7th January 2022
Baia de Murdeira, Sal Cape Verde – Tarrafal, Sao Nicolau, Cape Verde
Cars over the years, even though they have become faster and roads busier, have become increasingly safe. Features such as seatbelts airbags and crumple zones have driven this increase in safety and these features are often inspired by nature. Sao Nicolau has clearly inspired crumple zones as the hills look like they’ve been involved in a significant car crash and the people are happy to have survived.
We left the flat landscape of Sal behind and after a night at sea the hills of Sao Nicolau rose up from the depths of the ocean. These hills would be a challenge to ascend ashore but they also created challenges offshore as the wind dropped off theirs tops, accelerated through the valleys and then crashed into Ruffian. Soon however we were not only in the welcoming folds of Tarrafal, but also the friends we’d left in Sal. We were once again reunited with Cerulean.
As the anchor flew off the front of Ruffian we watched in awe as it hit the bottom and a small cloud of sand erupted. The water was gin clear and so needing to clear our heads after a night at sea we jumped straight in.
Not only was the water clean, so was the bottom of Ruffian. The propellor and shaft shone as if they’d just been polished and Ruffian’s hull was as smooth as a baby’s bottom. All the fresh water of The Gambia we’d been sailing in had killed all the underwater critters that grow on boats and as they fell off, they left behind a virginal surface.
With Cerulean in tow, we headed off for another epic adventure ashore where the plan was to take a bus to the high point of the island and walk down to the capital. This was less of a challenge for us as it was for the poor bus. As the gradients increased it weaved from side to side trying to smooth things out and as the driver found this was such fun he continued his slalom along the flat, only for us to ruin his fun by asking to get off in the middle of nowhere.
All around us valleys cut deep scars into the hills and ran as far as the eye could see, while the sharp peaks pointed skyward towards the unyielding sun. Finding the path downward we were given views across the island and down to the town that lay far below us. The landscape was truly crumpled, just like that of a wrecked car.
The walk down went on forever and the town slowly got closer as we weaved our way around precipitous drops, through fertile fields, and finally past children revelling in the simple pleasures of life. Now back in civilisation we just had to find a bus to take us home, where suddenly we were greeted like old friends by our friendly bus driver of slalom expertise.
Jumping into the front seats we were treated to a first-class view as we headed ‘off road’ along cobbled streets that rose up at impossible angles and stopped at every turn to either pick up, drop off or simply inspect local produce. As bus routes go this certainly beat the no 21 through Pimlico. We created hills opening huge vistas, clung to the edge of cliffs giving us thrills and as we got to the southern side of the island we were bathed in a setting sun that cut shards of sunlight from the mountain tops and cast long shadows across the arid landscape.
After bidding Cerulean yet another fond farewell we once again headed for the crumple zone hills. Under the highest peak on the island, we tackled paths that clung to the edge of the mountainside where marbled gravel underfoot threatened to send us sliding into the chasms we were skirting. Along these near vertical paths Fiona carefully planted every step and made sure her hiking poles were secure while Iain skipped up throwing caution to the wind, only realising the danger when he lifted his head and looked around.
Taking in these hills we saw a totally different side of the island. Lush tropical plants grew everywhere we looked and subtropical insects made battle with the spiders that spun their webs across every flightpath.
We’ve now experienced the crumple zone hills from every angle but with some wind expected those very same hills will be accelerating the air down to where Ruffian sits at anchor. While those ashore in their cars will be kept insulated with all their safety features, we’ll need to tend Ruffian to make sure we’re safe offshore.
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