Sunday 26 February 2017

Lapworth (the sound of gennys made us feel we were back home on the canal)

On Thursday we hired a pickup truck to have a look around the island of Maio.  We asked Dhiyama (one of the guys in the Buddhist community who look after the villas) to come with us as he has a lot of local knowledge having lived here for nine years.  We were out for about six hours and went round the entire island, taking in all ten villages. 

The northern beaches are famed for turtles when they are in egg laying season which, unfortunately, is later in the year; they are currently all back in Africa.  Although there were no turtles we saw many birds and a few butterflies.

The only shot I could get of a blue butterfly, similar to but smaller than the British Small Blue (1.5 - 2 cm wingspan)

As with so many islands in the Atlantic its early use by man was for salt extraction.  It seems most of the seafaring European countries have had a part in the history of salt extraction.  The English were here for many years and the main village, where our villa is, is called Porto Ingles.

It is a very green island considering its volcanic origin and all the agriculture is for internal consumption.  The only exportable product other than salt that we have been aware of is charcoal.  Outside each village are charcoal pits – the vast areas of acacia trees are used for making charcoal. The finished product is partly exported and partly used by the villagers for cooking.

Empty charcoal making pit

A few more pictures of our trip round the island:

Sand dunes on the west coast

Fish caught by hand line – Karen ate the red garoupa and I had the big grey one but I can't remember what it was called

Village of Figuera in an arid area in the east with a new church to the left.  The only religon seems to be Catholicism which probably accounts for the large number of children in some families

Empty buzio shells - large whelks. These are picked by hand by fishermen diving into the sea

Santana bay - typical empty beach

We took it easy on Friday - swam in the sea and had a cooked lunch on the beach and just a snack in the evening.  There are several bars/restaurants in the village and it seems half of them are owned by Italians.  

We woke on Saturday to no power and soon found that the whole island was without electricity.  It was a planned outage for work by electrical contractors who are extending power to the whole island.   They usually plan the outages for Sundays when everything is closed but for some reason had it on Saturday instead - it was out until three in the afternoon.  Walking around the village during the day we were accompanied by the sound of generators; it felt like we were back home on the towpath.

A bit of history

The island was first discovered by Portuguese sailors on May 1st 1460 hence its name.  It was mainly occupied by the English and Portuguese who extracted salt and exported it back home until the early 20th century.   Salt extraction stopped, the foreigners left, leaving a scattering of goat and pig farmers behind.  The increase in worldwide tourism in the late 20th century saw the introduction of an airport in 1990; there are two flights a week, both from Santiago (largest Cape Verde island).  The flights bring in about 20 -30 tourists each week but there are plans now to increase this to a maximum of 20,000 a year which will make a large difference to the villages and the people.

Here are a few shots from around our villa:

The villa complex has access to a little cove which we have swum in a few times

Thursday 23 February 2017

Lapworth (a gruelling time in the sun)

Even though we are away from the boat this week I thought I would make the odd blog entry even if just for our own memories.  

The island we are staying on is stunning and we feel so fortunate to have found somewhere that suits us down to the ground.  We are determined to walk at least five miles each day as well as swimming just to make sure we get some exercise.  On Tuesday we walked two miles along the beach to the east of the villa.  We saw two other couples and a fisherman, oh, and lots of birdlife of course.  We were in an area that has  salt lagoons behind the shoreline which makes for  interesting flora and fauna. 

We have seen a few butterflies, mainly from the white, brown and blue families.  The most common so far has been the Plain Tiger (aka African Monarch) which belongs to a family not seen in the UK.

Plain Tiger

In the evening we wandered down to the bar on the beach to watch the fisherman come in and then went to what’s purported to be the best restaurant in the place.  It happens to be right next to the villa which is handy.  I’m not sure what criteria is used to make it the best but we had a pleasant time.  During the day it is a general stores run by Isobel, who is 20 and the middle child of 13 – she has six brothers and six sisters – an even bigger family than our nine.   She wants to move out of Cape Verde and has taught herself English as the first step.  She is quite an ally to us as she is the only English speaker we have met and our Portuguese is next to useless.  The tourists tend to be aging French and Germans so not a generation to speak English.

Anyway, Tuesday was the day before the next supply ship arrived so restaurant choices (and stuff in shops) were very limited.

