Category Archives: Africa

Islands of sun and rain

Closed eyes. Touch of silky sand. Mind sinks in music of the mighty Atlantic ocean.


Open eyes.  Endless golden beach. Waves attack it, fiercely, desperately. Rocky range on the edge of the land. Brown slopes are covered with the voile of green bushes. They gave these islands their name – Islands of Green Cape, Cabo Verde.


One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Idyllic piece of Earth – Playa Grande on the island Sao Vincente. Rocks and ocean coexist in wild harmony here. Sand climbs steep slopes but gives up on the first 10 meters. Rocks invaded the coast but were stopped, polished and rubbed by powerful tide.


In this fantasy place the first time in my life I tried surfing. Wave was pretty messy, frequent and uncertain in direction. Anyway, I decided to go.
On the shore Chris briefly read me a course of basics. First we were laying on the board and pretended we are swimming towards the wave, puddling madly. Then near the board we made a jump. It was nice before I entered water.

“Green” surfer : )

After several fruitless attempts to hold the board under my body, I learned how to duck-dive, let the wave pass me. But after I turned in direction of the shore fun ended. That jump, brilliantly performed on the sand, didn’t happen. So I rolled, and swallowed salt water, and rolled again. Still I feel that the first experience wasn’t that bad.

Sunset in the bay of Mindelo

Mindelo is a biggest city on a small island of Sao Vincente. And the only city in Cape Verde that has a marina. The bay is big and shelter: there’s enough space for marina, mooring and boats anchoring. Still on the anchorage better to stay alerted: thefts are rare in Mindelo but can happen. Praia – the capital of Cape Verde that is situated on Sao Tiago – is more famous for its crime. Our friend Admir told us the story how two young guys stole a boat and sailed to Brazil. Significant that guys were europeans… But that’s a story, reality is that Praia is not the safest place to stay in Cape Verde. This is what we were told.


Mindelo is small and lively town. Houses in the center are painted in bright colors – incredible colors: deep blue, grass green, lemon yellow, glamor pink. Some houses combine in their appearance several colors in pretty weird combinations. Looks like no one here cares about city plan and free to choose any color of the rainbow. I asked myself which one I would paint my walls to. Still thinking.
– Which one would you pick up? – I asked Chris.
–  I like white. And blue – like Vagabond hull.


On local square we connected free Wi-Fi – and signal was perfect. On the corner I found a boutique that sold amazing red shoes. There was a price – 6500 escudos.
– Cuanto custo? En euros, – my curiosity was in excitement.
– SIxty five, – was the answer.
– Ok… Nice shoes, – I left the shop.

A week ago I ran out of money. You always feel that this moment is somewhere in hazy future. So when it happens, it’s always completely unexpected.
So I look for a job – in Russia distantly, or in Brazil. On a boat, in journalism or tourism. Whatever.


I go along the street, pass beautiful square, where local venders sell their simple goods, turn around the corner and stop in front of a huge green tree. I listen – this giant sings to me in thousand of voices. These’re sparrows, who in bunches hang on every branch. Under a thick shelter of leaves they loudly praise sun and rain of Cape Verde.

Anchorage of Mindelo

I just passed a hundred meters but already shabby houses surround me. Behind narrow doors – dirty pubs. Men, smoking outside, look drunk and ready for street fight. Some old people sit on the staircase. Street dogs, hungry and miserable, wander around, searching for food. Girls return from the market, carrying on their heads heavy plastic bowls (local variant of a busket). The secret of this useful exercise is in a round small hat that they wear and on which they “install” the busket. Still I’m sure it’s not that easy as it looks like.
Through this mess I get to the local market on Placa Estrela. Here Admir, local policemen and now my friend, picks me up.  His education impresses: he fluently speaks French, Engllish, Arabic, local Portuguese and Creoli and other 7 local languages. He is professional musician but works as a policemen for 11 years.
With my private guard side by side I feel safe to stare around, on women, drunk men, vegetable venders, wander around rows that sell clothes, mobile phones, African art. Admir knows every second person here and stops to greet them. I smile happily, repeat endlessly “Bon dia”  and feel myself almost a part of local community.

Suburbs are not so cheerful. Houses are old, dirty, very often badly damaged. Locals chat on a street and stare curiously on our car. Pupils, returning from their school studies, wave to us and laugh. There’s not much to see here.

A small town on the western coast of Sao Vincente

Street dogs here too. There are so many of them on Sao Vincente but they look very peaceful. They do not even fight for food between each other. People here coexist nicely with these poor creatures. They can’t help but do not mind to live side by side with them.


Outside Mindelo houses shrink and remind me more than a box than a house. And how would you call a cube 8×3 meters? Still, life here goes in its slow and peaceful order: children are playing, chicken and goats wandering around, sheets are drying on a rope.

Rains in Cabo Verde are rare. But heavy!

