Cape Verde: a story of tenderness
“You’re sunburnt!” exclaimed Ivanilda, a gorgeous green eyed crioula we just met at breakfast. We had arrived in Ponta do Sol (literally the Sun’s Nib) the night before, after tree long days hiking up and down the hills of Santo Antão – the north-and-westernmost island of Cape Verde.
Our European-white skins were obviously unadapted to the Cape Verdian sunrays and Ivanilda, whose brown skin shined bright under the sun, was chocked with our reddish colour… “You must visit Mrs. Antonia!” she imposed, dragging us out of the terrace in the opposite direction of the beach. We just wanted to feel the black sand under our feet and jump into the water, but she was impossible to dissuade…
It took us only five minutes to cross the village and reach Mrs. Antonia´s door. Ivanilda knocked and from inside we heard a soft inquiring voice, “who’s there?”. “Mrs. Antonia, would you give my friends aloe vera for their sunburn bruises?”. A smiling face welcomed us “no way, they must come in”.
A humble green-wall vestibule, a tiger carpet hanging, and dozens of family portraits– this was the first cape verdian house we entered, and it felt I was at (the exotic version of) my grandma’s. Despite her eighties, Antónia Matilde is an energetic (and lovely!) lady. She led us to her inner terrace where bizarre plants burst in all shades of green, and started cutting leaves from her huge aloe vera cactus. “This will help your bruises…” said Mrs. Antonia, while gently scrubbing the leaves in our arms and legs.
We were amazed by her sympathy and, half in Portuguese half in crioulo, our conversation flew easily… Soon, we were mashing corn in an old traditional stone grinder, frying green bananas and tasting home-made coffee.
Suddenly her daughter arrived with a bag-full of goodies for cachupa, the icon of Cape Verde gastronomy and there we stood for hours, eating and hearing about their culture and traditions. Above all, we heard about how (hard) their lives used to be, and the reasons that led 5 of her 8 sons off the island, looking for better life conditions… For us it was more than a nice meal – was a deep incursion into their livelihoods.
We finally head to the beach, right at sunset. It wasn’t the beachy day we had dreamed, but we gained much more. After all, travelling is not only about amazing landscapes and fancy hotels. It is about connecting, learning with and from the locals. It´s about creating bonds. We left Ponta do Sol with a new granny and a heartful of memories.