Tag Archives: Praia

Mountain Trek to Assomada

The Cape Verde consists of ten islands 500 km off the west coast of Africa and 1000 km southwest of the Canary Islands. They were claimed in 1456 by Portugal, as a refreshment station for voyages to and from South America. Later, the Portuguese developed vineyards and imported African slaves to work with the vines. 

The two islands we visited were Santiago (46 by 25 miles in area) and Sao Vicente (14 by 10 miles in area). Praia on the island of Santiago has been the capital of Cape Verde since 1770 and was built primarily by slave labor. In the late 1700’s, the islands were hit by a 100-year drought, resulting in a devastating loss of life and mass emigration. Gradually, during the 1900’s, the economy based on agriculture and fishing rebuilt itself.

We hired a taxi to take us into the interior of the island, heading towards Assomada, with a stop on the way in Sao Jorge to see the beautiful Jardim Botanico. The drive was full of twists, turns, and switchbacks as we made our way through the mountains, passing by many small villages. 

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 Our young, but very accomplished taxi driver.

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 As we passed through one of the small villages, two policemen were manning a roadblock, stopping all the taxis driving through the area. Our driver was nervous as he quickly gathered together all the paperwork for the vehicle. The policeman asked that he get out of the car and they moved to the back of the car to search the trunk. We wanted to see what was happening, but thought it might cause a problem to get out of the car with our cameras. But we caught the action through the rearview mirror for our memory book.

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 On our way to the botanical gardens in Sao Jorge, we stopped to take pictures of the school children who had been released from their lessons for the day. 

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Jardim Botanico 

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This picnic area was beautiful enough to be an outdoor chapel.

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Christmas poinsettias

We continued our drive through the mountains to finally reach Assomada, a town that is home to one of the island’s largest, most vibrant markets as well as many examples of Portuguese colonial buildings.

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Town of Assomada

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 Solar panel “tree” in town square

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 Truly cobblestone streets!

Assomada Market Activities and People

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Sugar Cane

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Our super hero!

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Cape Verde ~ Emerging Country With Interesting People

Today, Praia is a city of 120,000, the cultural center of Cape Verde as well as home to its government offices and important educational institutions. Many of the colonial era buildings still exist, but the town also has a modern African feel, with influenced from the continent in its music, food and fashions.

Access to the island’s beaches and small villages is easy and provide a different view of the Cape Verdean culture. With a dry, warm climate, fascinating history and interesting blend of past and present, European and African, Praia is indeed a confluence of cultures. About half of the island’s population now lives in Praia of which the majority of it is perched on a high plateau overlooking the sea with a fortified wall around it.

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The arid climate makes it difficult to grow crops, but the people have found ways to cultivate peppers, corn, beans, sweet potatoes, bananas, and cassava. Fishing has been a way of life on the island for centuries and many local recipes incorporate fish into them. The most common crafts are baskets made from coconut fibers and beautiful woven cloth (the country’s only export).   

The streets and sidewalks were all cobblestone making walking difficult on feet and knees. The patterns in some of the sidewalks were very unusual and intricate. All of the young men in Cape Verde are required to serve one year in the armed services and some then go into law enforcement. We did feel safe while traveling around this country that is trying to expand its share of the tourist market.

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We also visited an early Catholic church and learned that about 90% of the Cape Verdean population is Catholic. Free Wi-Fi is available in the city square and many students and tourists take advantage of this. 

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Visiting the colorful vegetable market of Praia was quite an experience! Corn, peas and beans are staples in the diets in Cape Verde along with other fresh vegetables, fruits, and chicken and fish.

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High over the Old Town of Cidade Velha, we visited the fortress of San Filipe, built by the orders of Filipe I, King of Portugal and Spain.

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In the Old Town, below the fort, we also saw the Pelourinho – a reminder of the island’s history of slavery and the sad commerce of human souls. In another part of Old Town we walked along the Rua Banana to see the traditional stone houses and to visit with some of the locals. 

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