Before arrival to Cabo Verdes I read in the internet that this is dry country,which population has problems with water supplies.  The islands greeted us with 3 days of heavy rains…

Regard for bad weather – rainbow!

Even now the top of the Mount Verde is covered with thunderstorm cloud. It is just 600 m high. Can’t be compared to 2000 m peaks of Sao Antao or volcano of Fogo. But it reminds me Table Mountain much. That I also didn’t climb due to bad weather by the way.

Mount Verde

Today we leave beautiful  Cabo Verde and head for our last crossing to Brazil. But I hope once I will reach these hospitable shores again.

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See you in Cabo Verde!

Today we leave amazing Lanzarote and start our way to Cape Verde!

Approximately 8-10 days in sea. We’re going to stop in Praia, Ilha Sao Tiago. According to http://www.noonsite.com, this island has a bad reputation because of numerous thefts.But I’m excited about this country much.

Not far from the bay Cidade Velha is situated – the village included into Cultural heritage list of UNESCO.

See you soon, my friends))

Inside the Orient painting

Color. Yellow color of the walls, blue – of houses in Medina. White, in the sun sometimes blinding, – of mosques. Modest brown and mournful black – of older people dress. Bright and tempting pink and violet – of young. Incredible and numerous colors of bazaars, of mosaics that’ve been here for centuries.

Palitra of colors – this is Moroccan painting. An artist from Rue des Consules (where the craftmarket is) draw it and sells to us in his gallery. His small shop belongs to a cat family. Actually, all Morocco belongs to cats. It’s the biggest and the most desperate clun. Its members are everywhere: hiding fearfully under cars, messy and dirty, wandering between tables in street cafes, examining pedestrians from windows and roofs.

An another Moroccan “tribe” looks happier –  street artists  sing on streets of the ancient fortress-town Kasbah des Oudaias, which walls face the ocean. They play traditional instruments and entertain people, spinning the long brush on their heavy round hats. Local busketers look like those in Paris, Moscow, Koln, Cape town and all over the world: cheerful, relaxed, talkative.  And sharing: their art, good mood and happiness. Simple and beautiful.

The gate Bab Chellah – a magic access to the old town Medina. If we turn to the left, we would find ourselves in the mess of Chinese market, run by Arabs and spread for not less than a mile. If we turn to the right, we would enjoy traditional craft of Morocco, whatever your soul desires, from brasses, carpets and Oriental caftans to musical instruments, lanterns and pottery. Make your choice, take your time.

Venders kindly greet and offer their goods. Venders know what is hospitality very well here. Real hospitality, with a genuine smile and welcome.

I met hospitality from everyone except guards of Palais Royal. I was politely expropriated from all three gates I tried to enter. Later Kamil – my volunteer guide and new friend in Rabat, whom I met on a street,  – explained me that only Moroccans have right to enter the palace. The amount of national flags – red canvas with a star in the middle – near it made me suggest it’s still a residence –not a king, but a president nowadays.

Kamil took me to the Maussoleo de Mohammed V, which tower teased us right across the river from our yacht-club. Mohammed had taste: his last shelter looks subtle and nice, reminding more a palace than a death chamber. Guards in traditional clothes on the entrance were busy, making photos with tourists. I felt myself almost like in Agra (probably, I would feel : )

Kasbah des Oudaias is a fortress of ancient times, infused by artistic spirit of times contemporary. Not only musicians and cats feel themselves at home here. Tourists stare on beautifully decorated doors and walls, painted in bright colors. Shadow of exotic gardens – pride of Rabat.

In the narrow passage of the fortress my arm was caught by a woman. She wanted to make me… an injection. In fear I ran away: I thought she will inject me a drug. That was just henna, that is used to paint on surface of hands.

The garden of Kasbah

Hm… and another disappointment: cards that we bought on market for 10 Dh (about 90 cents) in the fortress cost 2 Dh… To be a customer in Morocco is a skill that demands knowledge and character. You won’t be “robbed” by vendors – but being self-confident and eloquent can save 50% of price.  It’s a game – not for victory tho, but for pleasure. And some profit could be.

The ancient walls of Medina that "host" a big open-air market

For 100 Dh we bought spices and mint tea – traditional drink of Morocco. Now we have enough tea and spices till Brazil.

In the restaurant of Kasbah the waitor served another traditional dish – bakery. It deserved the best mark from us, sweet-eaters. 10 from 10 in the rating of “Vagabond”.

The kitten relaxing in a restaurant of Kasbah

We go to Casablanca. Noone of us watched the movie. We have no idea what is it famous for.

We went along the coast, enjoying view of resort towns full of summer houses. Looked similar to Costa del Sol. Or Cote d’Azur. Some poor clue houses were also around. Horses and donkeys grassed nearby. Rural scenes of Marocco made me remember Namibia. We stopped on the road to buy some fruits.

Casablanca, probably, is famous for its industrial zone. It’s huge, dirty and overpolluted.

