Monday, December 07, 2009

Mindelo, Sao Vincente, Cabo Verde

Arrived in Mindelo at 2130 (after dark) and made our way through the easily navigable harbour. Jeroen (Mjolner) came out in the dingy for the last bit to guide us to an opening between the many boats where we would drop our anchor. Mindelo is a much bigger and busier harbour then we expected. It has a real ‘ vetrekkers’ feeling as you can be relatively sure that any boat in this harbour will be continuing on across the Atlantic to the Caribbean or South America. Every day we hear or join-in as boats are sent off for their long voyage amidst loud blasts of the horn and the harbour is extremely social with a buzz of excitement as each persons departure day nears.

Cape Verde was a Portuguese colony and has a mixed European-African feel, a little as though I would expect Brazil to be like. The people are not as overtly friendly as in The Gambia but they are generally very kind and friendly once the initial ice is broken. Although there is less visible extreme poverty in this part of Cape Verde than in The Gambia, the poverty here feels more aggressive. This impression is unfortunately founded on our very short and busy visit to one small and likely non-indicative part of this country. Rather than spending our short time here exploring and getting to know the place, we have been spending time performing the last little fixes and purchasing the last few necessities.

That said, our Cape Verde visit has not been completely without relaxation. Took the ferry over to a lovely island called Santo Antao where we were driven around to see the island in a Toyota pickup (15 people including the crews of the Tangaroa, Mjolner, Victory and Pjotter). The island was stunning and our tour took us from the relatively barren port up along a twisty tiled road to lush green craterous cliffs, scenery as mysterious and spectacular as the Lord of Rings. We also stopped at one of the many local rum distilleries where a massive wooden cattle-operated press crushed the juice out of sugar cane used to make rum and sugar cane syrup. Strong stuff but quite tasty.

We celebrated Sinterklaas on December 5th with the same group. The celebration started with a make-up and costume session aboard the Tangaroa that turned the five children into ‘ Zwarte Pieten.’ The Tangaroa crew also put on a fantastic puppet show which pitted Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet against the evil Jan Klaasen who tried to steal Sinterklaas’ sack of ‘ cadeautjes.’ The children whooped and hollered their support ensuring a happy ending. We then trooped off to eat ‘pannekoeken’ on the Mjloner where Jeroen had spent the afternoon cooking a huge pile of crepes. The children were working quietly on drawings for Sinterklaas when Zwarte Piet (Jan Bart put on a very good performance) banged on the side of the boat, strewed ‘ pepernoten’ and instructed them all to head over to the Pjotter where they needed to search the deck for the ‘cadeautjes’ hidden there. Great enthusiasm was show for the search and opening of the presents and five very tired but very happy children were trundled off to bed. All in all a unique and wonderful Sinterklaas. The adults reconvened for a short passage route planning and weather discussion before turning in for an early sleep.

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