On Wednesday we walked to the next village, Morro.  We walked out on the road and back along the beach.   It was a bit further than we realised at eight miles and with half of that on sand meant that our calves were pretty tired by the time we got back.  Again, everywhere was deserted; on the three mile stretch of coast we saw one person – a local fisherman.

Back in our village we bumped into three guys we met on the first day.  They are all Italians and eight of them moved out here nine years ago.  They are Buddhists and make their living by looking after the villas owned by the foreigners.  We had a chat with them and sat at the bar again, this time to watch the supply ship unload. It comes over from Santiago island on a Wednesday every one to three weeks depending on the volume of goods that have been ordered.  It was fascinating watching the locals scurrying around like ants filling up their shops and restaurants.

Here are a few photos from the last couple of days:

Evening drinks on the beach watching the fisherman coming home - our villa is at the far right at the top of the cliff

These are a type of egret and I think these ones are Cattle Egrets

Walking east on Tuesday

Pig family in Morro

A salt water lagoon

Evening view across to Santiagao, the largest island in the group

The extensive menu on Tuesday evening - I had the goat and Karen had the Longoustines


Walking back on Tuesday

The road to Morro - the building in the distance is the airport we flew into

Goats outside the villa - just like the Canary islands seeing so many goats around

Another pig family - pigs, goats and chickens seem to be the most common animals

Beach walk on Wednesday

Our local restaurant (the blue building)

Morro high street

Supply ship unloading

Our restaurant from the back - it is upstairs and the shop is downstairs

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Lapworth (spring like cruise and a trip abroad)

The only boats I had seen on the move all week were local residential boaters going to the service point and then back to their moorings.  All changed on Saturday morning – by nine o’clock two hire boats and a private boat with a family on board had come past us.  It then dawned on us that it must he half term, an occasion we often forget about now all the children are well past school age.

Karen and I went for a little cruise on Saturday morning – it was a great feeling not having to dress up warmly.  It was also strange as we didn’t have Buddy with us; I had dropped him off at the kennels on Friday in preparation for our holiday.

Karen getting the first lock ready

We pulled in alongside nb Blue Valentine for a chat with Mandy and Peter and then got underway again.

Heading through one of the quaint iron bridges

On Sunday we were up in the early hours to get the first of our three flights to the island of Maio, one of the Cape Verde islands.  We had chosen this destination as it is the island least affected by tourism and also the greenest (vegetation wise as opposed to ecologically).  There are only a couple of dozen villas to rent in the main town where we are and we are probably the youngest tourists here, the others seem to be French or German.  As for half term – it had passed me by when I booked the villa and flights but this is not the place for families to visit so the only children are locals.

We had a 40 minute stopover in Lisbon and then flew to Praia the capital of Cape Verde on the island of Santiago.  We had an Airbnb apartment for the night and spent the evening wandering around the town.  At one point we saw a grey headed kingfisher which seemed very out of place in a garden away from water.  We walked out along the harbour wall to visit the lighthouse.

The light was powered by a bank of four batteries which reminded us of being back on the boat with our battery bank

On Monday morning we went back to the airport to catch a flight to Maio.  There are only two flights a week and it had been a bit of a worry whether we would catch the plane or not.  Since booking the flights we had had three emails changing the flight times.  The original departure time of 10 in the morning ended up being 6.45 although the last notification we got was for 7.30 so we were glad we got there early.

The airport terminal on Maio

We had booked our villa through Airbnb from an English guy who spends his time between his houses in Santander, England and Maio depending on which ones he has rented out.

The island is very poor as expected and reminded me very much of going to The Gambia thirty years ago.  But everyone seems to be friendly (not surprising as tourists spend money) and we don’t feel intimidated.

The beaches are as deserted as expected with clear turquoise water

The town from the beach bar

We walked away from the town along the beach and our walking app on our phones showed we walked for 1 ¾ miles before turning back.  In that time we did not see a single person and apparently it’s like that all round the island.

There is a lot of birdlife but our bird spotting skills are practically useless so I have sent a few pictures to birder friends to confirm what we have seen so far.

Peregrine falcons (I think) coming in to land on our villa

Ruddy turnstones

Although we live on a boat I really don’t like swimming, mainly because I can hardly swim; however, I have promised Karen I will swim in the pool and in the sea as it is so warm.

Karen enjoying the view from our pool – the first time we have been in an infinity pool