We wandered on the market of Casablanca. This time we made a brief inspection. Local market is bigger than Rabat’s. But the most famous city for shopping is Marrakesh – 150 miles from Rabat.

Probably, Casablanca is also famous for traffic jams. We were lucky to get out of the city before being completely stuck. By the way, to be a driver or pedestrian in Morocco you needn’t know anything about rules. Just pray for good luck and go. Because no one cares. If the rules exist here, no one uses them. Including road police, who deserve a medal, trying to organize this mess somehow.

Welcome! Bienvenue! Marhaban! مرحبا

Back to the darkness, humid and chilly.

That’s not a warm wrap of Mediterranean, but cold squeeze of Northern Atlantic ocean. I do not complain: this night is summer vacations if to compare with Baltic or Northern seas in autumn. We’re in 12 hours till Rabat, the capital of Marocco. This country has been luring me for a long time.

My history of getting to Marocco:

Plan A: This spring I was planning a trip to Marocco but, due to financial situation and upcoming long-lasting journey, cancelled it.

Plan B: Another chance had appeared, when we arrived to Tarife this September. It takes 35 minutes from this Spanish town to get to Maroccan Tangier. But boycott of our freezer closed this way for me too – we went to the north, to Cadiz.

Plan C: Chris got an idea to avoid Canaries and go along the coast of Eastern Africa. I was excited. But reports of Noonsite brought me back to Earth: Marocco – dirty towns, no facilities, bribes, long-lasting bureaucracy procedures, possibility to be robbed, no anchorage… what else… So we returned to the first suggested route of “Vagabond”: Canaries – Capo Verde – Brazil..

A sailor suggests, but the last word is by weather. And it promised to be tough in two days. We didn’t have chance to reach islands before strong wind will come. We needed a break in the middle of the distance. And the only option was… Marocco.

…Far in the fog – shores of my dear dear Africa! We’re in 16 miles from the land of Marocco! 13 miles of sea from a shore belong to the country. But here they are already, the police of Marocco – military, pretty scary ship. Polite “hello” and the question that made us suspicious about the reason of their visit: “Any problems?” Potential reasons of problems were already overboard, so we didn’t have anything that could interest them. ..did I say anything? : )

Chris explained them that we’re going to Rabat for a couple of days. They welcomed and left. Looks like they just ordered their assistance. Or prevent us from entering inner waters if we are not “all right”, not to cause problems to both sides.

The hospitable shore of Maroccan capital

I expected much from Marocco. I’ve never been to Arabic countries before. Still, I kept in mind, that Marocco is much more touristic (read: tolerant) than, for example, Oman, where Chris had not the best experience of his journey.

We expected much… and our expectations were generously regarded with kind welcome we met.

Gulls sailing a boat. Behind the feathery "fishermen" there're buidings of a new fashionable district in construction.

Rabat has a new channel and a marina that are not displayed on old Crisa’s version of MaxSea. Was thrilling to watch how “Vagabond” first reached the riffs, and soon ‘turned” into vehicle, passing through the space, pointed by MaxSea as a land. We called the marina Bouregreg and asked for assistance. Soon the pilot arrived and led us through a narrow channel to the entrance.

First that you notice – friendly interest of locals. In the estuary two men – one swimming, one sailing – pointed us the right direction, before we asked. Fishermen from their picturesque boats were waving us welcome.

Colours of fishermen' boats create cheerful mood

Guys in the marina spoke English, along with local Arabic and French. They smiled and were extremely helpful. So were migration officials! The procedure took less than an hour. Moreover, we were told all – pass (that substitute visa for sailors) and check-it – check- out – are free of charge!

The marina is well-equipped, with clean showers and WiFi (not very fast, tho). Guys in Capitanerie do their best to help us with all formalities, point all important see-sights and facilities and answer all questions. Guards are neat, friendly and talkative. There’re plenty of them on the quay and near the gate – looks like this place is really safe to stay.

There’re plenty of shops not far from the marina. Prices made a pleasant surprise: twice lower than in Spain. For example, full cake cost 6 euros. Another nice invention was the price of diesel: 70 cents per liter.

Tram station to the Old town Medina is right in front of the marina.

In several hours before departure to Rabat I started to try different ways of wrapping myself. Being guests, we were going to show respect to local religion and traditions, covering our arms and legs. But locals appeared much more tolerant and relaxed than I expected. At least at their attitude to travelers. Moreover, many of local women (especially young) are dressed in very European style: jeans, T-shirts, leather coats, even summer dresses. Hair is loose or in pony tail, without any cover. Probably, women start to dress more modest traditional way after marriage. Anyway, I saw many Arabic couples, dressed very casual way.

Young people having fun in Mausolee de Mohammed V

Men are very nice, helpful and even gallant. When me and Aimee went for a walk together, we didn’t feel any inconvenience at all.

Soon departing to the Old town Medina – and craft market of crs! Can’t wait : )

The wall of the Old town - Medina