On Saturday I had to kiss Chuba goodbye and leave the beautiful Viñales region. In Santiago I told S and H that I would try some other transportation mode than Viazul bus when coming back from Viñales. I kept my promise and shared a taxi colectivo with a French couple, a German man and two local ladies. The car was from 1965 (and looked and felt like that) but the trip went well and I got a ride until my casa, where Señora J was waiting for me. She said that my Spanish has improved a lot! That when I came to Cuba I didn’t speak much but now I’m talking all the time. So it’s not only my imagination. :)
As I told you already, Viñales is small and there is not much to do here except for walking back and forth on the main street. If Trinidad had a certain old town charm, Viñales is just a tiny village in the countryside. That’s a bit too much for me, I would go crazy if I had to live here. But for a few days this is perfect. Even if Viñales is very touristic (every house in the “center” has a casa particular –sign) the ambiance in this town still feels authentic and the locals seem to be very attached to their culture and traditions. And even if Viñales is just a minuscule agricultural village, the region is said to be among the most beautiful in Cuba and there are heaps of places to see and things to do a bit further away: caves, tobacco and coffee plantations, beaches, natural lakes and pools... Everything is around the Viñales valley where the landscapes are simply amazing.
This trip to Cuba is soon coming to an end, in just a few days I will be on plane flying to my new home town, Cartagena. That also means the start of my new job and new everyday routines, and the end of two and a half months of active holidays. My last stop in Cuba before heading back to Havana is in the Pinar del Rio region, far in the west. My base from where I will be exploring the surroundings is in the tiny little town of Viñales. From what I already saw from the bus, this part of Cuba looks very different from the other cities where I have been. If I had to describe the landscapes in one word, I would say green. Everything is green, I have never seen this much green fields and forests anywhere. There are also mountains and valleys, as well as caves and tobacco plantations to visit. No big cities, nothing special to do, just nature. A perfect place to take a rest before starting my new life
Today S and H left early for Baracoa (I hesitated to go as well but finally decided to spend more time in the Pinar del Rio region where I’m heading next) so I woke up as well and had breakfast with them. I then went for a long walk around the city, before the sun was too hot. A saw a residential quartier called Tivoli, famous steps Escalier Padre Pico, and some everyday life of the inhabitants of Santiago. A big town chaos, shops opening, people going to school and work.
Before you start reading, I must tell you that today has been one of my absolute favorite days so far during my travels, and a perfect example of how fascinating traveling alone and randomly meeting new people can be.
I decided to choose one thing to do outside the city and thus took a boat to Cayo Granma, a nearby island. Getting there was not easy but with a lot of patience (that I don’t have) I made it. There are ferries that leave from different places, the challenge is to know when and from where. I first went to the Malécon but I would have had to wait for two hours so I decided to try my luck at a close-by town called Ciudamar. I figured I was in no hurry so I refused to take a taxi (even if I was offered one about thousand times) and instead decided to travel as a local. A bici-taxi wanted to take me to a bus stop for 1CUC so I accepted and started with that. The bus stop was not called a bus stop but a “transportation point” because you can take all kinds of transportation there: bus, truck, taxi, horse carriage... I asked the people who were waiting there, and soon understood how it works. Whenever a transportation, any kind, comes and stops, you ask where it goes and you hop on. After at least 30 minutes of waiting (and asking each time something passed by) a truck finally arrived, with destination Ciudamar.
It looked like this:
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...
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!