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...
And here's some pictures from beautiful El Nicho: (taken with my old iPhone cause I didn't want to bring my Lumia there)
This was a tour organized by an agency called Cubanacan, the price was ok and it was easy for me. Lunch was included so we had tasty food (though I’m getting a bit tired of chicken) and I met other people who are traveling alone. Our guide told us we should try either a mojito which is the best in the whole country, or a special drink called “natural”, that they only make in El Nicho. As I don’t like mint I chose the other one (but it was with mint as well) and others in my table took mojitos. I don’t know if they were the best ones in Cuba but both drinks were so strong that none of us could finish it. And no way we would swim anymore after that!
Our tour guide also explained some more about the Cuban culture, insecurities about the future and about not knowing who the next president will be. He also talked a lot about the money. For example, we all paid 35 CUC for the trip but the government takes basically all the money. He, as well as others working at El Nicho, only earn the average salary which is around 20 CUC per month. He said he could also work at a private agency and earn more but that they are often illegal so he could get in to trouble. Education and health care in Cuba are free but still people struggle because they simply don't have enough money to live. So they all have to do something on the side, like have a casa particular (although a big part of these earnings also goes as taxes to the state). Not all Cubans are strictly against the Americans coming and changing the economy because tourism creates jobs. But on the other hand, if the government controls all the foreign investment as they do now, the Cubans won’t get any money out of it. Also, the general mindset and opinion among the Cubans seems to be that they want to preserve their old and traditional country and culture. They don't want to build hotel complexes on every beach or have a Mc Donald’s or Starbucks in every corner. But really, for Cubans money is a real problem. That is why you need to tip everyone because that is their only real income. At the same time, as a tourist with a restricted budget, you get annoyed because you already pay a lot (for the government) for living and activities and then you have to tip everyone: waiters, tour guides, bathroom, cloakroom, photographer, musician… So in the end you end up giving as less as possible.
Back from El Nicho, I packed my things and took a bus to Trinidad, another small town around 2 hours away from Cienfuegos. A guy waving a paper with my name was waiting for me at the bus station and took me on a bici-taxi (a bicycle taxi) to my casa. That was quite a ride. I can already see that this is a very old town and the streets are clearly not made for anything else than horseback riding maybe. Of course my casa is uphill and I am sure that me and my heavy handbags weighted a little bit more than what the guy had expected when he accepted to pick me up. We were moving so slowly and and he was sweating so much that I really wanted to tell him not to bother. We would have gotten there a lot faster had we just walked. But I didn’t want to be rude so I let him bike and gave him some extra money when we finally got to my casa (it really wasn’t far). This time my hosts are a doctor couple, B and K, very friendly of course. But they told me I can only stay for one night, tomorrow I have to move to K’s mother, Senora C’s place.
Sitting in the bus tonight I was thinking about traveling on my own. Always when I meet new people I am asked if I am alone and why. I try to explain that I am not lonely, that I wanted to do this on my own and that I take it as an experience. Most of the time it really is ok, I like just walking around and I don’t mind talking for a while with people, Cubans or foreigners, when they want to. And today it was so nice to meet others who are in the same situation because they understand. However, after the couple of hours of activities and socializing in el Nicho I felt a little bit sad and lonely. It was great to meet new people but at the same time I know that it was only for today and that I will probably never see them again. I’m so tired of small talk, I miss having a real conversation with someone, and in some other language than Spanish. I miss spending time with my family, I miss chatting, gossiping and laughing with my friends. Simple things that I used to do all the time in Paris, like having my girlfriends over for wine and cheese, already seem so far away. But at the same time, thinking about it makes me happy because I have such good memories from these past years living in Paris, and because I know that my friends will always be there for me, wherever in the world I am or they are. Not having access to internet makes it feel even more strange, like being very very far away from the real life. In the bus I suddenly realized that I didn’t know what date or weekday it was. I don’t know why I started to think about it but I did and even if I tried to concentrate I still had no idea so I had to check from my agenda. I really have gotten to a holiday mode and that is good. Though maybe I should try to find internet somewhere tomorrow to see if I have missed something important while being disconnected...
I am going to go for a short walk now, so far this place looks very pretty!
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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!