Everyone here is beautiful. The women, eyeing the men, sashay slimly by in their tight-cut dresses, their thick coils of ringlets piled high.
The men, 6ft plus, dignified, long-legged, with fine foreheads, eye them back. The children, whimper-out-loud adorable, are eyeing the stray dogs. And even the dogs are healthy and sleek. I had touched down here briefly once before, unscheduled on a transatlantic flight.
One of the other passengers apparently had died. But I knew nothing then about this extraordinary archipelago, out there in the middle of the ocean.
I should have done. You should. It is called Cape Verde. Nowhere else is particularly close. Brazil is a five-and-a-half hour flight, the UK, six.
The nearest landfall, Dakar, is 400 miles away. In the 1460s, Portuguese explorers were zig-zagging down the west coast of Africa. One big zig led them to these ten islands, where, miraculously, they discovered a freshwater spring. No need to zag any further.
Cape Verde would become a crucial stopover for shipping routes, airlines and geopolitics. Incorporated in 1951 as an overseas department of Portugal, its inhabitants continued to campaign for independence. They finally achieved it in 1975.
More than likely, coming from the UK, you’ll fly into the islands’ capital, Praia, on Santiago Island. Most of your fellow passengers will be package-holiday families, heading for the powder-white sand and azure sea of the island called Boa Vista.
At European longitudes, there is no jet lag. ‘And beaches to suit all-comers,’ a chatty NHS nurse on the plane from Birmingham had told me.
‘Kite-surfers, lounger-lizards, turtle-watchers, deep-sea fishermen, honeymooners . . .’ Near to the Tropics, freshened by Atlantic breezes, Cape Verde’s winter sunshine is cheaper than the Caribbean and warmer than the Canaries.