Taking a bus from Trinidad to Santiago took some 13 hours so the whole day yesterday. My mum told me that the pre-organized tours they propose to tourists traveling to Cuba often don’t even include Santiago de Cuba because it is so far. Or if they do, the trip is made by plane. But I don’t mind, I liked sitting in the bus, writing, listening to music and talking with other passengers. The weather was sunny the whole day and we passed by many other cities such as Sancti Spiritus, Camagüay, Las Tunas, Holguin and Bayamo. The view from the bus window remained mostly the same all the time: fields, plantations, small villages. Horses, cows, goats. However, when approaching the south, it appeared to be somehow more modern but maybe it was just in my mind. Santiago de Cuba is the second biggest city and used to be the capital of Cuba for a short while in the 16th century. It is said to be the heart of traditional Cuban music and a combination of cultures from all around the Caribbean.
I love Trinidad, I’m already getting used to living here, and I could stay for longer. But now it’s time to go, today was my last day. S and H traveled to Camagüay (but I will meet them again in Santiago) and me and D spent a relaxing, little bit lazy day in Trinidad. The not-lazy part of our day was climbing up to Cerro de la Vigía, a view spot some 30 minutes walk from the old town. The weather was very hot but the view superb. We were supposed to take a train to Valle de los Ingenios, where we would have seen some sugar plantations, but someone slept too late (not me!). But that was fine, I think we saw basically all the same things from Cerro de la Vigía, just from higher up.
Lesson learnt yesterday and today: Just go with the flow, don't plan, do what you feel like doing. You'll be surprised about where it takes you. Yesterday I wondered what I should do to shake the sudden loneliness away, and decided to go out and see if something interesting was happening. And there was a lot happening in Trinidad last night. So has it been today the whole day. Now when I’m writing this I’m not lonely at all anymore, instead I have new friends. So that’s good news. :)
First whole day here in Trinidad and I am already falling in love with this place. The historical old town is listed as a Unesco world heritage site, for a reason. Walking in Trinidad takes you back to I don’t know what century but somewhere very far away in time. If you eliminated all the tourists with cameras and guidebooks (me included), this could be from a movie scene. Everything here is small and ancient. As I wrote yesterday, the streets are all cobblestone streets, like really. When you walk you constantly stumble from side to side and hit your toes somewhere (good training for my ankle), The streets are narrow and the sidewalks even tighter so you have to jump to the road when passing by people sitting on the porch in front of their house, and jump back to the sidewalk whenever there is a car, bici-taxi or horse carriage coming.
Houses are small as well, like doll houses not real ones, and of all the possible colors that with the sunlight look incredible beautiful.
Today I went to an excursion to El Nicho waterfalls. We saw beautiful landscapes, took a walk in the forest and went swimming in a natural pool, under the waterfall. I can't believe how much time I’ve spent outside in the nature since I left Europe, I’m always somewhere swimming or walking in the woods. That is very good after all these years of big town life! On our way there we stopped at a sightseeing spot and we could buy coffee. I didn’t but some of us did and we all got confused about the double currency. One Irish guy paid 1 CUC for his coffee. Right after a French girl asked if she could pay in pesos and she paid 1 peso. So the Irish guy paid 25 times more for his coffee! Go figure how it works...
Sunny weather today! In the morning I went to a travel agency to book a trip for tomorrow to El Nicho waterfalls and to the bus station to buy a ticket to Trinidad. Walking back home, I was listening to music and enjoying the sun. I stopped at the Malécon and I got this wonderful feeling: First of all, I felt relaxed and on holidays. Second, I must tell you, my Spanish has gotten so much better in only one week! I can feel it myself, it is amazing. Of course I can only talk about quite basic things like what I've done in Cuba or where I am traveling to, about my life back home in Paris and so on. Sometimes I get challenged like one time in Havana when someone wanted to discuss the refugee crisis in Europe and Marine le Pen politics, my vocabulary just wasn't enough... And I still make loooots of mistakes. But when I concentrate I can understand almost everything and actually have a conversation, like build complete sentences and use verbs in different tenses. If I keep getting better at this speed I'll be bilingual by next summer! Many exclamation points in this chapter, I’m just so excited about everything.
Day 28, Cienfuegos: Traveling in Cuba is easy, now holiday time with locals in this pretty little seaside town.
All went well with taking the bus this morning. But traveling here is not like in Jamaica, everything is organized, bureaucratic (seriously, so much paperwork just to take a bus!) and the busses leave on time. Tourists are supposed to travel with Viazul busses, although I have heard of people who have managed to get on a “local” bus. An option for a bus is to take a “taxi colectivo” which means sharing a taxi with other people going to the same city. There are always taxis waiting in front of the Viazul stations and they leave when they have enough passengers. The price should be about the same than for a bus. Since I’m alone it is easier for me to take a bus instead of waiting for a taxi to be full but for a group of 3 or 4 people it is a good solution.
Cienfuegos is smaller town, by the sea and a bit more in the south. There is also a Malécon (boulevard by the sea) and a Paseo del Prado (central promenade), like in Havana. Here people live in houses, not in apartments.
Yesterday I was exhausted after a long night and lots of dancing at the Casa de la Musica. I slept late and then only went for short walk in Centro Habana (why is the weather so bad all the time??). In the evening I had food and a drink at a very nice little bar called El Chanchullero. I really liked the food (chicken with vegetables), it was a little bit different from the usual and very tasty. The cocktail was good as well and cost only 2CUC ! I was alone so I was seated at the bar, in front of the cooking area. I could observe chefs prepare the meals and the bartender mix drinks, that was interesting. Many of them were young, quite handsome men and every now and then they would stop to chat with me for a minute. :) The ambience was cozy and casual, and great music, I totally recommend! After that, I wanted to go dancing again but I wasn’t sure where. I assumed that if I sit down for a drink on a terrace in Habana Vieja, someone will surely come talk to me and I can ask if they know a good place where the locals go. My plan worked out perfectly, I met two friendly local guys who took me to a night club called la Gruta. The music was a mix of salsa and reggeaton and, as always, the Cuban guys were very eager to teach me how to dance. It doesn’t bother me because they really know how to move and I like dancing. But as soon as they show interest in more than just dancing I find an excuse to go and disappear (because so far I haven’t found any Cubans I would be interested in).
I went for a walk at the Malécon last night, it was pretty! In a way it reminded me of Paris and walking along the Seine. People sitting and chatting, some playing guitar. It was a little bit cold but in the summer I guess it is packed with people and maybe they even picnic like in Paris. Watching a sunset by the water is one of the best things I know and that’s what I did. I also run again into the guitar guy from the other day, he was there playing with some friends. It was nice to sit for a while with them, listening them play and singing along.
Day 24, Havana: Strolling around in Habana Vieja, surrounded by colourful houses and cars, museums and Cuban rhythms.
It is my second whole day in Havana and while writing this I am sitting at the 6th floor rooftop terrace bar at Hotel Ambos Mundos, sipping a Virgin Piña Colada and admiring the panoramic view over the city. This is a hotel where Hemingway used to stay, after I finish I will go take a look at his room. The Piña Colada really comes inside a piña and here’s some pictures of the view:
I'm Emilia, Finnish-Parisian, a recent Master's graduate. I'm currently traveling around the Caribbean and on a volunteering mission in Colombia. I'm passionate about writing, music and different kinds of sports. I can't wait to discover new places and cultures - and share my adventures with you!