Cape Verde Diving Story

By: Archy Ash

I left Cabeco das Tarafes and the scant vegetation of a ribeira, and the road deteriorated to a dusty track. Now I was in open upland dominated by Pico Estancia on the right. It is not a large mountain but in this emptiness I had lost a sense of scale and as it shimmered in the heat it seamed massive.

All around was dry rock. Once, I stopped and there was no movement except for the drifting trail of dust thrown out by the jeep. There was silence except for the droning of the hot wind. The land was an endless brown and the skull of a donkey gleamed like a white flower amongst the rocks. At last, after an eternity on the plateau of dry bones, the track swung towards the coast and soon I was driving just above the white sand.

Curral Velho is a crumbling village next to a salt lagoon just behind the shore. It is built in warm honey coloured stone, a place of stone, built on stone, amongst stone. The wind murmured through the gaping windows. Two of the largest, blackest crows I had ever seen watched me from a broken gable as I picked my way round the ruins. I found a path over the dunes amongst the twisted roots and stumps of a fossilised forest. At the beach I sat for a little and watched the patterns of fine sand stream over the ground.

Beyond, the sea crashed on to the steep shore. From Curral Velho I drove inland. Walls crossed the dry landscape, impressive monuments to generations of Boavistans who have put to good use the two resources that are not in short supply here: rock and time. From time to time I passed the ruins of farmhouses and here and there an abandoned well there is water, but it is bitter now.

In places the track threatened to disappear altogether beneath thick drifts of dust. Elsewhere, the route was no more than a cleared path across boulder fields. The sun sank and Santo Antonio became an outlandish silhouette. I passed a tree blasted into a tortured sculpture by the prevailing wind - It was the first living thing since the crows, hours before. There were low scrubby bushes and then, at last, an attempt at cultivation. The field was more like a fortress than a garden: first there were walls to keep the goats out and then there was an embankment around each plant to keep the water in.

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