SAL - THE SIDEREAL AMPLE ISLAND
Aggiornamento: 12 set
Our expectations on the Cape Verde Islands and specifically on Sal were very high and at the same time rather confused. A piece of Africa in the Atlantic. A pearl still outside the circuits of the great Tour Operators. A surfer’s paradise. Difficult to sail: no ports, no shore services, too windy. Security concerns: you have to hire a boat watcher. These were more or less the words echoing in our minds, collected trough guides, pilot books and stories of friends. Well, Sal has proved to be exactly as described: for us beautiful and full of apparent contradictions.
Portuguese for centuries, Sal has very little of the Portuguese culture. It actually has a lot more from African orientations, starting from the very large Senegalese community that you see and “hear”. There are many Senegalese in Sal. Palmeira, the port of the island is totally colonized by Senegalese. All activities related to fishing are in the hands of Senegalese. But also those small business addressed to tourists. Gift shops, boutiques, galleries of local artifacts, hawkers colorful costume jewelry, are all in the hands of Senegalese. This massive presence has now permeated the culture of the island. You can tell by the colors, the colors of the buildings, the colors they wear, the colors of the skin. Sal, a lot, a lot a lot of wind and huge waves. Also on the coast sheltered by trade winds (the western) wind blows perpetually at 25 knots and for the most part with a big surf from the north west. All this makes Sal a paradise for surfers but at the same time does not make life easy for those who decide to come by boat. The only area really protected from big waves is Palmeira. In the rest of the island if you stay at anchor you feel you are sailing in the high sea with force 5 sea! Palmeira is the port. As a matter of fact it has a pier where a couple of times per week a passenger ships and cargo full of goods arrive. But, as promised, no services to yachting. No mooring facilities, neither water or fuel. The entry formalities must be expedite at the airport, 15 kilometers away from the port! Yet Palmeira offers also an infinite range of emotions to those who are willing and have time and sensitivity to pick them up. The port is the center of life of the small community. Children play in the clear water of the port and on their patched surf boards with sails made of old sheets, they run between the fishing boats and the few yachts at anchor. Women in the shadow of the great baobab, sell, chat, look after the little ones have not yet been able to surf and await the return of men from the fishing: a magical moment in which we had the good luck to attend. The boats approach the small pier that is literally invaded by the rest of the Community, including the children who were surfing. Everybody shout. Thus began a passage of containers: plastic bags, pots, bowls, plates, Tupperware, glasses that reach the boats from the pier and return to the dock full of fish. We have seen this scene for over 1 hour and we did not notice any transaction in cash or anybody taking note of what were to be given to whom. The fish was given away! Obviously it was just bluefish and not lobsters or other qualities of valuable fish (those were already been placed in boxes and ready for shipping). However we have seen giving away fish to hundreds of people for several hundred kilos. Something really far away from the logic of the communities to which, unfortunately, we are accustomed. The port of Palmeira also has its own cafés where under the shade of a beautiful reed you can enjoy a great and icy cold cerveza in a very, very relaxed atmosphere. In the evening, those cafés turn into colorful dance halls where by the rhythm of music the small community strengthens its ties. In Palmeira we also added two new friends to our little community of sea gypsies: Manolo and Nuria. Two Spaniards from Barcelona that one year ago left their dock. They come from a difficult cruise on the River Gambia. Upon arrival in Sal they were exhausted. 4 months with a difficult climatic situation, very little chance of descent provisions (they lost about 10kg in weight each) and some security concerns. The kitchen and the good humor of Angelique II has contributed to a fast recovery. They are on their way to the Caribbean, most likely Venezuela, although they will probably join us for our cruise to St. Kitts & Nevis! We spent a week in Palmeira, but we could have spent a month or a year. Before leaving Sal, however, we decided to visit Santa Maria, the tourist center of the island with the most beautiful beaches. Santa Maria is 17 miles by sea and approximately 25 kilometers by land away from Palmeira. But the emotional distance among the two sites is sidereal. Millions of millions of light years. Mega hotels, mega buses, mega restaurants. Street Senegalese vendors, recognize you as Italian from hundred yards away and hound you with: "amico come stai, bene? Yet squad of daily excursionists on board of pick-up, quads, bikes, skates and 1000 other gadgets tractors. For us, the only way to survive to such diversity was to turn our gaze to the sea, giving our back to all the falsity that Santa Maria perform every day. The sea and its beaches are just beautiful instead, at least for 24 hours stay!