To Cabo Verde via Lisbon, December 17-20 2015

Last summer saw a great deal of family discussion about where we should head for our winter holiday: would it be Cuba, a return trip to French Polynesia or Tasmania, somewhere in South America perhaps? Emily, combing the world map, located an intriguing island nation off the coast of West Africa, Cabo Verde (or Cape Verde). In her last week before heading off to college Emily did extensive research and presented a series of slideshows to the family. She was convincing: Cabo Verde offered a combination of rugged hiking, a tiny bareboat charter industry, and nascent tourism -- our type of place! (Cabo Verde may also be the first country we've visited that doesn't boast even part of a Lonely Planet guidebook; that's saying something.) Emily prepared a document with detailed itinerary and proposed logistics, which she emailed from her flight to Boston: "Over to you, Mom!"

Planning wasn't trivial. As usual, we had many constraints, and it was a real nail-biter when the one sailboat suitable for us to rent had a two-week hold on it by other customers; luckily they changed their minds. The Cabo Verde national airline, TACV, is notorious for being days-late and/or delivering passengers to the wrong island (not great when one is on a tight schedule, as we always seem to be), while the more reliable Portugese airline, TAP Portugal, doesn't fly to Cabo Verde every day. Seats were selling out while Harvard took its sweet time publishing the fall semester final exam schedule. Finally we took a leap of faith and assembled a trip departing December 17 (Emily from Boston, the rest of us from San Francisco), which did mesh with everyone's schedules in the end. Whew.

Cabo Verde is a former Portugese colony, and the most common way to travel there is through Portugal. Our schedule permitted a full day in Lisbon on the way out, and despite some inauspicious beginnings to the trip -- a raging case of full-body poison oak in Tim and a fresh running injury in Emily -- we managed to make the most of it (photos 1-4). With pleasant weather we walked endlessly, especially enjoying the Alfama and Bairro Alto districts with their alleyways and staircases, and the Sao Jorge Castle. Food was delicious, and all of us greatly appreciated the port served in edible chocolate cups at an outdoor Christmas festival.

Cabo Verde is comprised of several smaller island groups. Some of them cater to European beach tourists; naturally we're not going to those! The islands we'll visit -- Sao Vicente, Santo Antao, Sao Nicolau, and some smaller ones in the same group -- are known for their rugged geography and invigorating (i.e., windy) sailing. Our trip has two parts: trekking on Santo Antao, then exploring several islands by sailboat out of Sao Vicente. Purists in the family refuse to call our hiking on Santo Antao a "trek", since we're staying in guesthouses and on a couple of occasions driving to the next trailhead, but we've planned three long hikes that bring us across much of the island. Returning by ferry to Mindelo, we have an afternoon to provision and jump aboard the largest and perhaps most luxurious sailboat we've rented in our many years of bareboat charters: a 41-foot 2012 Lipari catamaran. There were no other options, so we're prepared to enjoy our nine days aboard.

Until the next update, happy holidays to all!

Back to Aiken/Widom Family Travel List