At just before six o'clock, it's off Praia to Maio, one of the smaller and, above all, the worst accessible islands under the wind - that's exactly why I want to go there. The more challenging the road, the better the destination has to be. As in life.
The flight with the national airline TACV lasts eight minutes. The first thing that strikes me is a row of white-clad people in sky-blue backpacks waving towards us. As I soon learn, the angelic figures are Italian emigrants who have started a secluded and nature-loving life on Maio. The rumors about them seething - some stamping them off as a sect, some others rave about the service they offer: everything from computer repairs to massages.
In front of the airport, which is about the size of the marketplace in a 100-soul village, Pompeio is waiting for me. He and his wife Nanda emigrated from southern Italy to Maio three years ago and are now earning a living as stewards of some tourist apartments. At the apartment I booked in advance, Nanda greets me with a stormy hug and then creates with her stories something that rarely happens to me: that I already love a place before I've even seen any of it. With a decent espresso her bright eyes rush ahead of her words. "I can not imagine living anywhere else - here we have everything: peace, the sea and peaceful people. And the Cape Verde Islands are the only African country where women wear their pants and are legally supported. "She tells me about an Italian who was with a Cape Verdean for six months and threw her out. Then the woman took the mattress and the fridge. "The Italian went to the police and said she had robbed him. But the court has given it its right - after six months of relationship, a woman here has certain rights and entitlement to severance pay. "She also says that many of Maio's relatives are married to each other and yet there are not many disabilities. "But even if someone is disabled, that's why he's not inferior. I know a physically disabled woman who is swarmed by the men. "In general, the appearance of completely different status. "I have understood here on Maio that it is we who define the look. We limit ourselves so much, here are the people free. "On her blog about life on the Cape Verde she keeps her stories and thoughts.
As I soon learn, other Europeans have started a new life on the tiny Maio. One is the Frenchman Dominique, who has lived on Maio for 14 years. He lives from real estate transactions and the rental of bicycles and quads. I reserve a quad for the next three days, because there is practically no public transport on the island. In some villages, one aluguer drives to the capital Vila do Maio per day and back in the afternoon. Dominique wants a proud 140 euros for three days quad and a good 270 euros deposit. Dominique herself does not even know where I'm going to escape with the bum on the island, but I'm forced to fight for the escudos again with the ATM. Since I only get the quad the next day, I stroll to the nearby beach Ponta Preta. All the locals who meet me look a bit sour at first glance, but as soon as I give them a smiling 'Bom dia' or 'Tudo dretto' - all clear on Creole - their faces light up and they greet each other.
The ten-kilometer beach with its white sand and turquoise sea looks like a postcard after being reworked several times with Photoshop. And best of all, I have it all to myself. For the first time in a very, very long time, I'm making leaps of joy and shouting for joy like a toddler at Christmas as I keep running and finally throw myself in the sand. For a long time I lie in the wind on the hot sand, which fills my notepad as fast as the thoughts that fly through my head. It is so quiet that I hear the crabs, curiously looking out of their holes, walking with their tiny feet. I wonder if I've heard crabs running before. I do not think so.
On a Chinese quad over an african island
The next morning I want to treat myself first fresh bread. In the Minimercado, the saleswoman shows me the way to a bakery. Instead of a bakery with display case and display, I stand in front of an open door with a mosquito net in front of it. Is this the bakery? I follow a woman inside. Indeed! Behind a high counter stands a boy, who picks bright buns from a sack on the ground - and gives me on the hand. He does not have a bag. Neither do I. With the bread rolls under my arm I go back and strengthened a little later for my first day with the quad. "Take me with you," a middle-aged man asks, wishing me a "Bom dia" on the way. Felipe. Because I do not want him, he invites me for a drink at 19 o'clock at the beach bar Tropicana.
It's been a couple of years since I rode quad for the last time, and Dominique explains the most important functions to me. Forward, Neutral, Reverse. Brakes. No problem. With a big grin on my face I shoot off in the direction of the west coast, where I first visit the Salinas, the salt lake.
