Otago Daily Times sports writer Alistair McMurran
visited Cape Verde Islands this year and has now been to 195
countries and/or territories on the Los Angeles-based
Travellers Century Club list. His travelling companion, David
Horne, who has been to more countries and/or territories than
any other New Zealander, has now been to 258 of the 321
destinations on the club's list.
Cape Verde Islands are a tale of two beaches: one sandy, the
The locals enjoy the sandy beach, which has become the centre
of their social life, and are angry with their fellow
countrymen who have stripped the other beach of sand, leaving
Cape Verde consists of 10 small islands in the Central
Atlantic Ocean, some 570km off the west coast of Africa.
The uninhabited islands were colonised by the Portuguese in
the 15th century and used for the slave trade.
The main island of Santiago is where the story about the two
types of beaches is told.
We stay at the Palm Beach Resort in the city of Pedro Padejo,
which has a population of 30,000.
It has a black sandy beach in front of the resort and it is
the feature of the town. I wake to the sound of waves
crashing on to it.
It is used after daybreak by keen locals who come down from
the town to swim in the ocean or run along the beach and do
exercises before breakfast and work.
There are people camped in tents, children and adults
swimming, people digging in the sand and a few lazy dogs
walking on the beach or resting.
Looking up at the town, we can see a lot of houses built of
concrete. Several are partially built. It looks as though the
money ran out in the recession.
There is a red Coca-Cola shelter on the beach and a few
fishing boats in various stages of repair.
The beach is crowded after 3pm with locals swimming, playing
football or volleyball, or throwing frisbees. A few sail
It is the social part of the day and there is a spark in
their eyes and a sound of joy as they walk back up the hill
to their homes at dusk.
Soldiers live in tents on a hill overlooking the resort,
stationed there to stop locals taking sand from the beach to
We see the reason for this the next day when we visit the
village of Ribeirqa de Aguas Belas on the other side of the
The once pristine black sand beach there lost its sand five
years ago after villagers used it to make concrete for
The recreational and fun area of the village has been lost.
It is a fishing village with a lot of small boats on the
shore. As in most villages on the island, there is a lot of
rubbish lying around and pigs and dogs wander the streets.
It is an old-style village with women washing clothes on a
washer board, while men sit around playing a board game or
Despite the focus on two contrasting beaches, Santiago also
has many other sandy beaches and we swim at some of them as
we travel round the island in our small black Aveo rental car
with the registrar of the resort, Emilia Wojciechowska, as
our guide. She has taken time out from her law practice in
Poland to travel the world.
We have lunch at the north end of the island at the
delightful village of Tarrafal. It has a white sandy beach
and we join locals in the water for a swim.
The manager of the Palm Beach Resort is Mohammed, who grew up
in Zanzibar and almost represented Tanzania in badminton at
the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane.
''My sister was the No1 woman in the country and went,'' he
''I was the No2 man and didn't. I was very disappointed.''
Mohammed, who has managed Palm Beach for the past five years,
picked us up at the airport when we arrived on Santiago for
the one-hour drive back to the resort.
He tells us ''this is Africa and not everything is perfect''.
We find this to be true at the resort when a rod in the
bathroom crashes to the floor, the door will not lock, there
is no water to flush the toilet in the morning and the power
goes off at 5am each day.
Santiago is a volcanic island and the green belt in this
tropical island is the Serra Malagueta mountain range.
We walk up a trail and the cloud breaks in time for us to get
a view of the landscape to the east, west and north.
In the distance, we see a small mountain village where people
are sowing and harvesting crops on the steep mountain slopes.
It is a popular track and we meet a Greek from Crete, a
French couple bird-watching and a large group who are
attending a Roman Catholic retreat.
Emilia tries to walk the trails every two weeks.
''It is refreshing getting away up the mountains,'' she says.
It is the end of August when we walk down a trail back to the
''A month ago, it was dry and barren. The vegetation is now
about 15cm high. By December, it will be chest high,'' Emilia
While driving in the mountain area we meet some boys and a
9-year-old girl named Jasmine who give us contrasting views
of the Cape Verde people.
The boys on the hill demand money and when they don't get it,
they bang angrily on the back of the car and, worse, try to
open the door.
''Too many tourists give them money and they expect it,''
''I'm strongly against giving them money unless they do
something for it.''
Jasmine and her 6-year-old friend are friendly and give us a
bunch of flowers.
We also visit the old Portuguese fort of Cuidado Valti, which
has been rebuilt as a tourist attraction. It was built in the
15th century and was raided frequently by pirates such as Sir
The Portuguese eventually gave up the centre and shifted the
capital to Praia, which the pirates found harder to ransack.
It has a population of 125,000 today.
The most noted sportsman to be born and grow up on the Cape
Verde Islands is football star Cristiano Ronaldo, who has
played for Portugal, Sporting Lisbon and Real Madrid. He
honed his football skills on the Cape Verde beaches.
Cape Verde Islands
Currency: Cape Verde escudo
President: Jorge Carlos Fonseca
Official language: Portuguese
Government: Parliamentary republic
Most noted sportsman: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal,
Sporting Lisbon, Real Madrid)