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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Mind boggling Mindelo

Ringed by amazingly sculpted mountains, Mindelo, in the Cape Verde islands, looms out of the twilight and appears to be a spectacular anchorage. We’ve had a boisterous sail from the nearby island of Sao Nicolau in 30knots with a lumpy swell. The island greets us with sheer cliffs, an amazingly rugged skyline and some spectacular looking surf beaches  DSC_0216

We’re here to provision, catch our breath and refocus before heading out for the next stage of our Atlantic crossing….the biggie….two weeks (give or take a day or two) and 2000odd nautical miles to Barbados. Mindelo is on the island of Sao Vicente and is the biggest town on the island. After Sal, we’re not expecting great things which is just as well. As we get closer we see that Mindelo Bay is full of rusting hulks as well as sunken and partially sunken ships, fishing boats and abandoned yachts. We are disappointed to find what could be a spectacular spot is marred by such eyesores

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After a good night’s sleep we head ashore and the delightful town revives our sagging spirits – it’s bright and colourful and full of intriguing characters. Women wandering along with bowls of produce balanced beautifully on their heads, men dragging huge mahimahi and wahu around (presumably to sell), brightly dressed girls selling bowls of banana and papaya on the footpath.

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                                 street scenes - Mindelo

It’s a sensory delight – our ears are assaulted with reggae music blasting from speakers in the local square, the aroma of freshly baked bread is overwhelming and our eyes are on stalks at the wonderful array of produce on offer by the most colourful characters we’ve ever seen. Pitch black faces with heads swathed in bright scarves, knitted hats (it’s 30 degrees plus!) and women wearing the most amazing clothes.

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The buildings are glorious. Portuguese colonial style architecture accentuated by the use of some intriguing colour combinations – obviously painted by someone not scared to experiment. There’s lime green edge with orange or canary yellow; royal blue with deep parrot green and pastel pink teamed with white to look like a birthday cake decoration. Some are recently painted, others are distinctly shabby - it’s all a feast for the eyes.

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Provisioning is a headache. Prices are eye wateringly high and there seems little movement – cruisers are seen as cash cows obviously. Sticking to the local specialties (cabbage, sweet potato, oranges, banana, papaya and green pepper) means we can stay on budget and at the local fish market mahimahi, swordfish and tuna is as cheap as we’ve ever seen it. Tempted as we are to buy, the Bandit fishing machine has done well lately and we’ve still got tuna in the freezer.

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Cruisers tend to collect in Mindelo and it’s fun catching up with some we haven’t seen since the Med. We have a fun meal out with Ventana and Resolute but the pizza is nothing remotely like an Italian one – think cheddar cheese, tomato ketchup and sweet corn (the menu wasn’t in English!).

We’re keen to get going and Mindelo isn’t the place one lingers (well we didn’t feel like lingering). Internet connection is appallingly slow…..I’m sure I bring the entire island to a grinding halt when I attempt to send a story and pix to the Marlborough Express! It takes an hour and I only get three photos sent. So frustrating when we are used to high speed connection…..is this a good or bad thing? We debate the topic for some time with  no conclusion.

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                Wahu at the Mindelo fish market

Frustration sets in again when we head off to collect the laundry. It was dropped off at 10 to be ready at 4pm but when we arrive it’s still sitting there unwashed. A Lost in Translation incident no doubt……but it causes much anxiety. Paying in advance may be the key so I fork out $8 and return in two hours to find it all beautifully washed, ironed and folded.

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Final provisioning becomes a nightmare when we find massive queues at the handful of money machines – they’d been closed the day before as it was a public holiday and the entire population (it seems) is out to withdraw cash today. I stand in line for ages and when my turn comes am so stressed that I press an extra 0 and extract the equivalent of 200 euros instead of 20. I’m almost in tears and curse my stupidity. Believe me there is nothing in Mindelo I can spend the money on (except overpriced food) so I queue again at the bank to exchange it into US dollars. A frustrating morning over, provisioning done, we have Mark and Amanda from Balvenie onboard for coffee (they’ve just arrived from the Canary Islands) and head away. Moonshadow (Richard and Alexandra) and Inammorata (Steve and Carol) leave with us and it’s a wonderful feeling to see three sets of sails heading away from the island, bows firmly pointed west. Barbados here we come!

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