Varadero to Cienfuegos and Punta Gorda
10.12.2013 - 11.12.2013 30 °C
Tuesday December 10
As lovely as the beach is, Varadero is a rather sterile strip-town; OK if you come from winter in Norway for a week’s sunbathing but there’s just about nothing else to do. So, we left –taking a ViaZul bus to Cienfuegos ($16 for 4 ½ hours). The trip south is through very rural country with little of interest, although there are the villages of Australia and Central Australia, the latter being a strategic location for the Cubans during the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. I haven’t found out yet how these villages got their names. The final part of the trip ran alongside the Bahia de Cochinos where there are a couple of sad-looking resorts; most of the other Viazul buses take the inland route. We were dropped off at the decidedly dodgy-looking Cienfuegos Bus Terminal at 6pm and took a taxi to the Hotel La Union in the middle of the old town (the Rough Guide says it is a 15-minute walk, but I’d say it would be about 30 minutes and it’s not the sort of area you want to be in at night). We had made a tentative booking at this $143/night hotel but after just a couple of minutes, decided it was a complete shambles – the internet wasn’t working, the lift wasn’t working and their supposedly glorious patio was in darkness – if I’m paying $70/night, maybe I’d put up with this in Cuba but not at this inflated price.
A taxi took us to our 2nd choice in Punta Gorda, a sliver of a peninsula just a few kms away and we were lucky enough to find a room at the wonderful Villa Lagarto, right on the water’s edge ($40/night). It’s officially a Casa Particulare but really it’s a small hotel these days
Wednesday December 11
We were strolling down the road that our Casa was in, checking other Casas to find out if any of them had fans instead of air-conditioning – in the 2nd one, we walked around the back to ask the owner and Jeni’s friend Gabe from Ubud was sitting there having breakfast! We knew she was in Cuba at a conference and had been trying to contact her. We arranged to meet her and her daughter Ella and Ella’s friend Sparkle at the terrace bar of the Palacio Valle that evening
There were no Casas with fans to be found, so we returned to our place to book another night but they were full – then they suddenly suggested “stay at our neighbour’s house next door”. The room at Los Delfinas was basic ($25/night) but they managed to produce a fan for us
We took a bicitaxi into Cienfuegos old town ($5) and desperately tried to work out why we had bothered to come to this town. Yes, there are some pleasant enough old buildings around the Parque Jose Marti, but generally it’s a very ordinary town. Punta Gorda is a lovely place and has a very well-maintained park right at the end of the peninsula but is it worth coming all the way here for a very small area of interest?
In the evening, the views from the Palacio Valle where we met just Ella at 6pm, were tremendous – the town, the bay and Punta Gorda. We had a couple of drinks and listened to a very good band and then Ella informed us that she and Gabe had arranged a vegetarian feast at their new Casa just near the old one, and, you’ve guessed it, it was the one we were now staying at. The feast was excellent – thank you Gabe, Ella and Sparkle