White Christmas Sal style

Christmas in Cape Verde is somewhat different from the Northern hemisphere, wintery, let’s-cuddle-up-with-a-warm-blanket-and-drink-a-Glühwein celebration I grew up with. Christmas decorations here will go up about 2 weeks before the event and shops and bars will start playing Christmas songs round about the 20th of December. It’s heaven, I know.

As everything that is sold here has to be imported and subjected to a hefty import tax, not much can be bought. It’s a bit like East Germany 25 years ago. Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes there just is no turkey or goose to be had anywhere on the island. But we had duck roast and red cabbage and dumplings, so all was good.

Christmas Day is of course a public holiday, not surprising in a country where most people are catholics. Traditionally, free days are spent on the beach. Something we did last year. This year we opted for a different kind of amusement. Our nanny, who takes care of the little monkey when we are working, has never seen any of the sights Sal island has to offer. So we treated her to a private island tour in our pickup.

Which of course included a visit to one of the most historic places on the island: The salt mine (salinas) at Pedra de Lume, east of the island capital Espargos. The place holds a special significance for the island. After all, salt is what the island was named for, and salt is what brought the first settlers here. Granted, today Sal island makes its living mostly on tourist dollars, but the living museum the Pedra de Lume installations are today still exhibits how lucrative the winning of salt must have been back in those days.

Remnants of the old haulway

The shipping terminal has seen better days

Of course, the Pedra de Lume salt mine is not only historically interesting, it is also breathtakingly situated in the crater of an extinct volcano.

First glimpse while approaching through the artificial access tunnel

The caldera gets super hot in the tropical sun – ideal for the production of salt from sea water

The crater is actually a natural salt pan as its bottom lies below the sea level, and the surrounding porous volcanic rock allows for sea water to enter. When the salt production was industrialised in the 18th and 19th century, a number of interconnected salt lakes was created, an access tunnel blasted into the crater rim, and a cableway for more efficient transport was built.

Nowadays, salt is not as valuable a commodity as it used to be, so the production stopped being profitable. Instead, tourism has taken over. The salinas, although declared a protected landscape by the Capeverdean government, were sold to a foreign investor who has established some kind of spa. At a steep 5 € one can enter the caldera and take a dip in one of the shallow lakes, where the high salinity makes you float like in the Dead Sea.

Salt is still produced on a very small scale and sold in souvenir shops in Santa Maria.

I’m not sure I would want to put this into my food

What I found most intriguing was wandering around and admiring the artwork that the salt has created with a little help from wind and sun.

Ice crystals – or not?

Sugar … uhm … salt coating

Salt floes

Sometimes the salt looks like icing, and sometimes the resemblance with ice crystals is astounding. And some areas appear to be snowed in – in 30°C.

Just looking at it makes me shiver

Personally, I much prefer mock snow over the real deal.

Anyway, whereever in the world you are, whether you have snow or summer or something inbetween, I wish you a great start into the new year. May it be full of adventure and happiness.

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Developing and getting there

Dear Readers,

Today I saw a crew of municipality workers putting up a Christmas tree here in Sal’s capital town, Espargos. Which reminded me that one of my previous posts featured last year’s plastic bottle tree. Which in turn made me realise just HOW long I have not posted anything in this blog. I have no excuse. Except my kids. And my general laziness. Moving on.

In my last post (I added a link because, after all this time, I don’t expect anyone to remember this) I promised to tell you a bit more about the down sides of living in my little tropical paradise. I’ve changed my mind. I mean, there are annoying things happening on a quite regular basis and I am diligently making notes to compile a nice rant. But then I never really feel in the mood to actually complain. Mostly because I am just too knackered in the evening, I guess.

So I decided that instead, I am going to educate you a little more on my adopted home, Cape Verde. I came across this little infographic the other day, and it went straight into my marketing file. How come only very few people back home in Europe have ever heard of this country? It’s about time this changes. Have a look:

Africa From Top To Bottom
Image compliments of Master of Finance Degrees

If you go to their homepage (http://www.master-of-finance.org/africa-economy/) they give you a bit of background information on the individual indicators for each category. I like that Cape Verde’s national security scores 100% (Cross-Border Tensions – Government Involvement in Armed Conflict – Domestic Armed Conflict – Political Refugees – Internally Displaced People). In other words, the likelihood to become victim of a terrorist attack here equals zero. One of our major arguments in the effort to divert Egyptian tourism into our direction.

Cape Verde is one of only two countries that ranks among the Top 5 in all four categories. Impressive, isn’t it? Being married to a Saffer I should probably not say this, but: Eat your heart out, South Africa! 🙂

So next time my bread isn’t finished in time for dinner because a power cut interrupted my bread baking machine I will find comfort in the fact that I live in a place that has the highest score of all African countries in the Human Rights section.

And this here might help as well:

Kite surfing south of Serra Negra

Kite surfing south of Serra Negra

Or this:

Don't move here if you can't stand kitsch

Don’t move here if you can’t stand kitsch

Or this here:

Just another day at the office

Just another day at the office

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.