Cuba Part 3 (Trinidad) – June 2009

– Saying goodbye to Vinales, I was off on an all day bus to Trinidad. In seven hours, I left western Cuba and arrived in the city of Trinidad, which is in central Cuba. I was supposed to have a woman waiting for me at the bus with a sign for her casa, but when I got off, no sign, and I had to figure out where to stay. Ends up this special transfer bus I took dropped me in a different part of town than they were supposed to, so I was on my own to find accommodations. My friend Tim has also arranged a casa, so I ended up walking into town with him to get my bearings as I didn’t even know where I was. Once I got to his casa, the woman there was able to recommend me to anther casa that her friend George owns and he was very nice and spoke English so I ended up settling in there.

EXPLORING THE TOWN

– I decided to take some time and explore Trinidad as this city is one of the most popular tourist cities in Cuba as it’s one of the best preserved colonial cities. Every street I went down, it was more beautiful homes and buildings. the hardest part was walking as the streets are all cobble stones, so I had to be careful not to mis step and roll an ankle!

– Plaza Mayor was my first stop as this is the town’s focal point. The main part was a simple fenced in gardens with palm trees and the surrounding buildings and churches were amazing. I just sat in this garden for a while to watch the world go by and all around me in the building doorways were locals rocking the day away in their rocking chairs. Rocking chairs have to be the national pastime in Cuba as everyone does it all the time.

MEAL TIMES

– It was strange being at this casa on my own, as the last one I had Adele as now I was the focus of everything and dinner was being prepared just for me. The funny part was, the same huge amount of food was cooked for just me and I felt bad not eating it, but it seriously was enough for a table of four people. The best part of dinner was I was able to get lobster and it was one of the most tasty lobsters I have ever had.

– George had a wonderful roof top terrace at his house and the dinner table was under a canopy of grapes and grape leaves, which was really nice. So dinning al fresco on this roof, with views of the buildings and churches was definitely a highlight. There was even a black cat, which reminded me of my cat named midnight, that came to sit with me when I ate dinner. So I wasn’t all alone.

– Once Adele joined me at the casa, George was also wanting to join us after dinner to talk on the rooftop.  He was a young guy, in his early 30’s and was single and looking for his bride.  It was funny as one point as Adele thinks he was trying to hit on me and I just started to laugh.  He said I could be his husband and move to Cuba.  I told him my boyfriend was back in New York so that’s not really an option.  As the discussions continued, we learned he really liked “yellow hair” as he kept calling it.  That’s when Adele knew she didn’t have a chance.  We found it harmless but funny.

ANCON BEACH

– I had heard one of the nicer beaches in Cuba was just outside Trinidad, so I decided to take the shuttle bus there my first day and relax a little Getting to the new city and finding a new place to live was exhausting and I was ready for a Sunday at the beach. It was strange to think I had been in Cuba for a week already. Ancon beach was a beautiful white sand beach. Lucky for me, when I got off the shuttle bus, I met three English girls (Ana, Emma and Libby who were 21,20,20 respectively and all medical students). So the four of us decided to grab an area with beach chairs and umbrellas and ended up staying at the beach for 8 hours together having a great old time. y

SATURDAY NIGHT OUT IN TRINIDAD

– I decided to meet the girls after dinner for the night out. Right as we met up, it started to rain and then pour on us, but there was little we could do, so we just kept walking in the rain towards the couple of bars and music halls. We first went to Casa de la Trova as it seemed to be a smaller venue and had a lot more locals in it. This ended up adding to our humor for the day as we met a whole table of locals next to us and all they wanted to do was talk to us and around us and it was non stop. The four of us wanted to talk to our group, but this group of locals just wanted to get to know us. At one point, one local woman came up to our table and started to talking non stop to us, bending over to hear us at the table and thus shoving her rather large chest right into our faces. Every time she turned her head to say something, a different girl at my table got a whole face full of her boobs. After a while, it was funny, and we were still laughing about this friendly woman that had no sense of her body. After a while of this, we finally decided to call it a night as we were all tired and had enough of the music.

– I decided to meet up with Ana, Libby and Emma the next day as we were going to take a steam train out to a different valley. Too bad when we got to the train station, we found out the train was broken. So on to plan B (which they had figured out before I got there and invited me along).

– The best part was on my way to the train station, I literally ran into Adele on the street. She was trying to find Internet to find me at my casa as she decided to leave Vinales earlier and come meet me in Trinidad so I was thrilled as we had a fun time before and Trinidad would be more fun with her too. So After getting her settled into my casa, she wanted to go to the beach and I had made plans to go to some hike with Ana, Libby and Emma so we were all off on our activities.

