It has been a while since we spoke due to the distinct lack of internet access anywhere. We are now just outside of Trinidad, which lies around 300kms from Havana on the South Coast at a tiny, sleepy waterfront town called La Boca. We have since learned that local Cubans are not allowed access to the internet. Our travels have taken us to the valley town of Vinales in the North-West of the country, which is ringed by limestone cliffs and was UNESCO listed to preserve the local culture. We visited a tobacco farm and stocked up on fresh, dirt cheap cigars.
The road to Cienfuegos, some 300kms away in the South East of the country was full of challenges. The highlight I think for both of us was driving happily at 110kmph on the approach to Havana when, without warning, the six lane highway finished and spilled over into an overgrown paddock. You have to laugh, otherwise you would cry. And we thought we had done so well not to be swallowed up by the enormous potholes that plagued our little Hyundai rental all the way. The next 3 hours were spent trying to find the other end of the freeway, on the other side of the city, about 10km away without so much as a single sign.
The road between Havana and Cienfuegos was originally ear-marked to run the width of the country but when the Soviet Union collapsed, all work ended. Even the line markings on the road remain unfinished to this day and there is not a single sign to indicate the road’s existence.
Hitchikers are another road hazard and they line the highway in many places. Another unfortunate side effect of the collapse of the USSR is that Cuba’s transport system also disappeared overnight. There was no money to maintain trains and buses so overnight it became law to pickup hitchhikers. Government vehicles are obliged to pick up people and employees of the state organize travelers into vehicles. The locals are not against stepping onto road to flag you down as cars are few and far between. Locals picking up passengers tend to stop in the middle of three lanes without so much as an indicator or a flash of the hazard lights!
Finally we arrived in Cienfuegos, tired, annoyed and starving and we were flagged down by a street hustler, who led us to quiet, quaint casa particulares, complete with polyester sheets. Now for food. He assured us he knew a great place and directed from the back seat of the car to a deserted backstreet then to a non-descript door. A quick knock and the door opened revealing a flight of stairs that led to a courtyard refurbished as a restaurant. Turns out it was in fact an illegal operation as we were silenced and the lights were dimmed each time an on-guard family member spotted a police car from the second story window. Food was fantastic however… you can’t complain about lobster for $10!
When we awoke the next morning the sun was shining for the first time since we arrived and we eagerly headed for the beach, with plans to continue on to Trinidad. We never got there. The sun and the Carribean sea wouldn’t let us out of its clutches and we couldn’t face another minute in our flying-lunchbox of a car. We found another fantastic casa to eat at with all manner of fresh seafood and finally managed to find some English speaking fellow travelers to speak with well into the night. Americans are not allowed into Cuba but these two had found a way via Mexico with the Cubans refraining from stamping their passports as Cuba, more than ever, needs the tourism dollars.
We have now found our favourite spot, La Boca, right near Trinidad with a casa right opposite the ocean with rolling hills that rise out of the water to our right. The place comes complete with hammocks, rocking chairs, mosquito nets and comforts like we have not yet experienced anywhere in Cuba. We wake up to a view across the emerald ocean.
We have started to ramp up some camera work to prepare ourselves for South America. Trinidad really is a delight to shoot in with interesting characters, bright colours and musicians around every corner. We climbed to the top of a lookout tower today and did some simple practice pieces to camera which was great fun. Packing and unpacking all the gear is becoming easier, but sadly lugging the equipment everywhere isn’t!
I feel like there is so much more to write but I won’t bore you with the details and all the ups and downs. This country certainly can be a challenge!
Next time we chat, we will be in Peru. Toodleloo!