Lonely Planet's Greatest Travel Experiences

17 August 2013 - The Independent - Traveldesk

Lonely Planet's greatest travel experiences: 40 years of worldwide wandering. 

To celebrate guidebook publisher Lonely Planet's 40th anniversary, writers and contributors recall their most memorable travel moments.

Finding a ghost town on Cape Verde
Dan Cruickshank, writer

The 10 islands forming the nation of Cape Verde represent a world in miniature. Set 350 miles off the coast of West Africa and arranged in a horseshoe shape, the islands include mist-capped highlands, jungles, rolling plains, beaches the size of small deserts and cities that date back to the 15th century, when the islands became a prized Portuguese colony.

I travelled through them, experiencing the vividly contrasting nature of each one, until I finally arrived at Sal. It's Cape Verde's "resort" island, the one best known to tourists, and is little more than a large, flat and beautiful beach dotted with clusters of modern apartments, hotels and ports. Tame stuff – but things are never quite what they seem.

One of the pleasures of travel is discovery – those moments of surprise and of revelation. On Sal, I enjoyed a magic moment of utter surprise. Tucked away at one end I found a small port called Pedra de Lume, that for centuries was the centre of Cape Verde's once lucrative salt industry. Here, using slave labour and the flat crater of an ancient volcano, salt was extracted from sea water.

The pocked and bleached landscape around the port is almost lunar and virtually all its buildings, including a vast and gaunt winding house, are derelict, with a ghost fleet of rotting craft still awaiting cargos that will never now arrive.

All was astonishingly evocative, melancholic and beautiful – a memento mori and reminder of the transience of all human affairs.

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