Mindelo, Cabo Verde 2022
The morning of December 11 dawned for us in Porto Grande Bay in Mindelo, another city in Cabo Verde. Founded in 1793 by the Portuguese, the town was named Mindelo in 1838 to commemorate a successful military landing near Porto during the Portuguese Liberal War. Its population is around 70,000, accounting for most of the population of the island of São Vicente. As a long voyage starts coming to an end one begins to tire of long excursions (particularly on a bus) so unless there is something we really want to see we tend toward just walking around the port city on our own. We had never been to Mindelo so this seemed a good plan here, a relaxing walk around the town. We set out on the shuttle bus with our friends Robert and Bill to get a feel for the city.
The Portuguese discovered this island around 1460 and its discovery is attributed to Diogo Afonso, one of the explorers sponsored by Henry the Navigator. A large statue of him sits on the waterfront facing the bay. Also near the waterfront, located in a traffic circle, is a tall sculpture of an eagle on top of what looks like a tower of rocks. In 1922 the aviators Sacadura Cabral and Gago Coutinho made the first air crossing of the South Atlantic, flying in several stages (with 3 different planes) from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro. The trip, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Brazil’s declaration of independence, took almost 3 months because of having to ditch and replace their plane several times on the way, Their last stops before crossing the ocean were in Mindelo and Praia, Cabo Verde. The eagle sculpture was erected on the 76th anniversary of their flight, which would have been 1998.
We visited a souvenir store in an art gallery down the way where we learned about Cabo Verde’s favorite folk singer, Cesária Évora, known as the “Barefoot Diva.” A native of Mindelo, the airport is named after her. We walked further down the street to where the library was located, according to Mary’s research. The three story building was there but it was closed up tight and it took us a while to find a small sign, not on the front. We hope it wasn’t closed for good. On the back was a building sized wall painting of Cesaria Evora (photo rather blurred but you get the idea).
The Tower of Belem was built in Lisbon in the late 16th century on the Tagus River to defend the city, and it also served as the departure and return port for Portuguese explorers. A three story replica of that tower sits on the waterfront in Mindelo. Opened in 1921, it now houses Mindelo’s sea museum and has a nice view from the top. We didn’t know about that when we visited, but here are some pictures of the outside.
The Pro-Cathedral of Our Lady of the Light was built in 1862 and is one of the oldest buildings in town. As we understand it, a pro-cathedral is a parish church that temporarily plays the role of a cathedral in a diocese that doesn’t have one. It is smaller than most actual cathedrals but was expanded in recent years so that only the facade is original.
Not far from the church was a delightful souvenir store, brightly painted inside and out, called IstanBlue. Another building had an interesting painted door and there were trees and flowers in the neighborhood as well.
Originally opened in 1874, with a second floor added in 1934, is the bright pink Palacio do Povo (People’s Palace). Originally intended to house the government if the capital of Cabo Verde was moved to Mindelo (it wasn’t), this striking building now contains a museum space.
Our last stop was at an open air market where vendors were selling clothes, crafts and souvenirs. Some were set up inside a covered area and others had their wares spread out on the ground. There were interesting items to be had and at very reasonable prices. After that we walked back to the shuttle bus stop to return to the ship. All in all we really hadn’t strayed too far from the waterfront where the bus let us off.
This being our last African port there was a sail away party on the aft deck with the very good Ocean Bar band playing rock music. It was nice out except for a very strong wind. To our left in the port was what looked like a huge rock emerging from the water to form an island called Ilheu dos Passaros. On top of the dark rock island was a white structure leading from the top to half way down. This turned out to be the Farol de D. Luis, a lighthouse. We were gone by the time the sun set so we didn’t see it lighted up but we understand that the light is right at the top of the rock with a small 15 foot tower and a white stairway down to the keeper’s house halfway down. The lighthouse was built in the early 1880’s and named for the then king of Portugal. Also to our left on top of a tall hill was the Fortim d’El Rei, a fort built in 1852 to defend the Porto Grande Bay and the city. Its military use ended in 1930 and it has since fallen into disrepair from neglect. We saw this fort from the shore in town as well.
Very near our ship on our left was the Mein Schiff Herz, a German cruise ship. We waved back & forth. We had some very nice views of the harbor and the city as we prepared to leave.
As we sailed away from Mindelo after a very nice day in our last foreign port there were some memorable vistas in the fading sunlight.