Chapter three is about lazy days on the beach and colonial mansions. It is also about a Cuban road trip from Cienfuegos to Trinidad with a flat tire in the middle of nowhere.
This is one of six articles from a visit to Cuba in 2003.
Saturday 28.6.2003, Pinar del Rio, Havana, Cienfuegos
The private enterprise gentleman from the previous day came very late. He hadn’t found more passengers and it turned out that he did not have enough petrol for the trip. In such a situation good advice does not come cheap. Luckily we were able to join another private car together with two other passengers.
What a speed! We virtually flew to Havana bus station for 2×8 USD. There we were hastily hailed by somebody who could take us to Cienfuegos. Bargaining and delaying of time paid off, for us. The car was a fast American Dodge with blackened windows. We arrived several hours before we expected, and were even driven to a beach area outside the city, called Rancho Luna.
Here we found accommodation in the very tasteful house of a Cuban familiy. It was a great place for 20 USD + 4 for breakfast, containing a bedroom and large living room with a patio and big garden outside.
We tried the beach and the waves the same afternoon. Yesss! The beach was good with pretty many locals this weekend.
Later we had a very OK fish for dinner at “home” (14 USD).
My son was by the way unlucky and stepped on one or several sea urchins on the beach. I got most of the spines out of his foot, and a doctor helped with the last ones. Luckily we avoided inflammation.
Spent: 84 USD
Sunday 29.6.2003, Faro (Rancho) Luna
After a week in Cuba we “finally” had a beach day. The sea must have been the warmest I have ever experienced. Luke warm bathtub water and very salt. Lovely swells to jump into and over. Clean long beach with “straw mushrooms” functioning as parasols to give a shade. Pretty many people on the beach, but far from congested. Sunday is after all a day off here too. We bathed, sunbathed and tossed ball.
Today we lunched at home and said goodbye to the family who were returning to their second home in Cienfuegos, and we said hello to la abuela who was going to stay with us the rest of the week.
We went over to the Faro Luna hotel. It had a nice view from the pool.
Spent: 45 USD
Monday 30.6.2003, Faro (Rancho) Luna
Our bodies was becoming tanned so we did not stay as long on the beach today. Instead we watched a nice dolphin show nearby.
We both have got a loose stomach, my son especially. That is a pity as he is struggling so much taking his daily pills.
Spent: 56 USD
Tuesday 1.7.2003, Faro (Rancho) Luna, Cienfuegos
A day trip to the city. The taxi la abuela ordered did not turn out and from the beach hotel nearby we only got an expensive AC taxi at 10 USD.
Anyway: Cienfuegos looked like an active town. The plaza was encircled by fabulous buildings, among others a theatre from the end of the 1800s. Elegant and beautiful.
A long pedestrian zone leaving the square had a number of shops and teeming crowds of shoppers. We cashed out 400 USD on my Visa card and went into one of the shops to cool down. These retail stores in Cuba seem to be plentiful and fairly alike, with a large variety of goods. Full assortment shops in other words. I wonder how many could actually afford much of the goods?
We started strolling along a very long street towards Punta Gorda. Extremely hot and far to walk. Luckily a horse drawn cab came by with locals on it. We stepped up and stayed until the end stop. There were quite a few grand palaces on the way.
The finest was very Moorish inspired. For a dollar we had a drink on the roof-top terrace. Magnificent views. A band popped up and began playing Guantanamera and other tunes. My son was invited and joined the band. I bought a CD and everyone was happy.
We had a terrible pizza in an Italian restaurant. Wholemeal flour and doughy. After this we took a poor looking Russian taxi home for a fiver. We agreed with the private driver from Saturday that he or his friend could take us on a long trip tomorrow.
We had a last swim in the Caribbean.
