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TRINIDAD DE CUBA

Cienfuegos to Trinidad

sunny 29 °C

Thursday December 12
We spent a lazy morning around the Casa and took off for the 12:45 bus from Cienfuegos to Trinidad de Cuba ($6 for 1 ½ hours) – it didn’t leave until 1:15pm and the ViaZul bus station is a really horrible place to spend even a few minutes

The arrival into Trinidad was a nightmare – for some reason they stopped the journey in a narrow street not far from the bus station and there were probably 50 Casa people and 50 passengers on the pavement, squashed between a house and the bus. The drivers were great and kept tight control of baggage until the receipt had been shown. Amongst all of this was Fiona, an old friend of Jeni’s from her Angus and Robertson days, who now lives in Trinidad and had come along to show us to our new home for 4 nights. Cubans are not allowed to have friends stay in their house unless they are registered as a Casa Particulare: any Cubans, not just foreigners who have residency. So, as she and her husband Osiel are still waiting for their Casa permit, we had to stay with friends of hers just a short walk away – simple!

After checking in to Hostal Magaly ($25/night), Fiona gave us a short tour around the main part of the old town before heading back to her house and allowing us to explore on our own in the evening. Like so often in Bali, there are loads of people around during the day and then virtually no-one in the restaurants in the evening

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Friday December 13
We did some exploring in the old town and then walked quite a way uphill (in the noon-day sun of course) to Hotel Las Cuevas, where for $2 you can use their huge swimming pool and pay for the odd drink and snack. The hotel is huge as well with lots of basic-looking concrete cabins scattered around 10s of hectares of grass and trees with view across the town to the sea 4 km away. We were there 3 hours and 5 other people used the pool area and we saw 3 other people down near reception – another state-run enterprise losing millions of dollars

In the evening, we walked to the edge of town where Fiona and Osiel are renovating a 100-year old farmhouse on a hectare of mango, banana, guava, avocado and pineapple trees. Fiona treated us to a lentil curry with yucca, malanga and avocado; we’ve not been able to get yucca at any restaurant so far, rice and beans but no yucca

And just before dinner, Osiel gave us a personal performance of his Bolero and Son music on guitar and voice. He studied music at university and used play with all the bands in Trinidad and even has some of his own songs played on radio (no royalties of course)

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Saturday December 14
An early start in order to catch the Valle de los Ingenios train ($10 for 4 ½ hours) from Trinidad station to Manaca-Inzaga where there is an old sugar plantation complete with a 45-metre tower that was used for keeping an eye on the slaves. From there, a very short ride brought us to an old homestead with a state-run restaurant which as usual was bloody hopeless. The train then hurtled back to Trinidad at 25 km/hour (20 on the way up) – it should have been a 1916 steam engine but as it was out of service, we had to make do with a very old, Russian diesel engine (it looked like it had been used in the salt mines!). A very good excursion

The evening was spent at the Casa de Musica, a large outdoor venue where many of the local bands play, listening to Rumba and Danzon. And here is a ridiculous thing; it is almost impossible to get any current information on anything in Cuba and it seems that extends to Cubans as well – while we were listening to the music, Osiel nipped next door to see who was playing at the Casa de Trove and through a friend of a friend found out that one of the biggest bands in Cuba was playing that moment in the stadium just minutes away. He’s a musician, his friends are musicians and they had only just found out

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Sunday December 15
Fiona picked us up in a taxi (a Lada) and we headed down to the coast to La Boca, just 4 km from town and then onto Playa Ancon about another 10 km along the peninsula. The beach at La Boca was rocky but there were a couple of really good-looking hotels/casas right on the beach and I’m sure a couple of days there would be great fun. Playa Ancon has 2 very large hotels in the Russian style but the beach is really good with fine white sand and very calm water for swimming. And for a $1 each (please note Nice and Waikiki beaches), we hired loungers and sat beneath a thatched umbrella between swims. There were some Cubans having fun in the sun, but Fiona explained that in the summer months there would be many more and as it was now officially winter, most Cubans would find it too cold for swimming. And it was at least 35 Celsius and 24C in the sea

In the afternoon, Jeni and I had another walk around the old, cobbled area of town and yet again, a place we wanted to visit was closed for renovations (it’s Trinidad’s 500th anniversary in January) – the Museo Romantico. So instead we visited the Museo Historia Municipal and apart from a fine building and the odd item of interest, it’s pretty disappointing, just like almost every other museum in Cuba – loads of people we have met have degrees (mainly engineering) but obviously something as useful as curation is not being taught anywhere

Guide books had been telling us that Santiago de Cuba can get very busy, so we thought we’d better try booking a hotel as the bus was due to get in at 8pm. A lovely lady at Cubatur managed to get us a special 2-night deal for $93/night instead of the usual $140/night at the Melia Santiago

Our final night in Trinidad was spent with Fiona and Osiel at her friend Maritza’s Casa, having a wonderful vegetarian feast prepared by Maritza

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Posted by kforge 04:07 Archived in Cuba

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