Unique Travel Moments: Hitchhiking With Cape Verdean People

Life in rural Cape Verde is slow and relaxed. On the weekends, Cape Verdean people relocate to their family farm to tend to their land. Others begin the arduous process of pounding dried corn to make the national dish catchupa. The most common activity among the young and elderly alike is to passia.

Guest post by Cecilia from lovicarious.com.

Traditional houses in Paul Valley, Santo Antao island, Cape Verde, Africa

What is passia for the Cape Verdean People?

What does that mean to passia? Essentially it is the act of hanging out in public places. Sitting on the front stoop for hours waiting to see who else might be out for a passia. Walking down the main street at a snail’s pace making sure to greet each person you pass with a smile and “Bom dia, tudo bom? Or “Good morning, everything well?”

There is no end goal in mind with this activity, but to pass the time by watching other Cape Verdean people and greeting those whom you encounter. When you find something more entertaining to do, that marks the end of your passia.

On an early Sunday morning, I decided it was a good day for a passia. I grabbed my book and began my descent down the main road into town. Walking along the cobblestone path I greeted those whom I passed: Ye seated in front of her home braiding her granddaughter’s hair, Antonio walking out of Nelson’s market starting the day with the first shot of grog, and a group of young girls leaving the community well with buckets of overflowing water carefully balanced above their heads. I found a nice ledge under the shade of the posto sanitario. This will do.

I propped my feet up and opened the pages of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Intermittently between chapters, I would pop my head up to see what was happening around me. In the distance, I could hear a faint voice yelling “Cavala, Cavala” (mackerel). Rounding the corner was Chida in his 1980 red pick-up truck.

Rural Landscape in Cape Verde

A little adventure in rural Cape Verde

Chida is the local fishmonger. Every morning he goes into Porto Novo, San Antao’s main city and port, to purchase fresh fish from the early morning catch. He then travels from town to town, selling the mackerel and tuna from a giant cooler in the back of his truck.

Seeing me seated alongside the road he shouts over.

“Oi Cecilia, good morning! What are you doing?”

To which I replied, “Good morning! I am just out for a passia.”

“Well let’s go then!”

Not one to pass on a spontaneous adventure, I closed my book and hopped into the passenger seat. We took off to our next destination. Where that was exactly I had no clue, but I was now along for the ride. 

Like most vehicles in Cape Verde at the time, the air conditioning was not functional. The windows were rolled down allowing the cool summer breeze to whirl around the inside of the truck bringing with it a steady dusting of fine dirt and other debris. We felt every bump in the road with great precision. The cobblestones created a rhythmic thd thd thd, while the potholes felt more like a great kthump.

A fishmonger’s apprentice

We drove through the mountains and ribeiras passing through small communities I had never seen before, towns that are not recognized on a map. Together we continued to shout out our windows “Cavala, best fish in the world!” 

We would stop by roadside stalls and markets to off-load a few batches of fish for local vendors. While inside the market we would enjoy a quick shot of Strawberry Ponche, a creamy shooter made from sugar cane rum, condensed milk, and artificial strawberry flavoring. The color and texture are not unlike Pepto-Bismol, however, the flavor is delightfully tasty. As we would prepare to leave, someone would often hop onto the back of the truck, hitching a ride into the next town. 

Lunch on the road

It was noon when we approached a small village of 3 or 4 thatched-roof homes. Free-range chickens scattered across the street as a herd of goats bleated politely. This was our lunch stop. Chida pulled 3 fish from the cooler which we promptly fried up to enjoy with our bowl of Cachupa. Our host treated us to fresh goat cheese for dessert. Fresh cheese is unlike anything I have tasted before. The slight sweetness of the cream is counterbalanced with a sprinkling of course salt exploding in the mouth with flavor. Incredible!

Finishing a Cape Verdean day of adventure

We continued on our way, rounding out our trip by 2 PM. Pulling up to my door in Ribeira das Patas, Chida left me with a bag of fish in gratitude for my hard work as a Fishmonger apprentice. I, of course, was just thankful for the experience, but I wouldn’t say no to fresh mackerel. I walked inside covered in dust, smelling of fish, and satiated from a day’s worth of adventure.

They say that it is not just sight, but also scents and sounds that are tied to memories. This day with Chida engaged all my senses culminating in a unique travel memory that will stay with me always, the day I hitchhiked with Cape Verdean People.

About the author:

Cecilia is a Washington DC-based travel writer motivated by cultural experiences, human connection, and a thirst for adventure. Together with her husband Scott, they run an adventure travel website sharing off-the-grid travel destinations, travel tips, and inspiring travel stories. Follow their global adventures on Lovicarious.com, or on social media @lovicarious

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