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Another day in Cape Verde

It was one of those standard days. After a delightful evening the
night before, I decided to go for a hike. Bought some food and water
and off I went.

As the subburbs of Mindelo are quite extensive I opted for a bus. I
stopped the first bus that passed by. The driver asked me where I
wanted to go, and I could only answer ‘I don’t know’ (please note that
my Portugese language skills are limited to speaking broken Spanish
with a funny accent). The guy and sold me a ticket costing the
equivalent of 3 eurocents.

After 15 minutes ride we were well at the outskirts of the city.
Everybody got off at one point, so I did the same. Attempts to find
out (with a map) where I was were in vain. I therefore decided to walk
up the highest mountain I could find. The dirt track dissappeared
quickly and soon I was on my own in the prairie. After a long hike, I
found myself on top of the mountain with an amazing view: one tiny
house in the valley, see and a beautiful landscape. During the long
walk downhill I got a call from my family back in The Netherlands
which made this beautiful day even more special.

When I finally arrived at the sea I hitch hiked (by car this time) and
was taken by the 3rd car passing by: a Cape Verdian living in Canada,
giving an old aunt a ride because she had a stroke. He was a martial
arts instructor, real estate broker and a genuinely nice guy, who
dropped me off at my hotel.

Me like Cape Verde 🙂

Sunny Christmas everyone

Monte_verdeMonte_verde2

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Leaving the harbor

The story is both sad and beautiful. A French singer/songwriter finds out he has terminal cancer. He decides to make one more album. In this 9 minutes epos he contemplates life as only the French can..

It’s the song my captain played each time we had left the harbor and set sail for a new destination. Full blast. Shivers down my spine.

(Merci Philippe!)

 

C’est un grand terrain de nulle part
Avec de belles poignées d’argent
La lunette d’un microscope
Et tous ces petits êtres qui courent

Car chacun vaque à son destin
Petits ou grands
Comme durant les siècles égyptiens
Péniblement…

A porter mille fois son poids sur lui
Sous la chaleur et dans le vent
Dans le soleil ou dans la nuit
Voyez-vous ces êtres vivants ?

Quelqu’un a inventé ce jeu
Terrible, cruel, captivant
Les maisons, les lacs, les continents
Comme un légo avec du vent…

La faiblesse des tout-puissants
Comme un légo avec du sang
La force décuplée des perdants
Comme un légo avec des dents
Comme un légo avec des mains
Comme un légo…

Voyez-vous tous ces humains
Danser ensemble à se donner la main
S’embrasser dans le noir à cheveux blonds
A ne pas voir demain comme ils seront…

Car si la Terre est ronde
Et qu’ils s’agrippent
Au-delà, c’est le vide
Assis devant le restant d’une portion de frites
Noir sidéral et quelques plats d’amibes

Les capitales sont toutes les mêmes devenues
Aux facettes d’un même miroir
Vêtues d’acier, vêtues de noir
Comme un légo mais sans mémoire

Pourquoi ne me réponds-tu jamais ?
Sous ce manguier de plus de dix milles pages
A te balancer dans cette cage…

A voir le monde de si haut
Comme un damier, comme un légo
Comme un imputrescible radeau
Comme un insecte mais sur le dos
Comme un insecte sur le dos

C’est un grand terrain de nulle part
Avec de belles poignées d’argent
La lunette d’un microscope
On regarde, on regarde, on regarde dedans…

On voit de toutes petites choses qui luisent
Ce sont des gens dans des chemises
Comme durant ces siècles de la longue nuit
Dans le silence ou dans le bruit…

Boat hunting

Looking for a boat to hitch hike the Atlantic is quite an adventure in itself. A selection:

A small catamaran with an extended family of 6 persons on it. They really had no space for me.

A French family on a catemaran with a young kid. They are interested in taking me, but he has thin lips and an unfriendly smile. So, I’m not going with them.