As soon as I scramble out of the undergrowth, a young man comes up to me. "Are you going to Morro?" I nod, saw that the village is heading north. "Can you take me with you?" He straps my backpack on his back, swings behind me, and my quad and I are getting into a taxi. I let the boy out at his house on the main road and hear another "Obrigado", thanks, as I rush away. At least now I have a chance to earn some money if the ATM goes on strike again.
The quad gives me the freedom to explore the entire island at my own pace. Sometimes I drive across the country, because roads are a rarity off the main road. Unlike Santo Antão, the landscape here is completely dry. Somewhere in the center a few hills stand out from the horizon, otherwise I drive through a great nothingness, interrupted by creatures that turn out to be skinny goats or cows. Yet, this nothingness fills me with unfamiliar peace. Similar to the feeling that I feel every time I've plowed out my apartment and once again reduced my life to the essentials.
I know that the next village is reached when the fat inscription 'Calheta' is displayed on a wall. It consists of bungalows in all colors and a few free-running chickens and dogs. A woman returns to the spotless village street, otherwise hardly notices a note of my rattling arrival.
If you do, then adults and children will wave a laugh at me. Continue to Morrinho, from where I rush over gravel roads and through scrub towards the dunes. Soon it will only continue on foot. Spiky greens grow out of the ground and sting my feet, a few goats look at me as if they have not seen anyone for a long time. The next white dream beach that I reach, I have to share only with a few dead jellyfish. I throw off all the clothes and walk down the beach as if I were the first person in the world. After just one day, I understand why Nanda does not want to leave. I have not felt so free and safe for a long time - all concerns seem to be removed from continents. And basically they are.
My final destination for this day is Ponta Cais, the northernmost tip of the island. The path becomes more and more inaccessible, soon I'm just over scree. If only my quad does not go away now! Street signs have not been invented here so I hope to be on the right track. The small beaches in the north are often only rugged rocky landscapes, which are overwhelmed by angry waves. To imposing is the natural spectacle on this wild coast, as that I could part with it so quickly.
Much too late, I remember my drink date at 7 pm with Felipe. I'm curious to talk to locals and smile into myself as I see him doze in a plastic chair at the bar. "You're too late, and I always thought tourists were on time," he laments. I consider it a compliment to be labeled as unpunctual by a Cape Verdean and allow him to buy me a beer. He is a truck driver, but currently has no work, he tells me. I have not seen a truck on Maio yet. The next day he wants to go to Santiago - with the ferry, which has been there for only a few months regularly and now runs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between the two islands. Whether I do not want a Cape Verdean husband, he continues to search, and I decline with thanks. As a result, Felipe's interest in me almost goes down to zero. But not quite, because he still has a house to sell, he wants to turn me on. His children are over 20 and out of the house, four rooms are too big for him. When, after marriage and the house, I also refuse a second beer - drinking only one beer, walking on one leg, according to Felipe is a Cape Verdean proverb - our friendship is over.
Escaped with terror
From now on, I'll go to the bakery with a bag so I do not have to pinch my buns under my arm again. I've planned a lot for this day: I want to explore the south and then the east coast. Instead of the main road inland, I decide for the mud path near the coast, which should lead to the village of Barreiro. Compared to this way the roads were luxury the day before. I pull in more than once head and legs, so as not to be scratched by bushes and branches, then it goes steeply downhill and just as steeply uphill again. With beads of sweat on my forehead I wonder if this was a good idea and conjure the quad, just do not mess up now. When I realize that I've forgotten my water bottles in the apartment, I feel very different. Dominique warned me that eating and drinking outside of Vila do Maio is difficult. I see myself thirsting in the wild and push the gas switch all the way through - if I make it at least to Barreiro, maybe there's a mini market there.
