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20th November, 2016

Mystery Cruise. Port No.6

Mrs R and I returned to the ship in Rosario, the port for Fuerteventura, having missed Arrecife in Lanzarote the day before. Captain Julian left and we sailed an hour or so later. The next day was at sea, and the next, and the next. Eventually, as some passengers thought we might fall off the edge of the world, we pulled into Porto da Praia, the capital of Santiago in the Cape Verde Islands, and a first for me.

We joined the morning excursion, taking one of the mini buses that are used for public transport throughout these ex Portuguese colonies. Our guide, standing up and facing us during the drive (not quite health & safety as we know it), gave us the potted history as we circumnavigated the harbour and entered the city. Being a Sunday there was a bustling street(s) market in progress near what I presumed to be the centre. We didn’t stop, but carried on another half mile to a gated enclosure where some native crafts and music had been laid on. I headed back along the street for the market. Fruit, vegetables, clay pots, clothing, basket ware, but what caught my eye was a lady selling wash boards. Ah ha, the perfect gift for Mrs R. Six euros later and I’m heading back with my shiny possession. Before passing it over I joined the ladies ‘band’for a few moments, but is seems they were as unimpressed with my musical accompaniment as was my wife with her new washing ‘machine’. You just can’t win.

The tour continued to the former capital of Cidade Velha which was once the centre of the slave trade. The old square still has the stone monument topped by a rusting navigational symbol and hooks apparently used to secure slaves that attempted escape. We walked through Banana Street with its stone homes covered in, yes, banana leaves, and then to the historic church still in use today. In fact a service was just coming to an end and the congregation was singing the birthday song in their creole language to some fortunate parishioner. The words, of course, were not understandable, but the tune international. There was time to take some refreshment at a windowless establishment near the water, the trade wind providing the air conditioning.

Above the town the fort of St. Phillipe was built as protection against the likes of Drake and other marauding pirates. Great ramparts still furnished with the remains of many canon had views over the sea to the south. This was our final stop before heading back and all the passengers I spoke with later said they had really enjoyed what was a very unexpected and different experience. 

Captain Philip Rentell

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