*Something else I forgot from Baracoa… While we were rowing along, I looked down and noticed the tower had six toes on each foot. It looked so normal and equally proportioned out. He also had six fingers on each hand too. He later told us about it, that a little island we towed past was called 24, and he had 24 fingers and toes!*
Staying in a hotel wasn’t too different to the other places we had stayed in, other than the fact we had a TV in our room and we could watch some American channels. Plus there was WiFi in the lobby! So I definitely went down in my pjs before bed to check on my Simpsons game 🙂
The breakfast was good, providing something different to the usual fried eggs and bread. I didn’t eat too much; I’ve been overeating at breakfast to not be so rude with how much food we are being provided. But with no-one to offend, I ate a tiny portion!
I went back up to the roof top to see the town in daylight – the roof tops looked beautiful!
I sat up the front on the coach, and was able to see all the goings on ahead of me. This part of Cuba has so many cowboys. The number of men I saw on horses, with the hat, herding animals, was quite unexpected. I even saw a boy herding cows – almost a literal cowboy!
I also saw lots of hitch hikers. Public transport is terrible, so all the roads were lined with people holding money out for a lift. I’m sure our driver on the way back to Santiago will pick up a few people and earn some extra cash – he is going that way anyway!
Visiting Cuba, especially the long drives around the country, has been a step back in time. Not 50 years, but beyond. Almost to the time of the Wild West! I would estimate that about 80% of the local transport we saw was a horse drawn cart or bicycles. I was also told that the government owns all the horses! Maybe to protect them from being eaten… an uncomfortable thought!
Our first stop of the day was to a little restaurant that sells pina coladas. It was 11am and a bit too early to drink, but I thought I had to buy one! The last time I had a pina colada was at least 10 years ago… it was disgusting.
This on the other hand, was heavenly. So much so, I downed it and ordered another one! They were $3 CUC each, the typical price of a cocktail in Cuba. Which is about £2.15.
As we drove further west, the vegetation changed dramatically. There were still palm trees, but the mountains weren’t densely covered in them. Instead we saw bright green fields and dusty side tracks. The heat was clearly drier rather than humid as experienced before.
Arriving at our Casa, our towels were made into swans! Our room is very sweet, again, with an ensuite bathroom and a fan. But the bathroom door handle was constantly falling off! Every other time I go to the bathroom, the door handle falls off!!
We were greeted to a glass of fresh mango juice too. It was really nice! My one stickler about the Casa was that it wasn’t homely enough. All the rooms were rented out and no-one lived there. Plus they charged a small fortune for our washing! And it came back wet.
But we were hungry, it was approaching 2pm… after the orientation walk, Mikey, Anne and I went back to a restaurant we had passed by, and ordered the following as a starter. We hadn’t had food like this in so long! The banana chips and mango chips were like actual chips/fries and came with ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise.
We also had some chopped tomatoes in olive oil, houmous and bean dip. We were stuffed! But had also ordered a main lunch too.
After lunch I treated myself to a foot and leg massage, costing $6 CUC which is about £4 something. It was nice to have my muscles played about with! My legs have been really sore, taking the brunt of my heavy rucksack. So it was nice to be pampered for 20 minutes.
We had a salsa lesson scheduled for 5:30pm, so after showering and putting on something fresh, we went next door to the “main Casa” for our lesson. I was paired up with Stuart, the chap from Bournemouth. I struggled with getting the hang of it, but once I did, I was able to guide him on what to do… and he was supposed to guide me! He was a bit anxious by the whole thing and I could tell he was a bit reluctant to touch me. Not sure I have ever seen two dancers so far apart in the normal pose!
After our salsa lesson, we were utterly parched. Anne and I had promised ourselves to cut down on the sugary cans of drinks, but it’s what we needed to give us that boost… on our way into the main square, we passed a house where Nicky and Dave were staying, and their Casa owner is Irish! So we had to pop by for a hello. Shaun was so hospitable. He made us all potato chips (as opposed to banana!). We also suspect that Shaun was in hiding; that he was potentially part of the IRA. He was a lovely chap, but we weren’t quite sure why he decided to move to Cuba of all places, for 15 years, without knowing a word of Spanish!
By the time we had finished our chips and fizzy drink, it was dinner time so we headed back to the main Casa for something to eat. During this time the heavens opened and rain was battering down. Shaun had said the area needed the rain, so I couldn’t be too annoyed with the lovely warm evening being a big soggy.
