brightly on outside. Get the soft cheese, try a million flavors of ponche and cheese. Plan on spending a few hours here w/ good company. Do not try to hike after grogue and cheese.

Right by the beginning of the Cova climb is Chez Sandros (to your right, red building) that has private or shared rooms that are comfy and cheap (1,300 es-scoots/person). Number: 223.1941 or 981.2478. Dinner and breakfast if you want. We really enjoyed staying here: Sandro’s wicked nice, food is good, coffee is grown right outside his place, amazing views. If you can, get the room on the second floor in the corner (back left when standing on st facing building) – it has magnificent views (see photo).

Hike: Cruzinha to Ponta do Sol

Hike from Cruzinha to Ponta do Sol

Riberia Grande (K) After Paùl, 20 minutes further down the road is Ribeira Grande (80 scoot ride). A few cool small hikes around the town, but the absolute best is catching a morning car (only one morning car, opposite side of town from where you get dropped off by gas station) to Cruzinha and then doing the 4-5 hour seaside cliff walk to Ponta do Sol. Definitely do it in that direction instead of starting in Ponta do Sol, as Cruzinha has pretty much nothing (and no cheap transport leaving in the evenings) and Ponta do Sol has tons of restaurants and bars and is a 10 minute aluguer ride back to Ribeira Grande until late.

Hike: Cruzinha to Ponta do Sol

Beginning of the trail near Cruzinha

Note from A&R: Do this hike, from Cruzinha to Ponta do Sol, it was the best one of our trip. Bring lots of water and snacks, there is a great place to eat about 3 hours in at the first big vil you hit on top of one of the mtns right on the water – you’ll see it a bit past the handball court you pass as you enter the vil, the restaurant/bar sign is painted on a wall. It’s pretty much eat whatever the lady has, but damn what she’s got is good. Best feijoada we had in our trip. She also sells water, coke, and coffee. Also, we missed the collective aluguer from Riberia Grande to Cruzinha so we rented an aluguer to Cruz (3,000 scoots) and he took us through the island instead of along the water to Cruz and it was maybe the most spectacular ride of our entire trip. Just saying.

(A&R) we stayed at Aliança Grande in Riberia Grande – cheap (1000 escoots and up), nice. When at the shell station (where aluguers tend to drop you off) go down main road away from mtns, across from BCA banks is Aliança.

 

Fogo:

(K) Take the ferry to get there, definitely just go for the 2500 seats as they are exactly the same as the 3000 ones. (A&R) You can reserve your ticket online at http://www.cvfastferry.com/, but you have to pick it up and pay 24 hours ahead of time. Lots of ppl like to vom on this boat. If you get sea-sick, you’ll most likely vom; if you don’t, you may vom from the sound of everyone else vomming. Our recommendation: charge your iPod, make sure you’re hydrated, not hung-over, and have eaten, and just plug in your head phones and snooze for the ride. We didn’t vom, on the contrary we we’re rocked to sleep by the boat. Irony: while the boat was rocking and ppl were vomming, they played a movie about a war in Rome. Think just shy of 300-style gore. Rumor is they’ve also played Jaws during the ride. Conclusion: the staff has a sense of humor?

(A&R) Not much in São Filipe. Our ferry got in wicked late and we hadn’t looked into any housing before getting there (this is the one time our lack of planning effed us over) so we had to stay at a pretty expensive hotel (Savanna – really nice if you want though, comes w/ a bomb breakfast and has a pool) b/c it’s dangerous to wander around. There’s definitely signs for pensãos though, so you could find a cheaper place to stay. We ate dinner at Calderon – pretty good, live music.

Driving into Chã des Calderas

Driving into Chã des Calderas

Chã des Calderas: (K) To get to the crater, you’ll catch an aluguer to Chã da Caldeiras (town in the crater). Only goes in the morning around 11am. Get up there around midday and check into a pensão or someone’s house (just walk around and you’ll see the residencials (check out Casa Amarela), significantly cheaper than Pedra Brava where A&R stayed, but A&R loved it and the food was excellent so it’s up to you).

Once you’re set up, you can do a short hike to the small peak volcano (erupted in 1995) which you’ll see as you’re coming in. Everyone will tell you that you need a guide, but the small one is very easy and you definitely don’t if you want to do it solo. Just walk back up the road you came in and turn off when you re-pass the small peak and see the tracks.

Carols guiding Renée down the volcano

Carols guiding Renée down the volcano

Definitely arrange for a guide for the big volcano (they’ll come to you once you arrive, or ask PCVs for theirs  (A&R used Carlos who we loved, also recommended was Raymundu from Guinea Bissau). Takes 3+ hours to climb, and then run down depending on what side you go down on. Note from A&R: we climbed up the left side (when facing the volcano from Chã) walked in and around the crater at the top, ran down on the opposite side of the little volcano. We also started at 1pm so when we were coming down the sun was setting – it was breathtaking. Also – this hike is wicked strenuous! It’s pretty much a climb, not a hike.  But it’s awesome and 100% worthwhile, but just be ready.

Restaurants and winery are back at the crater base when you’re done, though be aware that transport may be tricky if you’re trying to get back to São Filipe in the afternoon. Probably at least one aluguer going down though, just ask around. If you bounce in the am there’s cars starting at 6:30am.

 

Notes:

cachupa at Cafe Sofia

Cachupa at Cafe Sofia

Eats:

Breakfast cachupa (pronounced ka-chu-pa): DELICIOUS. Basically they take the cachupa (or cahupina) from the day before, fry it, fry an egg, heat up some sausage, and give it to you. This was our favorite breakfast and it’s really cheap (approx. 130 scoots).

Feijoada bean soup, for lunch, super good.

Ponche flavors: maca = pomme, pessego = pêche, pera = poiore, morango = fraise, laranja = orange, ova = raisin, manga = mangue = araçá = goyave. (A&R loved manga, araçá, pessego, and coconut)

Music:

Morna – local music w/ an acoustic guitar = AMAZING