Posted by: lindsaygoes | February 7, 2012

Riding through Cuba

 

 

From Baracoa we had a drive to Santiago de Cuba, passing by Guantánamo Bay on the way (allegedly). Actually, we were pretty far away and I can only take our guides word that the faint blur on the horizon was the base, and the fact that they said we couldn’t slow down for too long or they’d get moved along.

 
By the time we arrived it was the afternoon, so we had a bit of a relaxing walk around the town, with a break on a lovely terrace to have a drink and admire the vista of the town. Once again, it had lovely decrepit architecture, and was full of vintage cars in various states of repair. Some look pristine, freshly painted, and deeply cared for, while others are held together by rust and hope. Not sure in which order though.

The next day we had a tour around the town, visiting the Plaza de la Revolution, which had quite a cool swordy sculpture, then Cuartel Moncarda, a fort which Castro tried to take over in an early attempt at revolution. It had bullet holes in the walls, although they had been filled in and then recreated from photos. Not quite the same really. Then it was off to the cemetery, which was quite interesting. They have the tomb of Jose Marti, which is designed so the coffin is always in sunlight if the sun is out. I was kind of on the edge of the sunny bit and it was very tempting to make shadow puppets. But that would be disrespectful to a national hero. Also, there were a lot of guards around (doing a changing of the guard thing) and I probably would have been arrested. After that it was on to El Morro, a fort to protect the bay from pirates. We didn’t see any pirates in Santiago de Cuba, so I assume it’s still doing the job. It was lovely, with amazing views over the bay, and an iguana, which got a little camera shy after all the photos we took of it.

It was more salsa dancing again that night, which was fun. Except for the guy who wanted to dance extremely close. Luckily I had a handbag to act as a shield.

The next day it was on to Camagüey for a day and a half which was full of lovely buildings and large pots called tinajones, some of which can fit five people in. We achieved it, could maybe have got six in but that would have been very squashy. The getting in wasn’t as hard as the getting out. There were also lots of fascinating artists galleries, and after exploring the town we went to a baseball match. Which cost five cents to get into. And we had pretty good seats. I got fed up before the end, and so missed the exciting bit when the game went from 8-0 to 8-7, and a guy from our group tried on the bull mascot head. Anyway, the local team won, and then they were staying in our hotel, so I got to the foyer before we went out to dinner to discover the same guy who had worn the mascot head had bought one of the uniforms, and the team were trying to convince him to buy a bat as well. He didn’t, but did have fun hitting around some scrunched up paper in the street.

Our next stop was Trinidad, but on the way there we had a brief pause in the Valle de Los Ingenios (Valley of the sugar mills) where we tried some sugar cane juice (also known as Cuban viagra) and I got convinced to climb the Hacienda Iznhage, a 43.5 meter tower. I’m sure it didn’t have as many steps from the outside. The view was pretty good from the top, but then I had to come down all the steps backwards so I didn’t fall. Trinidad was lovely, we visited a few art galleries and a ceramics factory, and I managed to find the dodgy part of town. It was quite small though. That night we went to a nightclub in a cave, which was a bit of a hike, but amazing inside. I think if you were wearing heels you’d have to get a taxi though. The first full day in Trinidad I went snorkeling, which was fun and saw lots of fish. My new underwater camera came in handy! We saw a lovely sunset that night and went to a fantastic restaurant. It just looked like someone’s house, but then you went downstairs and there was a lovely courtyard, shaded by an enormous tree, and I had lobster. It was delicious. While we were eating a bug fell down, and after carefully removing it and putting it on the ground one of the waiters came and stood on it. Not quite my intention.

The following day I decided to put my horseriding skills to the test (by the way, I have no horseriding skills) and do a four hour ride. We did have a couple of breaks throughout, one on an old homestead and another on a farm where we got more sugar cane juice and watched an old Cuban guy play his guitar. Then we watched the baseball guy from our group (names removed to protect privacy) have a go, put the Cuban guy’s machete in his mouth and play the bongos. It was a little difficult to get him to leave. We got a bit of galloping in, and also carefully rode down some steepish rocks. It was kind of nice to be on a horse. The destination of the ride was a swimming pool underneath a waterfall. Although you’d have to be generous to call it a waterfall in the dry season (when I was there). More like a trickle. And the water was kind of cold. And then I discovered a large saddle sore inside my knee. The ride back was rather less comfortable. I had doubts I would be able to remain standing once I got off the horse. But I could, and walking made things better. Next time I might stick to a three hour ride.

So that’s the second installment of my Cuban adventures. There is still more to come, but I’ll spare you for the moment.

Lindsay



  

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