We were still stuffed from lunch, so I picked on the dinner, opting for minimal starchy foods. There was an amazing shredded pork, so I ate that in abundance.
Then the two grandmas went to bed. Anne and I were shattered and were perhaps the only two who didn’t go out with the others! My chest was heavy from my minor cold, and I needed sleep.
Breakfast in the morning was huge. Too much, again! This time I refused to over eat. I tried a little bit of everything but I honestly had enough of the same old thing. This breakfast had more sweet biscuits, which I tried. Hardly a substantial breakfast.
After I took this photo, more and more came out! At least I could have a cuppa though.
Our day was a paid optional extra excursion to the Parque el Cubano National Park, hiking to a waterfall. It took just under an hour, and it was hard work but do-able. It was up down up down the entire time. The red pin on the left is the waterfall and the right pin was the starting point. The terrain was a bit rocky and I was worried about my delicate ankles.
I did enjoy the hike though. We went at a steady pace so I was able to keep up with the fitter ones in the group. We had enough time to stop and pose for a selfie, at least!
We also passed a rock face wall that had hundreds of empty wasps nests! Can you spot them in the photo? It gave me the shivers just looking at them.
We also saw Cuban’s national bird, the tocororo. I wasn’t able to get a good photo so here is one from Google. It was ever so beautiful and it’s song was rather lovely too.
Once we arrived at our destination, the Javira waterfall, it didn’t take me long to strip off my clothes and jump straight in! I had a bikini on already. I was very hot and sticky from the hike, and the cool water was inviting me!
The water was very cold but I warmed up after I started swimming. Swimming against the current was a bit of a workout too!
And just behind the waterfall was a cave with bats. So cool! Shame the GoPro didn’t pick them out.
I loved the waterfall area and I really didn’t want to leave. More and more tourists were arriving, and it did lose its uniqueness.
Hiking back to the car park, seemed much quicker than the walk before… maybe there was more downhill than uphill, or the familiarity of the path made me walk a bit quicker.
Our next stop was Playa de Ancon. And boy was I pissed off beyond belief. We paid for an excursion which included beach time, and where I could to snorkelling to finally use the new mask I had bought. Nope! A big hotel was situated on the best part of the beach and we couldn’t use their sun loungers, not even if we paid! We were also told there would be lots of places to buy food. There wasn’t. And our tour guide had left us immediately and buggered off somewhere, leaving us to deal with the crappy service from one food vendor (the only vendor on a public part of a beach, and all they did was toasted sandwiches).
Everything was a problem, and I was beginning to lose my patience with my tour guide and the trip. Every other word than came out of my mouth was a swear word, and I needed to avoid people at all costs to calm down. I couldn’t be positive. The disappointment was a difficult one to swallow. I couldn’t even go snorkelling because you have to pay for a boat to take you out, it wasn’t near the beach like in other places. We were sold a different story. The beach was beautiful, but it wasn’t amazing. It wasn’t better than anything I had seen before.
The sea wasn’t salty though, so that was something! There weren’t any showers visible, so at least I could towel dry myself off.
I didn’t manage to get any alone time so I went for a long walk with my GoPro.
I clock watched until 4pm when we would be going back to our Casa. After a shower and a refresh, I went to use the WiFi in the square near us, to no avail. With so many people using it, it just cut out constantly. I did take a lovely sunset photo though.
We met Mikey in the square and headed out for dinner. I ordered a grilled seabass which came with vegetables, and it was blood delicious. Anne ordered steak which was so rubbery and well done, so she gave it to the cats. Food in Cuba is so hit and miss. How is it possible to overcook so much food? Chicken, beef and seafood seem to be the worst offenders.
Post dinner Anne went back to the Casa and I loitered in the square, finally having WiFi and checking in on a few games, and one of the local street dogs came and sat on my legs. I petted her and she was so content. She had clearly been well looked after by the locals, but sometimes animals need affection, and bless her, she saw I was sat on my own too.
As I got up to leave, I saw Bettina from my tour and I went over to say hi. The dog followed me, which was adorable. She put her front paws on my knees… honestly, that dog saw something in me and just showered me with love. But then, a man sat on the other side of Bettina muttered, “gel buraya, gel.” My ears pipped up and I spoke Turkish to the guy. He complimented me on my Turkish, which was sweet, given that it’s not good at all. He is a German Turk, so Bettina was able to talk to him in German more than I was able to talk to him in Turkish.
