Saturday, April 21, 2007

Cabo Verde

One of the many perks of my job is that working in Angola is considered a hardship, and as such I get a week of vacation (R&R) every 6 months or so. After a hectic end of March, I was very please to take a short break to Cabo Verde (Cape Verde), meeting Angela, my good friend from SIPA who works in Liberia and also gets R&R.

Before I describe my trip, let me just say it was all worth it to hang out with a good friend. It can get very lonely here in Lobito, and although I feel like I am making friends here, I have yet to really connect with someone on that “good friend” level. So seeing Angela was a breath of fresh air, reminding me what it’s like to just sit with someone and not have to say anything, or talk about the most pressing issue in my personal life and have someone listen.

Also, it was handy to have a friend along to marvel at the WEIRDNESS that is Cabo Verde! Perhaps I should qualify that description… I had high hopes for Cabo Verde. The majority of music in Angola is caboverdeana and wonderful. For a place with no public university, Cabo Verde has managed to produce one of the finest literary traditions in the Portuguese-speaking world. I had no guidebook to rely on before arrival, so I was limited to the internet in terms of research. Little did I know that Sal, the island we planned our trip on, is the touristiest of them all!

The beached on Sal were quite nice, but unfortunately most of the island is a desert, covered with new hotel and apartment construction. I awoke every morning to the sound of construction workers- this island is definitely booming, but I can’t say if it’s a good thing or not. My main complaint about Santa Maria is that it was devoid of any local flavor- the buildings popping up are generic and designed for foreigners.

Our hotel was less than spectacular and did not offer the ocean views advertised. The owner was a French woman who could not be bothered to help us, not even to change a light bulb that sat burnt out the entire time we were there. We happened to pick the busiest week to travel there- Easter week- and daily tours and excursions were packed. When I asked of other activities- nice walks, buses to the other islands, she just shrugged and said, “You did poor planning. You picked the busiest week to come.” And left it at that. Well.

After Easter Sunday things died down and Angela and I were able to get on a tour of the island. The tour ageny told us to be outside waiting at 8:45 and our English-speaking guide would pick us up. We were outside waiting and at 9 am this truck with "EXCURSION- Tour of the Island" pulls up and says, "Okay, ready for the tour?" We say sure, and since the agency told us the guide would speak English, and he had begun in English. We quickly discovered, however, that English is, in fact, not one of the languages that he speaks. Just to double check, I said IN PORTUGUESE, "You're from Morabitur Agency, right?" "Oh yes, yes I am." Me: "And it's just us two?" Guy: "Oh yes, just you two." Okay, fine. We get going, and quickly discover that this guy is quite possibly the WORST tour agency on the planet. His creepiness knew no boundaries, telling us through the huge gap in his front teeth, "It's nice babies!" meaning he found us attractive. Ugh. He tried to get us to meet him for drinks later that night. He took us to this random apartment complex- which was NOT nice- as part of the tour. He would stop every so often and say, “Oh, I just need to go see this friend,” and disappear for 20 mintues. Extremely unprofessional, and Angela and I began to count down the time he had left with this clown.

We suffered through on to lunch, which was supposed to be included in the price of the tour. Suddenly, he was said, "Oh no, you pay for it then take the receipt to the tour agency." which made absolutely no sense to me, and considering the place he wanted us to eat was a dump, we said no, just take us back. We finally got back, got out of the car and were like, "okay, bye" and he says, "Uh, you need to pay me." I showed him the receipt and said that we had already paid, and he says, "I have nothing to do with the tour agency. I'm a private operator." I start freaking out, yelling at him in the middle of the street, and of course he's denying that I ever said anything about a tour agency. So Angela and I walk to the tour agency, explain everything, and the dude comes in yelling saying that we never said we were with another tour agency and that we had agreed to the price (80 Euros!!!) before getting in the car! What a mess. Luckily the tour agency took care of it all, and we just left. We were pretty much dumbfounded- how did this yahoo con two people who have traveled all over the world!! So our impressions of CV were a bit soured after that.

It’s a shame, really, because apparently the other islands of Cape Verde are wonderful and would have given us everything that we were expecting to receive. There are pictures here.

1 comment:

mas2df said...

Les, getting 1 week off every 6 months or so isn't that great (unless you get 2 weeks of vacation a year in addition).