A long time ago, the wind scattered ten pieces of Africa some 500 km away from its northwestern coast, leaving the cold Atlantic currents to cool them off. Since then, Portuguese admirals, gold-thirsty pirates, and heartless slave traders have all sailed to those shores, importing their cultures. Today, that blissful archipelago called Cape Verde possesses a unique nature and a captivating creole culture. That same northern wind has blended the different voices of the Cape Verdeans to a sad song, singing about love and longing – the morna. Its gentle hum will guide you through the wonders of its homeland.
Ihlas do Barlavento – the windward islands
You will most probably hear your first ever morna on Sal – the island offering the most hotels and tourist entertainment. Regardless of it being a semi-desert, you will have a full agenda of things to do, starting from a visit to the saline lakes inside the spent crater at Pedra de Lume. After sunbathing on its splendid beaches, riding the ocean waves on a windsurf, and eye-to-eye experiences with rainbow-coloured fish, you will most probably end up dining in one of the live music restaurants in Santa Maria. The velvety voices, string notes and sensual lyrics will enchant you till late making you realise how vital music is for the Cape Verdeans.
The day after, head to Boa Vista Island – the actual birthplace of the morna. After another luxury sunbathing session accompanied by an unforgettable meeting with the humpback whales at Sai Rei, change the ocean scenery with a desert one amid the dunes of Deserto de Viana.
If you’re perfectly tanned already, then it must be time for some culture. Cape Verde’s cultural capital Mindelo at São Vicente will welcome you with its colonial Portuguese houses and tiny handicraft shops. A dinner in a traditional live-music restaurant will enlarge your horizons on both cuisine and music. The menu, a mixture of Caribbean, Brazilian and African influences will be well accompanied by the rhythms of the passionate fado and salsa. After a pastel com diablo dentro (a fried potato-dough wrap filled with fresh tuna, onions and tomatoes) your feet will not resist the temptation of the mesmerizing tabanka and batuka dances till dawn.
Have a revitalizing morning nap at the marvelous natural lagoon at Baía das Gatas then take the ferry, keeping an eye out for the flying fish, to Santo Antão – the greenest island. Its dark mountainous scenery will inspire the hiker inside you. After a challenging climb of the Ribeiras, have an invigorating sip of grogue – the brandy coming straight from the island’s sugarcane plantations. You will find more green horizons and quiet meditation on Sao Nicolau Island.
Ihlas do Sotavento – the leeward islands
Less European in style and closer to the African mainland is Santiago Island. Explore Cape Verde’s culture and history at the capital Praia’s museums, traditional restaurants and African markets. Head east to Maio, for an unforgettable meeting with the unique endemic birds and turtles on its tranquil, unspoiled shores.
But, if you are tired of the clichéd white beaches you can always switch to the black ones in Fogo Island. The “island of fire” will be proud to show you its active volcano, followed by a traditional lunch with cachupa (slow cooked stew of corn, beans and a sausage) with unique wine made from vines actually grown inside the its crater.
Your last stop is the blossoming Brava, Cape Verde’s “island of flowers”. Your tour will end in front of the statue of Eugenio Tavares – the father of the morna, born on this island. Your last night in Cape Verde will be a sad one, leaving the ten pieces of paradise will not be easy and maybe for the first time you will actually feel the longing of the morna.
For more information check out mydestination.com/capeverde
A guest post by Nazeli K. Kyuregyan.