Sal Island
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Cape Verde Sal Island Coming in to land at Sal International all I can see is a flat barren sand bank of an island and a gorgeous blue sea. Outside it's hot (well hotter than Europe) at 26C and cloudy; a little sticky. I buy a week-long transit visa for US$6 (surely a bargain?) and change some US dollar travellers cheques not realising till later that they exchanged them at the Euro rate, a bonus of US$80.

A couple of British tourists from the flight are also heading for the town of Santa Maria and have arranged for a minibus to collect them. Annoyingly for them, their 128kg of excess baggage has been lost in transit; luckily for me, they have room and offer me a lift.

Santa Maria has good beaches and breezes, and is a bit of an up-market resort for wind-surfers and surfboarders. Along the sea front are large hotel complexes with fences, courtesy buses, chalets and swimming pools. The "posh" end of the old town looks like a one-time colonial retreat but further back from the sea there's only soulless social housing.

I'm told the majority of the population are expatriates but it's hard to tell who the locals are: mixed-up races, mixed-up languages of Portuguese, French and Creole. Just about all the goods have been imported from Portugal, the former incumbent power. Prices are much the same as Europe apart from bottled beers at about US$1; dispose of the bottle as you will (no deposit, no recycling). This doesn't feel much like Africa; just a few itinerant Senegalese street traders add some colour and stylised souvenirs.

The afternoon passes lazily enough. I take photos of the sun setting beyond the bay. There's a new moon; my trusty travelling companion. For supper I have a delicious mixed fish platter and attempt a glass of "grog" (sugar-cane rum) as a "digestif".

As I get into bed I realise I no longer have my mobile phone.

Sun 22 Feb
Cape Verde Sal Santa Maria At first light I check the beach but both places where I may have dropped the phone are below the high tide mark. I report it to the police (hoping unrealistically that it may have been handed in) and then wander around feeling wretched. I browse through a souvenir market, take photos of kids playing football in the dust and do some shopping for picnic lunches.

In the evening, just as it's getting dark, I gather my bags and walk to the edge of town, waiting about 30 minutes before hitching a lift back to the airport.

The flight to the sister island of Sao Vicente takes over an hour so it's quite late when we finally land. I suggest to the young Cape Verdean lady I have been sitting next to on the plane that we share a taxi into town. Her English is good enough to help me find my hotel and wake up the owner though I end up paying the whole fare.

Sal Island
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