Our first free day without any excursion or tour, we were determined to have a good day. Anne headed out early, going to exchange money with Mikey, whereas I pottered around and headed to the square to use the WiFi (Mum this is went I was messaging you and sent that photo!).
When Mikey and Anne returned, Mikey was in a foul mood and it set the tone for the morning with us. He exchanged US dollars, which is extremely ill advised anyway, and got cheated out of half of his money. We didn’t hear the end of it, and I was getting quite frustrated with the negativity, as was Anne.
After checking our social media’s quickly, we wanted to get semi-lost. I saw on a map that there is a hand made market, and I wanted to explore. It wasn’t long until we found it and bought some lovely souvenirs for ourselves and gifts for people back home.
We dumped our purchases back at the Casa and headed back out for lunch to the place we had been a few days before. Yum! Mikey left us to our own devices, and it was then that our day really kicked off. We treated ourselves to a delightful reflexology massage, and made our way to the main square at the top of the hill for some drinks. Ironically, as we were walking up, I said to Anne that having a massage that worked on our lymphatic drainage system and then having alcohol, would be the worst thing for our bodies. And I couldn’t be more right.
We started off in a lovely garden cafe, where I had a mint mojito. The sun and the flowers reminded me of summer days in Bodrum. We sat in the sunshine soaking as much vitamin D as possible; it would be our last day of doing nothing outside for the remainder of the tour.
We then went across the road to a little bar in the shade, and I had a daiquiri plus a water. Anne had a canchancara, and loved the cup so much she stole it. I was in mid-gulp when Anne made a comment about stealing from the poor. I couldn’t control myself and laughed, spraying the waitress with my drink. It was so funny and I apologised profusely. She didn’t seem to mind so much. We left them a tip… mainly because Anne stole from them!
Our mini bar crawl didn’t go too much further. Around the corner in the actual main square we saw two kiosks fighting it out to serve us, so I went to one and Anne next door, and we both had mojitos. We sat on the steps outside and we were given cushions. Basically we stayed there for another three hours.
Two waiters in the bar Anne went to, room a shine to her and were chatting away to us. We moved on to strawberry daiquiris and lost count how many we had. The waiters topped ours up with rum, and we were given a free one to share.
The atmosphere was fantastic! We watched the sun go down, while listening to a band in a nearby restaurant, and I practiced my salsa moves outside the bar on the cobbled street. We laughed so much, simply sat on the steps.
When I was posing for pictures in the square, one of the waiters caught me off guard by making a funny face, in which I spat out my drink again! This time the crowd was more than a few people and everyone nearby joined in laughing.
Joyce from our tour group found us, and joined us for a daiquiri. This was going to be our last… intending to get some dinner around 6ish, the time was gone 7pm. But then we saw Christine, Brian, Nicky and Dave. Christine had shared the news that her and Brian have a new baby granddaughter, and so Brian brought a round of strawberry daiquiris to wet the baby’s head. Oh my days.
The last daiquiri totally pushed us over the edge. We went off to have dinner but it was an absolute disaster. Anne was too drunk to eat hers, and unfortunately when I got back to the room I was sick and brought it all up! We were both tucked up trying to sleep it off all before 9pm.
I woke up again during the night, when I was sick again, but after that I was completely fine and woke up feeling ever so slightly sore in the head. Anne was absolutely hanging and the story of us – the two who goes to bed early every night – had got absolutely wasted. No regrets though, it was so so fun!
It only dawned on me that following morning that or strawberry daiquiris probably had alcoholic strawberry liquor in it. Which would’ve hit us even more! We probably had about 12 shots of rum each, at the very least, within four hours. Oops!
Prior to this I had so much Cuban currency left, I wasn’t sure what I would do with it. But a day of shopping plus drinks meant I ended up having to count every penny for when I returned to Havana. Despite this, it was the best day of the trip so far. We felt like we were on holiday and not roughing it from town to town.
Trinidad was my favourite place, and I think I easily could’ve enjoyed a few more days there. I didn’t get to explore the cave night club, or go for walks along the entire beach. The buildings were pretty and the food pretty tasty (for me anyway). I loved seeing horses and carts meander around the cobbled streets, and lots of men carrying cages with the odd bird or two inside. Plus massages for next to nothing. Thanks for the memories, Trinidad!