The first stop on the tour was Murdeira bay, where a small community of expensive, plush houses had been built several years ago and mainly rented or owned by rich foreigners. The guide told us dolphins and whales came to the bay with their calves and there was an interesting feature of small rocks jutting out of the ground that looked like a miniature version of Ireland's Giants' Causeway.
A security guard sat in a small shelter watching over the houses and a sign reminded non-residents they were not welcome. The well maintained rows of aloe vera plants in the garden in front of two-storey, modern properties, served to highlight the divide between the rich foreigners and the poor locals, who lived just down the road in dilapidated, unfinished homes, often with the absence of even basic amenities.
Seeing the disparity between rich and poor made me think how the dynamics between locals and foreigners could possibly change as foreigners increasingly look to invest in properties on Sal and the lucrative tourist industry developments spread further across the island.
At times on the tour, the 4x4s perilously criss-crossed each other’s paths choosing to take alternative meandering routes round treacherous dips in the sand. Our driver seemed to be going really fast, so fast that I had to look back to check that we weren’t being chased by something! Despite the speeding, we were always literally eating the dust of the vehicles in front. Needless to say my hair and clothes were covered in reddish- brown dust, as I insisted upon hanging my head out the window like an excitable dog as we travelled. My Full Fan earrings got the battering of their life and survived the billowing winds of Sal- I really do ‘road test’ all of my creations!
Before we left the 4x4 the guide also pointed out that the local children have taken to begging for money rather than attending school and so we were all discouraged from giving them money. I saw a
few children, one selling some fly-infested vegetables on the pavement and two little girls walking hand-in-hand with the cutest hairstyles and colourful beads in their plaited hair. The intricate hairstyles I saw were so beautiful, I wanted to ask where I could get my own hair done in Sal, but then remembered I had already had to re-do my hair when it became dry and full of salt water and sand from an ill-thought out wade into the sea the previous day when I had been floored by a wave. Furthermore, I’m not sure if I or my friend would have had the patience or desire to sit in a hairdresser’s for several hours of our holiday!
Tuna are plentiful in the waters of Sal and they served it everyday at our hotel, much to my delight. However, much of the food on Sal is shipped from abroad and much of the food we ate at the hotel looked and tasted like it had come from a packet, but it is the nature of the island. Not much grows in semi-arid conditions and drought and famines have been historical low points for Cape Verde’s islands, resulting in mass emigration. There are apparently more Cape Verdeans living in other parts of the world than those actually living in Cape Verde.
Across the road from her shop were a group of little boys drumming in the street beside the fishermen’s nets drying in the sun and a dead inflated puffer fish hanging from a tree. I thought I had filmed more of their performance, but I only managed to capture a few seconds, unfortunately not worth uploading here.
With a little encouragement from my friend, I braved my fear of water and floated in the salt water. So high is the salt content, one can float without any effort at all. If you can't get to the Dead Sea, make your way to Pedra de Lume in Sal! It was an amazing experience, but somewhat painful as I only discovered I had a cut under my arm once I had submerged myself. We were warned not to put our heads under water to protect our eyes from the high salt content, but the tour guide promised we would look 20 years younger afterwards, so I patted a little bit of the water on my face and didn’t wash off the salt deposits until I got back to the hotel (by which time the cut under my arm was burning like fire).