HIKING WAY DOWN TO SALTO DE CABURNI WATERFALL

– I didn’t really know much about this hike, but figured it would be fun to go and see what was there. So the four of us hired a taxi and were off. Along the way, Ana (who is very fluent in Spanish) was able to chat with the driver and ask more interesting questions. We actually found out more about the currency system and how much our taxi fare would go to him. We found out from the 30 CUC fare we were paying him for the day, he would get about 1.5 CUC (or about $2). We were shocked at this as the government takes so much money.

– So the taxi dropped us off for our hike and said he would be waiting for us 4 hours later. It was a 2 mile hike down through some of the most beautiful scenery in Cuba. All we saw were hillsides covered in pine, palm and eucalyptus trees I later learned, this was one of the most challenging trails in the park and with every step we took downhill, I knew it was going to be a tough climb back up the hill at the end.

– At the end of the hike, we were rewarded with huge red rocks, and a 62 meter high waterfall that was crashing down the red rocks. It was so beautiful and worth the effort down. During the entire journey, I really appreciated Cuba’s natural beauty and was glad I got out of the city to see experience it. I will not lie, that hike back up….was grueling and when we thought we had another 20 minutes to walk to the car park (again straight uphill), our taxi driver surprised us and had come down to pick us up. He said he wanted to surprise us as he knew we would be tired at the end. We were so happy and made sure to tip him at the end. We ended up tipping him more than he would earn from his cut of the trip and seeing the smile on his face was worth it even more.

SUNDAY NIGHT OUT

– Ana, Libby, Emma and I were all exhausted from this hike, but we all decided to meet up for drinks after we had dinner later that night. So Adele and I headed out for drinks at 9:30 and enjoyed the live music at the outdoor music venue. I love to people watch when I’m out and kept noticing this guy on his own walking back and forth. I figured he was traveling alone (and I know how alone you can feel in Cuba), so I waved him over to join him. I think he was surprised but I figured why not invite him to sit with Adele and me. His name was Francisco and he was from Portugal. He was a really nice guy and was traveling on his own and was happy to hang out with us. Soon after, Ana, Libby and Emma joined us and all of a sudden we had a really full table of six people and stayed to drink, chat and enjoy the music till 1:30am plus made plans for us all to go to the beach the next day.

VALLE DE LOS INGENIOS

– For my last day in Trinidad, I wanted to take this steam train to the valle de los ingenios. Adele was going to go with me, but was feeling ill in the morning, but I really wanted to go and headed out on my own. The draw to this day trip was taking an old steam powered train from the early 1900’s. The trip traveled out to the valley as this area was one of the largest sugar cane producing areas. I have to laugh as nothing in Cuba really works on time or as planned and this train was no exception. The train ride was supposed to take 30 minutes, but after 90 minutes we finally pulled into the right town. I didn’t mind as it was really a pretty trip through lush countryside and we got to see a lot of locals families waving at us and kids running along the train as this is the highlight each day to see the train. I also got to see hundreds of mango trees with so much fruit hanging off. I just wanted to stop the train and go pick a few mangos for lunch!

– The train finally stopped at the Manaca-Iznaga estate were we got to explore the plantation home. I have to laugh as the plantation home was pretty, but now really serves as a base for tourists to go for lunch and souvenirs. I was ready to climb the 45 meter tower for a view of the valley eight stories up. It was quite a sight as I could see so much of the valley, the old sugar refinery and really take in more of the beauty of Cuba.

– I did like the huge bell that I am standing in front of in one photo.  This was rang each morning to signal the start to the work day and was rung again to signal when to break or stop.  If only my life was so simple that a bell told me when to start and stop.

– On the way back, the 30 minute trip turned into 90 minutes as well. It was fun as part of the trip was the journey and I met some fun people on the train which made the journey much more fun.

– So my time in Trinidad was over, after five nights. I originally thought I would stay for a couple nights and continue on, but I really enjoyed Trinidad, had more fun with Ana, Libby, Emma, Tim, Adele and Francisco so it made sense to stay longer. I also was debating where else i wanted to go in Cuba. I originally planned to travel further to the east coast, but after looking into the bus schedules and time tables, decided I didn’t want to rush around in my last week and changed my plans.

– Off to the city of Cinefuego tomorrow

Logistics:
Casa – Jorge Leosvel Mendez Gil (he speaks good enough English which helps!)
Calle Gustavo Izquierdo No 38 – tel: 5352975829 or 53(01)(4199)3066 y 3229

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