Days 190 to 193: The Great Escape
Day 190: On The Beach
Perhaps I should have mentioned this before – Val, the guy who was ‘helping’ me last week is now demanding that I pay him €600 for his ‘services’. These ‘services’ included not getting me my passport back, not getting the pirogue to the dock and not finding me a yacht to come and pick me up. He just flapped around for a few days, spent a lot of my money on phone calls, took a lot of taxis (which muggings here paid for) to godknowswhere and generally swanned about doing nothing constructive or even mildly helpful. Which could be a metaphor for this entire island, I don’t know.
Anyway, he wants his money and has spent the last week basically stalking me trying to get it. Of course, I have no intention of giving him such a vast amount of money for doing nothing. Even the magic money trees that we Europeans grow in our back gardens have their limits. The average wage here is €1000. FOR THE YEAR.
Anyway, the hilarious thing is that Val is wanted by the police. He ripped off a fellow Brit to the tune of one-and-a-half grand and the angry Brit (David) wants his money back. The upshot of which is that if I hang around Café Sophia, Val is rather reluctant to cause me any problems, lest make a scene. But I’m watching my back, for Val and other reasons that I will divulge later.
Today was exceedingly pleasant. I spent my entire time at Frazer’s café reading and drinking Twinning’s English Breakfast. Like a drunk who has fallen off the wagon, I found myself gorging on (my until-recently, denied delight) interesting stuff to read. National Geographic was thoroughly abused from cover to cover, as was last week’s Telegraph, a copy of Vanity Fair and, just to cheer me up, Neville Shute’s epic smile-a-thon ‘On The Beach’.
I can’t thank Frazer enough. If you ever have the misfortune to be stuck for six weeks in Praia, please patronise the Cape Café. It’s the best thing here by a mile.
Anyway, things in Cape Verde are FINALLY drawing to a close. Woo and yay! Yuri and I enjoyed a final couple of games of chess, and I retired early – I have a big day tomorrow.
Day 191: Prospero, Burn Your Books
I checked out of the Hotel Atlantico, the place where I’d been hanging my hat for the last month. The first person that I ran into was Val, who was demanding money or else he would burn the papers that would otherwise allow me to get my passport back. I’m a great liar, unfortunately for Val, he is not. He knew damn well that I didn’t need any papers to get my passport back, I just needed the captain of a boat. And I had one coming.
Milan texted me that he was on his way and I spent much of the day looking out over the harbour for his arrival. When he did arrive, it was battlestations – we had to get everything sorted before everything shut for the weekend. And so I met Milan, a German national who was born in Slovenia, and his friend Sebastian, a Frenchie and a fellow ginge.
We headed to the passport office and they made the necessary phone call. The guy who made it – a Mr. Samedo – had been my sworn nemesis for the duration of my incarceration on this bloody island, so it was with great delight that I waved him goodbye, a face I hope to never see again.
Then it was down to the port to sign out and retrieve the holy grail – my passport. The port official opened the metal cabinet and my eyes lit up as I spied the golden lion and unicorn that adorns the cover. My passport.
He handed it over and I felt as if I had just been given back my legs.
After we were sorted there, and after the infuriatingly Vogon-esque authorities had denied our request to take the fishermen’s engine, GPS and fuel back with us; I headed over to Café Sophia for one final, final, final game of chess with Yuri while Milan and Sebastian stocked up on supplies. I then grabbed a drink with Tomic the Polish Guy, and Debbie from Connecticut and Maggie from Zimbabwe. When Milan and Sebastian returned, we loaded up the boot of a taxi and headed out for some chicken and chips.
Saying goodbye to Yuri was surprisingly emotional. We had formed a real bond over the weeks and his cheerful, happy-go-lucky attitude had really rubbed off on me in a positive way. He asked me who was going to help him with his text messages now. I sincerely hope that I get to see him again some day. Preferably in Switzerland.
After dinner, the representatives of the three most kick-ass nations in Europe (that’s Milan, Sebastian and I) headed out to Kappa, the nightclub near the city ‘beach’. There, I said my goodbyes to Maggie, Debbie, Callie and Frazer – I hope their respective yachts come and rescue them some day. Then it was down to the port, into a dingy and over to the Fleumel – I was escaping my own personal Dunkirk.
Prospero burn your books, for nevermore will I return to this accurs’d isle. No more Café Sophia, no more outrageously expensive phonecalls or overpriced food, no more dark and unsettling beaches of volcanic sand, no more looking over my shoulder, no more big fat lies garnished with a sinister smile… freedom.
It was time to feel the rain again.
Day 192: The Slow Show
Milan and Sebastian are two of the greatest blokes I’ve ever met. To take all this time out of their lives, leave their girlfriends at home on Maio and to come and rescue me is really the stuff of legend. It’s 400 miles from Praia to Dakar. That’s an 800-mile round trip to help a ginger in need. Cape Verde shook it to the limit, but my faith in humanity is still unbreakable.
However, our great escape didn’t go exactly according to plan.
We were supposed to leave last night, but upon waking up, I discovered that we hadn’t actually moved – we were still in the port. One thing I didn’t know – the electrics were down on the boat after Milan crashed it on some rocks last month. This meant no engine, no radio, and – worst of all – no cold beer.
We were completely reliant on the wind. And the wind was not playing ball. It was 12-noon before we set off into the blue and by nightfall, the island of Praia was still in view. This was going to be one long getaway.
Day 193: Three Men In A Boat
There was a little wind today and we bobbed along at a blistering two-and-a-half knots. Milan and Sebastian are hilarious. Neither speak English very well, but then Milan does not speak French and Sebastian does not speak German, so English was what we all had to converse in.
Milan has been living on the Cape Verdean island of Maio for the last few years. His story is not a happy one – but he’s one of the most cheerful guys you could ever hope to meet. He was the owner of a large real estate company in Germany, with a nice car and a nice house and all the trimmings. Then, one day, he left for work, kissed his wife goodbye to his wife and never saw her again. She was killed a few hours later in a car accident. Milan took a couple of months off work and decided to make a clean break of it; sell everything – his business, his house, his car and go and sail the world. He somehow wound up on Maio, liked the place, and stayed.
Sebastian grew up not in France, but in Cote D’Ivoire and lived there for almost two decades. His reasons for coming to Cape Verde are that he came, liked what he saw and stayed. He’s not a sailor – in fact this would be his first jaunt with Milan off Cape Verde. But he was a good cook – he refused any help in the kitchen and ribbed me about the one and only time he visited England – he went to Bristol to see AC/DC and stayed with an English family who fed him – get this – boiled beef and jellied mint.
What were they THINKING?! They must have known the low opinion our Gaulish cousins have of our British cuisine, talk about enforcing the stereotype. Thanks a bunch, nameless family from Bristol – I spent the afternoon running through all the great British tucker that I like to eat – our bloody brilliant breakfasts (the best in the world, I assure you), our curries (better than India! Seriously!), our delicious fish and chips and our world-beating Roast (not boiled!) Meals on a Sunday – with Yorkshire puds and everything. Yum.
But it was no good. Sebastian grew up with the impression that the British can’t cook to save their crooked teeth, and during our one and only chance to set the record straight, we feed him stuff that I wouldn’t feed my dog. Even if there was a war on, there is no excuse for that kind of diplomatic faux-pas.
I fine Bristol fifty house points.
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