Feb 28

Central Cuba Cities (Destination: Trinidad and Cienfuegos)

Traveled Nov, 2016

I was sad to leave Vinales but we had reservations for the bus and a casa in Trinidad.  We boarded our bus at 7:00 and were excited when we left at 7:05 – nearly on time so we exclaimed “Yay!”  We road thru the countryside and were nearly to the highway when the bus driver pulled over to take a phone call.  He was on the phone for over 5 minutes as the passengers were getting restless and asking what was going on.  Finally the bus attendant told us in English – they forgot 2 people in Vinales and we were going to drive back to get them.  Why they just didn’t have a smaller car pick them up and then meet up with us at the first bathroom stop I’ll never know but I guess they don’t care about the cost of all that gas to backtrack.  In all, we lost about 2 hours on this fiasco.  Other than this, the day was pretty uneventful.  The scenery wasn’t particularly interesting.  We stopped for lunch at some roadside stop with an overpriced restaurant, shops, and a really sorry zoo.

We arrived in Trinidad in late afternoon and rushed to the casa so we could drop our bags and take advantage of the little bit of sunlight left.  There was smoke and ash falling all over the city – farmers were burning their pastures on the hill to the east of town.  There was nice light in the central square so I took lots of photos.

We paid $1 to go to the top of the convent with amazing views from the tallest building in Trinidad.  We could distinctively hear the roar of the fire from here.  The first floor of the convent contained memorbilia of the fighters, including Che Guevara’s hammock.

We had dinner at the casa, that was very bland but we got to talk a lot with the owner.  He had previously been a computer programmer but now he stays home to run the casa as he’s the only one in the house that knows English.

The next day we had a great breakfast

and then headed to the train station for the daily tourist train only to find out it wasn’t running.  Next we tried to buy bus tickets to Cienfuegos in two days time but both of the bus companies were totally sold out of all tickets to any destination in the next 3 days!  After all these unsuccessful attempts this morning, we had wasted half the day.  We then decided to do our back up plan – visit the Parque el Cubano, a nature reserve outside of town.  The walk took much longer than I had thought but it turned out for the better.  Large busses were leaving as we were arriving so the park was relatively empty for our visit. The trails in the park were not challenging.  They criss-crossed a stream and took us by a cabin manned by an old man.  He served us some herbal tea and I tried to talk to him in my broken Spanish.  He had relatives in Tennessee.  Many of the people we talked to had relatives in the states.  There were several swimming spots and we saw some small wildlife – lizards with naturally curly tails and 100’s of wasp nests (say that 10 times fast).  The main attraction of this park was a beautiful waterfall with a gorgeous swimming pool at the base.  The water was really cold as it streamed down from the mountains.

We walked back to town for dinner and then spent the evening at the Casa de la Musica, where there was band after band and cheap drinks.

Today we were able to catch the tourist train to the Valley de los Ingenios.  This was extremely touristic.  100% of the passengers were non-Cubans.  We had boarded early so we found a seat but then the buses and buses of people came and the train was standing room only.  Our first stop was an hour at the Iznaga tower, in a small town that was historically a sugar plantation.

We had some fresh squeezed sugar cane juice with a dash of lime that was refreshing on this sunny day.  About half of the passengers got back on busses in this village so there was now a seat for everyone for the rest of the day.  We stopped at the end of the line were a deserted sugar mill was converted into an open air museum.  We returned back in Trinidad for enough time to do a photography walking tour around the colonial city.  It was interesting to watch the locals activities.

Often doors were open so I peeked inside to see Santeria altars.  We made it to the Santeria Temple where we learned more about the religion.

That evening we attended a show that was members of several Grammy nominated groups, including the Buena Vista Social Club.  The $35 ticket got us our own table, some weird appetizers of olives, cheese, and cold cuts, and two drinks.  The quality of these musicians were great but the show was a little cheesy.  At one point they asked for people’s nationalities so they could play short song snips from those countries.  Then there was a conga line… Ugh the show would have been so much better without that cheese.

Our taxi to Cienfuegos wasn’t coming until 5pm so we had another day in Trinidad.  We visited the municipal museum that had this amazing view.

Cindy took a salsa dancing lesson and I sat at the Casa de la Musica to watch more live music.  Our taxi showed up a little late so we spend a bunch of time talking to our casa owner about politics, Cuba, and Airbnb.

Our taxi driver was a young guy with a 1980’s Renalt.  He had been driving since 6 am in the morning and was now on his way home to Cienfuegos.  We stopped just outside of town so he could spend a few minutes with his novia (girlfriend).  Our casa in Cienfuegos was kitty-corner to the main square – an amazing location and a beautiful building.  We headed to the Casa Prado restaurant tsuggested by our driver and had a great meal on the roof while listening to a 3 piece band.

We heard 1970’s and 80’s disco pumping from a Discoteque across the road.  I so wanted to dance but realized I was carrying everything – cash, passports, cameras so I didn’t want to stay out too late.  We stopped for ice cream at Coppelia.  It cost 3.5 CUP, or 14 cents for 5 small scopes of different flavors with a papaya topping.

We walked down the pedestrian shopping street and I did a shot of rum with some young men and we took some pictures together. The central park was a wifi zone so there were lots of young people doing their communication there.

Finally, we arrived at a dance club at 9:45 that was a half block from our casa but alas the music finished at 10pm as it was Sunday night.  Lots of missed opportunity this night but the nightlife in Cienfuegos had many more locals than any night spot I visited in the rest of Cuba.

We had nearly a full day in Cienfuegos before we were to catch a bus to Playa Larga so we made the most of it.  We walked all the way to the south to visit buildings with French and Moorish Architecture.

Lunch was another bowl of ice cream at Coppelia and then we spent quite a bit of time checking out the shops on the shopping street.  The shops are so weird.  There are glass cases like you see in department stores around the world but instead of jewelry, perfume, or electronics, these cases contained things like soap, toothbrushes, and hair ties.

We still had time to kill so I did something a little crazy and got a haircut.  I was hoping to get a trim but she chopped my hair off.  That being said, the cut eventually grew on me and it got rid of the frizzy ends.

We stopped at all of the historic buildings on the main square – the cathedral, the opera house, and the palace.  This is a great spot for Architecture buffs.

It was easy to spy on the cars from the roof of the palace.

We had an early dinner and then got a ride to the bus station.

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