We got out of the brand new Boeing 747 into the African midday sun, and into a rusty coach that looked like it had come straight from a 1990s school trip. Minus a windscreen wiper. We drove south along the only Tarmac road, crossing roundabouts where the second and fourth exits were dirt tracks. Roads yet to be built. The Tarmac gave way to cobbled streets as we entered the towns.
On the plane to the windy yet hot island of Sal I read a book – Never Look Back by Lesley Pearce – about a flower seller in Victorian London and on our tour of the island we saw numerous street sellers, scruffy children playing on the street, and shanty towns. It struck a chord with me. Yes, the street sellers were clean and the shanty towns nothing compared to the slums of London, but it made me realise that no matter how fast the first world and technology are developing we are still within touching distance of the 1800s and Charles Dickens.
Cape Verde has a plan though. Blocks of flats, akin to UK cities in the 1950s and 60s, are being built and the poorest families are being rehoused and offered finance plans to either buy or rent said accommodation. It’s an admirable policy, along with their compulsory National Service and education for all up to the age of eighteen – what you pay for education depends on your parents income.
Also on our tour we saw a scene straight out of The Ship of Adventure by Enid Blyton. For those of you too old to remember, or too young to know, here is the extract.
Just in case I thought we’d passed through a time tunnel instead of the mirage, the boy pulled out his smart phone to read a text.
I have to say the hotel complexes are first class. A reminder of the twenty first century. We stayed all inclusive, and at the moment that’s all you should do because the local towns, which in ten years time will be bustling hubbubs, are still small and poor. The people are very friendly and welcoming, and I think the increasing numbers of English speaking citizens and the development of restaurants and pubs will bring the towns into their own and will bring diversity to holiday makers, but currently you will get the best experience in the hotel complexes. But they’re developing their economy and the tourism industry (there’s talk of a water park and golf course) so I can’t wait to see how Cape Verde changes over the next few years as they embrace tourism wholeheartedly.
Sal is picturesque in an African way, with a fascinating history of salt mines and fishing, and culture, with a friendly population who only wish to share their island with the tourists. Hopefully they don’t lose this as they compete to become the top tourist destination because I found it really refreshing seeing and hearing about their uncomplicated way of life.