A Quest to Find a Hidden Cove

Day trips in Cabo Verde always seem to turn into fairly epic adventures. There are a few reasons for this:

  • First of all, Google hasn’t yet infiltrated Cabo Verde. Most businesses advertise only on Facebook or not at all, so it’s hard to track down directions to restaurants, stores, or even other towns. And because any sort of street sign is rare, you generally wander into a few homes before you find the hidden shop you’re looking for.
  • Second, Cabo Verdean buildings don’t have physical addresses. For example, anything delivered to my house goes to “the yellow embassy house with the barbed wire near the paint store in Palmarejo.”
  • Third, Cabo Verde has a no-stress island vibe, so you can call a restaurant to see if they’re open for lunch, only to find locked doors when you get there fifteen minutes later.

So one day, when two friends and I decided to find Aguas Bellas, a cove “somewhere on the western side of the island,” perhaps we should have known to bring more snacks.

We start off by driving to a town that was supposedly near the cove. Locals then point us down a precarious cliff-hanging road.

I took pictures to distract myself from thoughts of imminent doom.

We casually navigate around a few seemingly recent rockfalls.

After driving down a dry river bed and across a beach, the car gets stuck in mud that smells suspiciously of poo. It takes the three of us intrepid explorers plus a few neighbors to push the car out.

This process involved getting personally covered in poo. After a quick rinse in the ocean, we’re again on our way.

We are quite the curiosity.

We pass some wildlife on our continued trek up the riverbed. The car is rather smelly now.

We take a turn and start gaining altitude.

No sign of a cove yet.

We stop in a field for pictures.

Proof that I came too.

Post-rain Cabo Verde is so green!

The boys clear another impasse. I continue to document our adventure, for posterity’s sake.

The road ceases to exist, but determined, we lace up our hiking boots and continue on foot. Everyone is still rather poo-covered.

We pass a cactus farm.

Our new guide takes us as far as the nearest ledge.

We trek down hills. We trek up hills.

We trek through fields. We trek over rocks.

We find a cove! But alas, it is not the right cove.

Unfortunately, we also determine that this cove is a tad too dangerous for swimming.

So instead, we pause for a snack with a view.

We scramble up the hill over the cove to get a better vantage point. Don’t look down.

We’re several hours in and it’s getting quite hot now. We think we see a cove in the distance…

We find the cove! Unfortunately we are on top of the cove and not in the cove. We consider trying to climb down, but our water supply is dwindling. We think about how nice a swim would be as we turn back.

Things take a turn. We get lost. We find ourselves without water. It’s quickly approaching 100 degrees. The nearby cows refuse to offer any guidance. I stop taking pictures in order to conserve phone battery. We are cranky. We are thirsty. At one point, we pass a skeleton strongly resembling the below.

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A few hours later, we stumble past the cactus farm and into the village where we left the car. We buy bottles of water from a small bar and hide in the shade, nursing our new sunburns. The locals marvel over how long it took us to unsuccessfully find the cove. We climb back into the car, a little worse for wear, and head back to Praia reflecting on the day’s adventure.

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Not every country in the world is safe enough for such adventures. But not every country in the world is wild and untouched enough for such adventures either. Cabo Verde manages to maintain the perfect balance and for that, I am grateful. Cheers to the next adventure!

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First Impressions

You know how sometimes you feel like you’re in just the right place at just the right time? That’s how I’ve felt ever since stepping off the plane in Cabo Verde!

I am incredibly lucky to have been sent to Cabo Verde for my first post. The embassy is small, which means that my colleagues are incredibly close-knit. They’ve all gone out of their way to make sure I’m taken care of: I arrived to a fridge stocked with banana bread and a desk stocked with Post-Its. My boss graciously lets me pester him with 473 questions a day and the consular section’s local staff have invited me to perform with their singing group. Even the Ambassador himself took me on a day trip around the island to get my bearings. Getting hungry? Choose from three different dinner invites. Need an emergency pie plate? Take two and a kitchen scale. House run out of water? An emergency water truck shows up in 10 minutes. The community here is impressive, to say the least.

There are plenty of things here in Cabo Verde to be thankful for (and since I still have a leftover Thanksgiving pie in the freezer, I’m allowed to make a list). For example, the awesome water pressure in my new shower. Or the Orca store, which is a cross between a NYC bodega and an American Target, and which is currently a winter wonderland with impressively decked halls. I’m thankful that Amazon can deliver throw pillows to an island in the middle of the Atlantic within two weeks. I’m thankful that I have a car and friends who are willing to repeatedly put their lives at risk as I drive them through the lawless-ish streets of Cabo Verde. I’m thankful for people who understand technology and know how to sync my computer to my TV and can make phones work internationally. I’m thankful for my Portuguese training, because I️ would quite literally be lost and hungry and bad at my job without it. I’m thankful for the movie theater that plays new release American movies in English with Portuguese subtitles and will mix the sweet and salty popcorns for you. I’m thankful for the guards who watch my fortress of a house all night and I’m thankful for the local plant fair that helped me make my fortress of a house feel more like home.

So thank you to Cabo Verde, for welcoming me with open arms. And thank you to the United States, for hiring me to do this awesome job!

Cidade Velha, Cabo Verde

Lunch views in Cidade Velha, Cabo Verde

Palm frond ceilings

Woven palm frond ceilings, complete with fish

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It looks like Jurassic Park here!

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That’ll do.

Tarrafal, Cabo Verde

Spotted in Tarrafal, Cabo Verde

Tarrafal, Cabo Verde

Those lunch views just keep on comin’…

Mindelo, Cabo Verde

Spotted in Mindelo, Cabo Verde

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Entirely unposed… me in Cabo Verde!

Until Next Time!

Today is the day! In just a few hours, I’ll be off on one heck of a big adventure.

My apartment is as empty as it was when I first walked through the door. My little sister, who graced me with her presence here in DC, has left me to start an awesome new job at National Geographic. My patriotic Flag Day decorations have finally been taken down. And the veritable mountain of sunscreen in the corner of my living room has been whisked off to West Africa.

I’ve been in DC for ten months and have learned a lot. I speak Portuguese now and can ram a car through a barricade. I’ve finally mastered submitting a travel claim through the State Department’s online system and know which vending machines at FSI accept credit cards. I’ve single-handedly fixed three State Department printers, can [maybe] detect a fraudulent passport, and can [somewhat] patch up a bullet wound. I’m now able to eyeball when a pile of my belongings weighs about 200 lbs and discuss U.S. visa ineligibilities at length. I can issue both U.S. passports and visas and am a pro at getting vaccinations. Most importantly, I can finally go through the diplomats line at JFK.

I’ve spent the past few weeks seeing family and friends, both old and new. I’ve shopped and sorted and packed and repacked yet again. I’ve taken long walks that smell of fall and have found a home for all my house plants. I’ve annoyed my cats and squeezed in one last movie night with my family. I even managed to sneak in a New York City bagel.

It’s bittersweet to be leaving so many people and places behind, but as a wise bear once said, “how lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” I must be even luckier than Pooh, because I don’t plan on saying goodbye at all. Rather… until next time!

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Love you all!

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A few of my favorite people!

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More of my favorite people! (Who are all better at squatting than me…)

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A diplomat once told me it’s important to document your Foreign Service homes and the memories they hold. So here ’tis: me and my sister’s lovely little home in Washington, DC.

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A diplomat once told me it’s important to document your Foreign Service homes and the memories they hold. So here ’tis: me and my sister’s lovely little home in Washington, DC.