I had borrowed the dinghy / Zodiac from my current boat and during my search for all the anchored boats, I passed a yacht with a kid on it. I asked him whether his parents were on the boat. He responded negatively and asked me why I wanted to know. Feeling a bit unsure about talking to a kid alone on a yacht, I approached with the dinghy and I noticed he had (literally) a live monkey on his back. The kid and I talked a bit and the idea of crossing the ocean with this kind of people seemed very appealing. Later that day, I heard from two independent and reliable sources that the father was particularly unfriendly. Which ruled them out as 3 weeks on the ocean with unfriendly people is a definite no-go.

After lunch I ended up on an old large steel boat. When I told the owner that I am searching a boat in order ‘to cross’ he looked at me like I was his long lost son. Hopefully I am not. The guy and his wife were particularly filthy. The boat was in desperate need of a cleanup too, not in the last place because of the two big dogs on board. Their excrements were still on the deck as the owners were probably busy repairing the boat. The captain confessed he didn’t know the boat well and sometimes the chain for the rudder fell of but ‘only for a maximum of 5-10 minutes or so as it happens often’. In addition he was going to experiment with a home-made auto pilot that he ‘read about on the Internet’. Which took away the last tiny bit of doubt for wanting to join that particular boat.

One of the first boats I had spotted was a beautiful yacht under the Dutch flag. The owner (from the north of The Netherlands) and his friendly wife spoke at length with me. Unfortunately, they told me right at the beginning that they weren’t looking for anybody.

A Swedish guy had a very unlucky accident on the boat 1 day down from the canary islands. His wrist was broken in a nasty spot. They send a helicopter to take him off the boat. This meant that there was a space on that boat for me. The co-owner and myself chatted for almost an hour yesterday and ran into each other twice today, but unfortunately We couldn’t follow up on our earlier discussion as it looked like a good boat.

When I asked a captain of moored boat in the harbor whether he was looking for crew, another guy, who was just walking by, informed me that he knew of somebody who was looking for a crew member. He had been looking as well and really could recommended this guy. I went to see him. A friendly Englishman, on a big 2 mast yacht build in The Netherlands. He is looking to leave in about 10 days for the Grenadines, leaving ample time for me to discover the islands. A nice option indeed.

Further down the harbor I ran into a Spanish couple that I had seen the day before. A really friendly and smiley guy. His girlfriend who was on the boat had fallen ill and as they had to leave in order to make a deadline, they were looking for a replacement. Today we had a short chat. The girlfriend had fortunately recovered completely, but it meant that this boat was no longer an option.

The most spectacular option came last in the evening. An English gentleman in his late 60s, who had been an engineer on particle accelerators in the USA. I scored major points when I told him I had started yesterday to read a book on Richard Feynman. He confessed he never met Feynman, but had worked intensively on another Nobel price winning project. Things went great from there. He’s a collector of classic cars. His oldest car is from 1928 and he has a jaguar e-type from 1969. He has got to be back in NY by May as there is a classic car rally he has attended for 32 years consecutively (without missing a single year). After his wife passed away he sailed 3 times around the globe, went 4 times to the Antarctic, etc. etc. A very experienced sailor indeed. The big ‘but’ is that he is looking for somebody who will go not only to Brazil, but directly to the Caribbean as well. Which not only is a long trip, but forces me to backtrack to Brazil afterwards. Hmmm….

One thing is for sure, there are quite a number of characters to be found here 🙂

Sad arrival

Yesterday was my first day in Cape Verde. And a sad one. Cape Verde's most famous daughter had passed away. Cesaria Evora made the small archipelago famous. And she was famous walking barefoot and smoking continuously.

Yesterday she received a state funeral. A host of dignitaries, a passionate speech by the president and many people crying in the street. It was an official 'day of mourning' for the entire country. A well deserved tribute for a great singer.

more info: http://www.rfimusic.com/artist/world-music/cesaria-evora/biography

What’s the plan?

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People regularly ask me for a plan for my trip. With a sheepish look I then have to admit that there is none. Vague ideas like ‘go to Iran and see from there’, ‘have a look in South East Asia’ somehow resulted in a fantastic trip.