When I spy on a row of houses on the horizon, my hope sprouts up, but I'm looking forward to it too soon - they're just rough buildings. Ten anxious minutes later I think to make out a village. I pray that it may be Barreiro. Full throttle, I shoot at the first paved road for a long time, ask an old man for a Minimercado. He points to the left. I drive straight to the market. The chilling men look at me as if I had landed on a UFO. "Where do you come from?", One wants to know curiously. The Minimercado consists of little more than a freezer - from which the seller draws out two chilled bottles. I proudly leave two euros there, but my day is saved. I think. The men advise me to drive through the wilderness to the east of Ribeira Dom João, the way is getting worse and the detour on the main road is highly recommended. I believe them - to my luck.
Somewhere on the road behind Figueira Seca, I stop to take a picture of the landscape that looks like a volcano had gone up there the previous day and put everything in ashes. As soon as the camera is stowed away, I press the start button of the quad. It stutters, then I hear only the breeze that blows around my nose. This is just unreal! I'll try again, a second and third time - nothing. The part does not even wheeze anymore. Without further ado, I stop a truck from which an elderly man climbs. He, too, shakes his head helplessly, and soon leaves. I'm standing in the middle of nowhere without a wheeled pedestal - but at least I have two full bottles of water. Suddenly I have an idea: Dominique had given me a folder with the quad papers, maybe there is a guide there. I dig in my backpack. I do not find any instructions, but Dominique's phone number. I call and breathe a sigh of relief as he takes off immediately - and promises to be with me in ten minutes. As if it were the most normal in the world, I lean in the middle of the road on my quad and greet a farmer, who wears a heavily complaining goat like a scarf around his neck. He wants to know if I need help. I? But no, everything is under control.
Dominique keeps his promise. He switches briefly in the corridors, pushes the quad and: It starts. With a bright red head I drive on. Ribeira Dom João is the next village from a history film about Europe 100 years ago: a few donkeys are trotting in the street, chickens run away from the quad and a goat is standing at a corner. People squat in front of their houses, smile at me, wave. I can not imagine that they even have words for 'stress' and 'haste'.
Over the rocks I walk to a small beach, where a fisherman guts his catch. I take a bath, then I watch him until he runs back to the village with his lunch. Except for a boat with half-shredded sail and a long-beaked bird, I see nothing and no one for hours. How good that I actually understand myself very well.
When I return to my quad, a woman with dangling legs sits on the wall in front of it. She grins at me, introduces herself as Joana and wants to know where I'm from. I tell her how beautiful her village is, and she laughs out loud. "I think it's really ugly here. There is no work here on Maio, absolutely nothing. But I think somewhere else is more beautiful, right? "We laugh together, then she wants to have my phone number. She rushes into her house, comes back with a piece of paper and a pen and I write down my number. We kiss goodbye and she promises to call me on Sunday lunchtime when I'm back in Germany. I am sure I will never hear of the woman again, and yet every conversation with the locals fills me, for which the term 'relaxed' seems an understatement.
The landscape along the east coast is getting thinner, often looks like burned, plus thick black clouds hang in the sky. The song title 'Highway to hell' suddenly gets a concrete meaning. There is no one to be seen far and wide, only some cow, goat or a pig.
After Pedro Vaz, a gravel road leads to a beach that Pompeio has described as particularly beautiful, Praia Gonçalo, where fishermen fish for cowrie shells and simply throw away the shells.