Spent: 43 USD
Video shots from Cuba’s southern coast at Cienfuegos and a look around the city which is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Wednesday 2.7.2003, Faro (Rancho) Luna, Bay of Pigs, Boca de Guamá, Trinidad
Our driver came with a small Fiat. Quite alright and fairly new. He had borrowed it from his friend who had been awarded it by Il Commandante Fidel as a gratitude for serving the country on a national sports team for five years. Most of the day was spent driving.
We first went to Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs), the site of the failed CIA sponsored invasion in 1961. We skipped the museum in Playa Giron. Driving along the shoreline we were surprised by swarms of red land crabs crossing the roads. Although the migration period with millions of crabs crossing the road is in spring time, we drove over thousands of them and heard the crushing of hundreds. I’m glad they didn’t give us puncture.
Afterwards we drove on to the crocodile farm Criadero de Cocodrilos in Boca de Guamá. Small and large crocs. Funny, even though they were in the water most of them. We had croc meat, bought a croc foot and got to hold a 3-4 years old croc at 70 centimetres on our shoulders.
Thereafter we backtracked the route. We stopped once to swim in a 70 metre deep rift with freshwater, right by the sea. There were fascinating blue fishes. Even my son joined me even though it was quite scary, he thought. The place is called Cueva de los Peces.
Full speed ahead through Cienfuegos and towards the town of Trinidad. All the way there were farms of the poor type. Only once we passed a big farm.
Then we had a flat tire. The driver had elegantly been driving slalom between all the pot holes in the patchwork road. This time he was a bit too close to the car in front and hit a hole. The changing of tires went well, but the car would not start. There we were, looking into the engine, under the car, into the fuse box and so on. Not more than 15 km from our destination, but in the middle of a desolate and hot road.
Our driver was in despair. Cars passed by and honked to get us off the road. Nobody stopped to help us except when I stopped a car with tourists. A British couple with children said OK to take the driver to Trinidad for help. They did not have space for the two of us with luggage and all.
Time passed, one hour, two hours. No one came. Luckily the sky became cloudy and the temperature less oppressive. An Italian couple with a local man from Trinidad stopped. We would have liked to join them, but we were not able to lock the car. However, we didn’t take the chance to leave it unattended. We thanked the Italians and they continued. It is remarkable how only foreigners stop to help.
Five minutes later our driver returned with a mechanic. 30 seconds later the car was running. Loose fuse!
In Trinidad we paid our driver 60 USD and he ended his services getting us a very alright casa for 20 USD. We had a private terrace with semi-roof on the first floor and a lush courtyard below. Large room and separate bathroom. Breakfast 4 USD extra. Nice hosts.
We ate at a very good paladar, Sol y Son, mentioned in my guide book and recommended by our landlord.
Early to bed.
Spent: 141 USD
A car ride from Cienfuegos to Trinidad, by way of the “Bay of Pigs”; a crocodile farm; Cueva de los Peces; a broken car in the middle of nowhere; and a Mojito in a Trinidad paladar.
(1) Havana: Cuba as it is, with Fidel still alive, and the system working as it has done since the revolution. That is what I wanted to find on my three week trip to this intriguing island in the sun. Did I find it? My conclusion follows at the end of this story in five chapters.
(2) Pinar del Rio and the Viñales valley: A beautiful country, and an emerging private economy is found in this chapter two of my Cuba journey.
(3) From Cienfuegos to Trinidad: Chapter three is about lazy days on the beach, colonial mansions and a flat tire in the middle of nowhere.
NEXT CHAPTER: (4) Trinidad: A most wonderful town and surroundings rich in slave history. This is chapter four of my Cuban experience.
(5) Camaguëy, Playas del Este: A journey full of hassles, stripped memories and concluding remarks of my three weeks in Cuba. Those are the key words of this last chapter from Cuba.
PICS – Cuba: All images from Cuba in one place.
A photographic remark: My camera was stolen on the last day of my visit along with the memory card(s). The pictures featured in this series from Cuba are stills captured from my video. Hence the rather poor quality. My camcorder was also stolen but I kept the first film separately so I was able to keep at least some photographic evidence of the trip. Read more in the last part of this trip.