Similar to before, I had the idea to ‘go sailing’. Wise friends and family warned me for drunk captains, high seas and full boats. Without a name nor location of a harbor (‘how do you say ‘harbor in Spanish anyway?’) and just a plane ticket to Gran Canaria, I was on my way for another exciting part of this trip.

In hindsight, I forgot to think of some of the most important things: a large and (ideally) luxurious yacht, a private cabin and shower. A trustworthy captain and a great cook on board cooking our freshly caught fish. A nice mix of sailing at night with strong winds and sunshine filled days reading on deck. Shore leave in town and hiking on a quiet island.

And all that came true.
🙂

The opposite way

Once upon a time, when I was much younger, I hitch hiked to France with my best friend. It was a holiday that could rival this trip in terms of events.

As a hitch hiker you need to be optimistic and persistent. Being two guys, you need to be creative, insane or both. Being patient is a virtue when hitch hiking, but finding fun ways to keep you too.

Nearly every long distance hitch hiker has a cardboard sign indications where he/she wants to go. One day, stuck for hours at an impossible location, we decided to put a sign for a city in the opposite direction. Typically people drive past without giving you a glance. This changed once we put up the new sign. People started pointing, gesturing, horning in order to correct our ‘stupid’ mistake. Needless to say that we had great fun being ignorant. The real idea behind all of this was to make people stop and explain us our mistake, which would give us the opportunity to get a ride in the direction we really wanted anyway.

People never halted and we got a ride. Typically people would characterize this experiment as a failure. For us, it gave us the energy to continue waiting for a ride that inevitably would come. And the two of us ended up in Cannes.

The ARC rally is the largest cross ocean sailing race in the world. Loads of boats looking to go where I want to go: across the ocean. After looking for days on end for a spot and competing with dozens of other near desperate boat hitch hikers, I decided my strategy wasn’t working. Just like everybody else I put up signs in the harbor, told all the captains I was looking for a boat and even made it to the semi-finals of the volleyball event. Somebody suggested swimming to the sailing boats that were parked outside the harbor in order to surprise the captain with the determination, a captain responded that he had already 5 people swim to his boat in the last couple of days.

The opposite way

Once upon a time, when I was much younger, I hitch hiked to France with my best friend. It was a holiday that could rival this trip in terms of events.

As a hitch hiker you need to be optimistic and persistent. Being two guys, you need to be creative, insane or both. Being patient is a virtue when hitch hiking, but finding fun ways to keep you too.

Nearly every long distance hitch hiker has a cardboard sign indications where he/she wants to go. One day, stuck for hours at an impossible location, we decided to put a sign for a city in the opposite direction. Typically people drive past without giving you a glance. This changed once we put up the new sign. People started pointing, gesturing, horning in order to correct our ‘stupid’ mistake. Needless to say that we had great fun being ignorant. The real idea behind all of this was to make people stop and explain us our mistake, which would give us the opportunity to get a ride in the direction we really wanted anyway.

People never halted and we got a ride. Typically people would characterize this experiment as a failure. For us, it gave us the energy to continue waiting for a ride that inevitably would come. And the two of us ended up in Cannes.

The ARC rally is the largest cross ocean sailing race in the world. Loads of boats looking to go where I want to go: across the ocean. After looking for days on end for a spot and competing with dozens of other near desperate boat hitch hikers, I decided my strategy wasn’t working. Just like everybody else I put up signs in the harbor, told all the captains I was looking for a boat and even made it to the semi-finals of the volleyball event. Somebody suggested swimming to the sailing boats that were parked outside the harbor in order to surprise the captain with the determination, a captain responded that he had already 5 people swim to his boat in the last couple of days.

So I decided fishing in another pond. I took a cheap flight to Lanzarote and found a boat within 6 hours of arriving at the island. Even better, it gave me the time to take an epic bicycle ride around Lanzarote. Good fun all around!

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