Running on Sal, Cape Verde

Did a “Tripadvisor” review of the hotel where we stayed and the island recently which had a bit on running from the hotel. Thought it might be worth cutting and pasting the ‘running’ section into my WordPress blog and tagging names in case anyone else is looking for advice before leaving on a holiday there.

The hotel was the Riu Garopa but the notes refer just as well to the Riu Funana which is next door (same hotel, complicated, refer to Tripadvisor reviews) on the island of Sal in the Cape Verde Islands just off Senegal, Africa. The cut and paste went thus;-

I am a lark so run in the mornings and usually started about 5 to 5.30 in the dark and watched the sunrise as I ran, the sun coming up at around 6.00 (this is in November). All the local runners are out at this time in the morning, before the heat and before work. Even so, I added one minute to my usual miles per minute pace, at the start of runs as the breeze disguises the humidity levels as you run. It is only when you stop that the sweat drops off you like a waterfall.

Carrying water is a must. (I wrote that as sound advice that I, myself, ignored). To put your position in the world into perspective, travel due east and you would reach Senegal in Africa, travel due west and you would reach Mexico. We always take oral re- hydration with us on holiday in the shape of two tubes of ORS hydration tablets that you dissolve in bottled water – one of these after a run works wonders.

Unless you want to loop around and around the hotel gardens (possible, safe and observed being done while we were there) then you must venture out onto the roads. Please avoid the beaches to the east of the hotel – you do not want to be responsible for disturbing turtle nests! All the pavements outside the hotel area are of cobbles cut from volcanic rock, but not impossible to run on, not a trip factor, more a decent exercise for the ankles (note, us runners emphasise the positives in life and banish the negatives).

Watch out for roads being slippery though as a build up of oil, diesel and tyre rubber will not have been washed away with the rain as there is no rain.

Run number one was going to be to the old port of Santa Maria and back but was curtailed before the end and ended as a three mile jog. The reason? On reaching the town it was obviously kicking out time (dawn) at the Pirate night club and I didn’t fancy running through the drunks. Lone female (or male for that matter) runners note this was a Sunday morning after Saturday night celebrations. This run was out of the hotel, turn right, turn left at the massive palm tree (radio mast in disguise) and keep going until you reach the Pirate Nightclub. Three miles round trip approximately.

After confirming that I had been on the right route for Santa Maria with the Thomson rep, I tried again and it was well worth it. I got one of those early morning runner smug feelings as I stood on the end of the working pier near the Old Harbour, watched the sun come up, watched the colourful boats return with their catch – knowing that I was the only tourist there and everyone else had missed the moment. I then explored the whole town by jogging every street and backstreet and watching the town wake and its citizens walk to work. There was very little sound except for cock crowing. The odd lorry, two cars and a scooter were all I saw as motorised transport.  Every time I took out my map, someone approached to guide me on my way.

Next run was a five and a half mile loop. Out of the hotel and this time turn left towards the town in the distance where all is painted white. Pass one Melia Hotel and when you get to the Melia Dunas your road forces you to turn right. The next roundabout directs you right towards Santa Maria. A long straight road where you have constant vision of the giant radio palm tree mast, this is a dual carriageway but is unlit so try to hit it after dawn.

As you enter the outskirts of Santa Maria, go straight over the roundabout and you will find a petrol station next to the Pirate Nightclub. You will then know where you are from the runs described above. I did, one morning, attempt this loop in reverse but the long straight road between the garage and the Hotel Dunas was too dark and as there is no pavement (you run on the cycle track divided from the road by a white line) I turned around and did intervals between lamposts back to the hotel.

Further runs were a combination of all of the above. After every run, after first discovering a mess on the floor of the hotel room and corridor, I removed running shoes before entering the hotel block. Your shoes will be covered in an odd mixture of sand and tyre rubber!

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