Cabo Verde is a diverse archipelago; each island is different. And Boa Vista, even after having crossed it through its roads, paths and out of every known track, is still difficult for me to define. It is authentic in the sense that it has its own life apart from tourism, but tourism is still an essential asset on the island. However, in the popular imagination, as in so many places that have ceased to be virgins, the idea that has been installed that it is a crowded place for sun and sunbathing beaches where foreign investment resorts and a multitude of tourists proliferate in season.
And obviously there are resorts, and tourists too. But the island is still a piece of African land just in front the coast of Senegal, where to find inland villages where children still run after the travellers because of being a surprising novelty and there are kilometres and more kilometres of deserted coast, where will not see a soul at all day on its intact white sand and turquoise water at the perfect temperature.
One day we decided to rent a car. We approached the tourist office of Sal Rei to ask where we could do that and a tall and bald man, of those who seem to be always smiling, indicated in perfect native Italian, the options available. We talked for a while with him and he looked like a nice guy. The three companies that rented vehicles offered more or less the same conditions for their cars, and renting cars was apparently a cheaper option than quads. A car in Boa Vista cost in 2019 in between 50 and 60 euros per day but all companies included a restriction on mileage that does not fit with what would be desirable to explore conveniently the island paths. The car rental option is good if you just want to go to the beach and nowhere else. Each extra kilometre has a high cost and, in the end, you end up paying more for the extra kilometres than for the rental itself. The tall-bald guy stopped looking nice to us when sitting in the sun on a terrace appeared to ask how had gone with the car and justified the trick by talking about the poor conditions of the country’s roads and the locals’ need to rent anyhow for the survival of their businesses. However, it was worth exploring the options available by road, which from Sal Rei are basically two: to the south, in the direction of Rabil, where the airport is located, and the road that goes through the interior along the north, following the route Bofareira, Joao Gatego to Fundo de Figueiras.
Indeed, the roads of the island are not an example of anything, but exploring them gives the possibility of getting where the average doesn’t venture. And that speaking about traveling has always its reward. We arrived at Santa Monica Beach at the south, the road in good condition brought us close to a modern Arab-style hotel complex. In front of it, there were some tourists, few, who bathe and walk resting from the indoor pools and cocktails from inside the exclusive enclosure.
A few meters beyond, where they already give up of walking far, a paradise devoid of human presence begins, extending one of the best beaches in the world. Fortunately, unknown to the common of humanity.
We enjoyed the solitude, stepping on white sands that surely took time to be stepped on again, the turquoise colour and the placid swell of a crystal-clear water perfect for swimming. A few hours later we decided to return to the north because the maps showed villages that seemed to be real for real people. And luckily, they were so.
Exhausted, we parked the car at Bofareira when we saw a little shop on the road that had two tables set-up with chairs at the entrance. Inside there was a lady dressed in local outfit whose Portuguese we didn’t understand, but she did seem to understand the essentials of ours, “Duas cervejas, por favor.” She served two Super Bock to us whose first shallow tasted like glory watching the people go by, on the second shallow some children appeared and asked us to take a picture and on the third they came close to us yelling and screaming, threatening to throw stones at us. Tourist stuff.
The day had been splendid, we discovered a good number of interesting places that explained to us by themselves that there are a lot of interesting things besides the beaches at this secondary island of Cabo Verde. But the road options were finished, so we were clear that the next day we would get back the car and move to the quad option in order to reach the most inaccessible places, impossible for regular vehicles that follow the normal tracks.
Renting a quad in Boa Vista is not cheap either. Africa for tourists, let’s not fool ourselves, it never is. They were 76 euros per day, but there was no mileage limitation and gasoline consumption were much lower. But the best of all is that it puts you off track and you can go on the most untouched roads, exploring literally on your own way.
We went south, in search of idyllic beaches, at the beginning we reached again Santa Monica and then we went entering cross-country through the entire south face of the island, passing through half-done road parts, cattle roads and authentic stony looking like ones for new entrances to the sea, reaching villages that do not reach any road, wrapped in a feeling of total freedom that made us shout when we saw again the turquoise colour crashing to the white of the sand with a blinding flash of sunlight.
There on the sand of a vague place on the south coast of Boa Vista, were a couple of huge ravens watching to us. We opened the backpack and took out a bottle of white wine, bought in Sal Rei, which still retained some freshness.
The ravens approached cautiously, as if they expected the sun to do its job with us in order to provide for them a hearty lunch. I remember I took a sip of the bottle of wine, I looked at my traveling companion, I took off my swimsuit and as I entered naked to the water I thought “not today, friends, today will not be your day, which is ours”.