After 20 years with the same employer, suddenly I had three days of work remaining. My cluster bid me farewell via video call poignantly changing their backgrounds to pictures of their favourite beaches. Ed continued on his project management frenzy with decorators, electricians and other tradesmen, a quick trip on the Friday to a storage unit and the house was empty. After waving goodbye to the only home they have known since birth, the boys were shipped off to Granny and Grandad’s whilst we sat anxiously by our phones awaiting the results of our pre-flight Covid tests. What would normally be an exciting climax was wrought with anxiety. Would we be denied boarding in London? Would our paperwork stand up to scrutiny on arrival in Praia? Even if the covid test results came through in time would they be acceptable in Cape Verde for entry and onward travel between the islands? But we were all in, it was too late now. We had some contingencies and had agreed if denied entry to Cape Verde, we’d head straight to Dakar in Senegal and from thence on to Casamance where we would formulate a plan. Returning would be to accept defeat and was just not an option.
“Success is the journey, not the destination”
Ed took a separate taxi to the airport with 12 bags, whilst I travelled with the boys and Granny and Grandad. Check-in took 3 hours whilst documents were scrutinized, the airline insisting we purchased a return flight prior to boarding. Tensions rose as Ed sparked a firearms incident – armed police were called to confiscate his newly purchased spear gun much to his chagrin and Zeb’s excitement. We passed through security to a deserted Terminal 2 and at 6.45pm boarded the Airbus A320 for the short hop to Lisbon. As far as the boys were concerned they were on a plane, it didn’t matter where we were going, this was adventure. We transited Lisbon sporting our Smugs and continued our flight south towards the equator. The boys slept. We worried. Would we choose the right frontier official? Would they be sympathetic to a young travelling family late at night? Would they just want to get home after a long shift? Would our Covid tests be accepted? Was our reason for travel essential? Did our supporting documentation stack up?
Exactly on time at 0055 we landed on the tarmac at Nelson Mandela International Airport in Praia. The butterflies in our stomach were most definitely not excitement. The doors to the plane opened and we were greeted by the familiarity of a 27 degree night in the tropics – the sort which envelops you threatening to suffocate with the first breath. We carried two exhausted boys down the steps to our future, which would be decided in a few short minutes by a frontier guard who was… unexpectedly friendly. Temperatures were taken, face masks donned and hands sanitized as we were ushered to the front of the queue. People behind us became impatient as the border official meticulously examined our documents. Each Covid certificate was cross referenced to passports and time-stamps to ensure the 72-hour validity period, translations were called for, letters of work were scrutinized, bank statements checked, pre-visas reviewed, previous visits to Cape Verde discussed. Finally, just after 0130 on Monday 12th October the official reached beneath the counter and we heard the deeply satisfying ‘clickety click’ as he drew ink from his pad and stamped each passport. Making this very tired family of four from Brockley – essential.