There I meet a group of Frenchmen - and I am shocked: Meanwhile, every beach, where there is someone else besides me, is crowded. When the French finally disappear in their minibus, a young man approaches. He politely asks me if he can sit down with me, because he's just done with fish and now has nothing to do. He is 20 years old and most unemployed in Maio. "Why do not you open a bar here on the beach with some pals for the visitors?" I suggest, and see his eyes flash. He had never thought of that. He would like to study. When I ask what exactly, he answers "tourists lead". "I would love to travel to Germany, but for the people here, it's even expensive to drive to the neighboring village or to Vila." Vila is so 'fixe', cool. "I was lucky," Jalison continues. "After all, my father sent me to a secondary school, which is very expensive. I finished at 19. "When I go for a swim, Jalison follows me in underpants. When he leaves, he looks at me happily. "You are the first German I have ever spoken to. Most tourists come to the beach, tan and go. They are not interested in talking to us, and we would like to know more about them and their countries. "
I drive a little further to the last village Santo Antonio, which lies at the end of the island in front of a mountain, in the midst of black earth and dust. In slalom, I drive around chickens, must always be careful that I do not get the livelihood of a farmer under the wheels of my quad. Here, far up north-east of Maio, there is no sign of the chic flair that has brought many Italian and French immigrants or homeowners to Vila do Maio. There are only simple, colorful bungalows where fishermen and farmers live - their eyes glow with longing when I mention the capital. What is a relaxed day trip for me is a dream for her - driving to Vila several times a year.
Party with saints
My time on Maio ends with a village feast, which I accidentally end up with: I have dinner in the small restaurant of the Brazilian immigrant Mirtes, who cooks a special dish of fish and coconut milk. "The people here eat this only on Wednesday after Carnival," she explains to me and invites me in the same breath for the next evening. She organized a minibus to Calheta, the village on the west coast, where on the weekend the feast in honor of St. José take place. "Tomorrow, on Thursday, it starts, and people celebrate until Sunday." Of course I want to be there.
As if an invitation were not enough, only a few minutes later I meet a group of locals, one of whom jumps at me. Whether I'm German, he wants to know, I look German. He had founded a music group with a few Germans and was on tour several times in Germany. Have I never heard of him, Tibau Tavares? I have to fit. Like Mirtes, he invites me to Calheta for the following evening, where he plays with his band.
The next evening, I leave for Mirtes' restaurant just before 8 pm to go to the party in Calheta. From 20 o'clock, which we should actually leave, is 20.40 clock. An older Swiss and a French couple are also in the party, and with upscale music it goes in the minivan in the direction of Calheta, which is now three days in the limelight. Human clusters line the streets decorated with garlands of light, saunas and grills sizzle and smoke. I treat myself to a piece of very good fish when slowly life comes on the stage, which is improvised from pareos and much too bright lights. Two singers present their songs to the sound of guitars and drums, and again and again the name Tibau Tavares falls. "This evening is a tribute to him," whispers Mirtes to me. "He is the most famous singer of Cape Verde and so modest and nice, once he even sang in my restaurant". As apparently many of the smartly dressed women feverishly awaits her appearance of the great artist.
A little later Tibau stands cool with a beret on the stage and whispers in a deep voice into the microphone that sighs go through the women's rows. Almost all songs are slow, only at the end of a peppy hit rips the audience from the chairs. Teenagers dance up and down in front of the stage - then it's over. Tibau disappears behind the stage, while some women serve food on white-laid tables, in the VIP area for singers and performers. Tibau comes up to me, even wants to drag me into the VIP area - much to the envy of many women and to the surprise of the two Frenchmen. "How did you manage to get that famous?"
Mirtes wavers beside me with a bottle of wine brought under her own arm. "Maio is the most Catholic island of all," she chatters, "that's why there is a festival in honor of a saint in every village." Then she disappears into a bar, where she opens her own wine and spends a round for St. José. Actually, we had to go back to 23 clock, but it will be a little later again.
On the return flight, my heart is filled with the beauty of Cape Verde's nature and the warmth of its people. I think of Day, who drives tourists around Santo Antão in his bus. To Selena, who is sitting safely above her notebooks. At Jalison on the beach in Maio. To Joanita in Mindelo, who got a second chance. To Nanda and her love for Maio. To Bobinha, my dog for a few hours, who will now accompany other hikers along the dream coast near Ponta do Sol. When I land, my cellphone rings. "Oi, this is Joana from Ribeira Dom João. Do not forget the Cape Verde Islands. "I promise you that I will not do that. No way.