Welcome to Sal. The view from our room in Santa Maria as we wake up the morning after arriving at midnight.
SAL ! Yeah ! We really scored this time ! ;)
Notes on investing in Sal: I am surprised that there is any tourism at all on Sal which currently receives
something like 90% of CV visitors. It really is a place as close to hell as I have yet seen. An island small enough to
oversee entirely from a high vantage point, consisting of nothing but sandstorms ripping across flat plains. It is a piece of
the Sahara lost at sea. You'd have to be pretty one dimensional to put up with the complete and utter lack of anything
to see or do on this island, except for ocean related things. The main activity is windsurfing, but there is only one good
spot (Ponta Preta) and it is only firing during a fraction of the days of the year, and when it is, it's probably as crowded
as Hookipa on Maui. To top it off, the local trade winds are dusty affairs called "Harmattan" winds that make you feel like
you're living inside a Sahara sand-fog, you usually cannot see neighbour islands even though they're only a few miles away.
Diving and fishing is good but not world class. The only reason to buy one of the zillions of new,
or more likely one of the "virtual" (yet to exist) cookie cutter resort apartments currently under construction
is that sun on this boring desert island is virtually guaranteed most of the year. That is literally what you get,
"a place in the sun", nothing more, except currency risk of course as the CV "escudo" is artificially pegged to
the euro. It is likely to devalue many times in the future. We're talking about Africa after all, and the government's pipe
dream of CV becoming part of the EU in the future is just that, nonsense. Tourism on Sal has already fallen tremendously
in 2008 as people are probably getting the word of mouth on Sal in general and the main town Santa Maria in particular.
Stories of irritating memories, such as not being able to walk 2 blocks in town without being pestered by new "best friends"
latching onto unsuspecting tourists like leeches insisting that you buy crap you don't need and not taking "no" for an answer
are probably circulating in the package tourist world by now. Most of the leeches seem to be west African immigrants as
they seem to prefer French or English and many barely speak any Portuguese. Portuguese is the official language,
but the Portugal inspired CV accent is hard for a Brazilian to understand. It's kinda like an American trying to
understand an extreme Scottish dialect. The local pidgin called "Crioulo" incorporates African words into Portuguese
which makes it completely unintelligible, but very funny. The above mentioned fake exchange rate makes everything very
expensive. CV is NOT cheap, as a commission seeking real estate agent or the CV tourism board may try to make you believe.
The government of CV is only open to generic resort developments on the eastern "desert" islands which doesn't help in
creating a real feel. Eastern CV seems doomed to be destroyed by club Med type commercial package tourism, though even
bimbo package tourists are likely to eventually go elsewhere with more to offer than merely sunshine. Culturally CV doesn't
have much to offer either, except "slave culture". These islands were uninhabited 500 yrs ago and today are merely a stew of
what remains of the masters´ and slaves´ culture fragments.
Going to Cape Verde ? SKIP THIS ISLAND ! Head west to the stunning island Santo Antão instead !
We rented a beat up car to explore the island, but quickly discovered there's nowhere to go and nothing to see,
but we tried to make the best of it. Unfortunately rental rates in CV are probably the highest in the world
starting at $60/day for a junker with no free mileage ! This one was filthy and had completely bald tires.
I pointed that out to the rental dude to no avail. Sure enough a tire blew as soon as we hit the road.
This is a arvore preguica (lazy tree), probably one of the only trees on the island,
leaning with the easterly winds.
The local favela (slum).
The Pedra Lume area on the east coast.
The west coast.
"Buracona" on the north west coast is the island's only tourist attraction.
It is a sea cave of minor interest.
It has a famous "blue eye".
ESPARGOS is located in the middle of the island.
It is the capital of Sal and is a far more relaxing place than Santa Maria,
no leeches in sight !
You also pay half as much for a superior room here compared to Santa maria. The spankin´ new residencial
"Horizonte" is a great value for $20. Transport in communal van to SM is $1 (30 min).
That is the port "Palmeiras", and the south west coast.
The insane Sal building boom is visible from anywhere in the south of the island.
Between Ponta Preta and the town (Santa Maria) is the islands' main resort "Riu".
It looks like a Sahara sand castle...appropriate and suave at least.
As seen from the sea.
This is what all the tourism on Sal is all about,
This is what all the Brits and Italians are here for.
A gated, sterile, isolated package paradise.
The couple of km of coast between town and Ponta Preta is the best beach on Sal.
The Santa Maria seashore.
The pier in the middle of Santa Maria town.
Trying to sell my sailboard at one of the half dozen or so rental shacks along Santa Maria beach
I came upon a fellow Mauian !!! who seems to be the owner of the last shack along the beach.
Another shack had American staff also, and one was European.
The Windsurfing scene here is all run by foreigners, it seems.
I couldn't help but wonder what would possess someone to swap Hawaii for Sal ???
That Ponta Preta wave must have loosened some nuts n' bolts in the poor guys head...!!!?
It soon became clear that this guy is indeed NOT the brightest bulb out there. When I said
I'd just come over from Brazil to check the place out as a potential "base" he goes
"Did you come on an airplane ?".....I almost said "No Forrest, I windsurfed over"...
When ET shows up, "Did youuu come on a SpaceShiip ?"
Confirmation came when the man said of the shithole of Sal, "Here is good !" ???
To no surprise I was not able to sell my damn gear as there is NO windsurfing infrastructure (i.e. sailing community, gear shops etc.)
on this island, everything is 100% tourist. The rental shacks import hundreds of boards at the beginning of the season.
I wonder how they get rid of all the boards ???
and how can they all have enough clients on this crappy island ???
for ONE wave ???
I kinda suspect that 90% of CV windsurfing tourists don't get a "Ponta Preta" experience,
but sail in the boring conditions here on Santa Maria beach, in front of the rental shacks...
That windsurfing clip on You Tube that showed "the best conditions ever for a wavesailing competition"
and inspired me to stop here on the way from Brazil to Europe were very misleading indeed, but I had to stop here
(it's EXCACTLY half way) to see for myself, of course. Now I know. It's definitely NOT "base" material.
Don't get me wrong, the Wave looks killer ! (a few days a year ?), then what...? sit & stare at the desert sand...?
Conclusion; This strangely artificial place has a weird but boring, empty yet irritating vibe.
Had to check it out though, it seemed an intriguing place : (
Underwater Cape verde
Off the southwest coast of Sal
I took these pictures with my Canon SD870 ultracompact in a canon housing.
First time I've used a digital camera underwater. Very practical & better than nothing. OK results !
Made a couple of boat dives outside Ponta Preta, depth 10-35 meters, visibility ca. 30m.
They were the most expensive dives I've ever made (outside Antarctica).
As you can see in the fotos there is a great multitude of critters and small fish !
Larger fish seem not to be present in any large numbers, just a couple of Jacks.
Scorpion fish and Moreys