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. :)
So last night I went out, I looked first into two bars that were recommended in my guide book but they were both almost empty so I decided to walk towards the central square, Plaza Mayor, where I had seen people hang out the previous night. On my way there, a bar tender from one nearby bar came to talk to me and insisted in offering me a mojito. I said I didn’t like mojitos so he said I could have a piña colada instead. I finally accepted his offer and stayed at the bar for a while. I chatted with one younger guy from the Czech Republic who was traveling with his mum, and out with his casa particular host, a little bit older Cuban man. It was a cozy little bar, there were not enough chairs for everyone so these two guys where seated in an old bathtub, covered with pillows, that was in the middle of the room. I should have taken a picture, it looked so funny. After my drink I left the bar and walked to Plaza Mayor as my plan was. There I stopped to listen to some musicians play and a couple of minutes later a girl came to ask me if I was alone. Turned out she was from California, living in Mexico, and also traveling alone. I started chatting with this girl, J, and right after I heard someone call my name. That was two Dutch girls, H and S, that I met three days ago in Cienfuegos. I was finishing my lunch when they came to sit at my table and we talked for a while, before going separate ways.
In Cuba it is exactly like in Jamaica, I bump into same people all the time. Like in Jamaica, all the tourists are doing more or less the same tour around the island so we keep following each other. The only difference is that we don’t stay in hostels like in Jamaica so it is harder to meet other travelers. Apart from tourists, I also tend to see the same locals all the time, like for example the guitar guy in Havana I told you about. In Cienfuegos there was one Cuban woman who I happened to see three times in different places. And then there is this one man, a salsa teacher, who stopped me on the street on my first day in Cienfuegos. He was just being nice I guess but somehow I didn’t like him. He invited me to his house for dinner but didn’t feel like going. Then he said that he would be traveling to Trinidad the same day that I was and asked if I wanted to share a taxi to get there. I said I preferred to take the bus. Then he wanted me to book a room at his friend’s place in Trinidad and he even called them to check that there were free rooms. I said I would think about, hoping that I would not see him again. Of course later that day I bumped into him again and he asked if I wanted to go to a salsa club with him later that night. Again I said I would think about it, but I didn’t go because I was tired. Luckily I didn’t see him in Cienfuegos anymore but then of course, two days later when I get out from the bus in Trinidad, guess what: there he stands waiting for me. Of course I was not going to stay at his friend’s place because my wonderful host from Cienfuegos, J-L, had arranged me to stay with K and B, and then with abuela C. So he was a little bit annoyed, I apologized and hoped that I would not see him anymore. But no luck with that, Trinidad is a very small town and he is everywhere. At a bar yesterday, walking on my street today....
So anyway, I was happy to spontaneously meet the girls and we all went to a salsa bar because J wanted to dance. Another acquaintance of S and H also joined us for a while and overall it was a very fun night. And we danced for a long time, it was so much fun. I just love dancing here because the music is good and because the Cubans really know how to move! The same can not be said about us, with S and H we laughed so hard at ourselves, we must look very stupid when trying to dance salsa. But it was fun and that’s all that counts.
This morning, even if I was tired after all the dancing yesterday, I woke up early because I wanted to go to a nearby beach. My guidebook (also known as my bible) said that biking to the beach (20km) and back is a nice day-trip and that there are some small villages where to stop on the way. I had asked my first host K about the bike renting and she said I could borrow her bike. Like promised, the bike was waiting for me this morning in front of C’s house. As I said, everything in Trinidad is like from a couple of decades ago and bicycles are no exception. I wasn’t surprised about how old and in bad condition K’s bike was but the handlebar was so low compared to the saddle that I just couldn’t imagine biking 40 kilometers with that. I was afraid I would trill over at the first downhill. C, friendly as always, then went to ask her neighbor for another bike and I got this:
Biking was finally surprisingly ok and with sunshine and a light summer breeze I really enjoyed the trip to Playa Ancon. I took some pictures on the way.
20 km with an old bike, in the heat, was a good exercise, even if at some point it felt never-ending. It made me think about our biking in China last spring with my friends M and X. We were in Yangshuo, a small town in the countryside near Guilin, in southern China. We rented bikes and biked by a river, through villages and in a forest. We had a map and we had chosen beforehand the tour we would make. We were in no hurry, we enjoyed biking, hot summer weather and beautiful landscapes. When we arrived almost to the end of our tour, we were supposed to cross a bridge and then be back where we started from. Except that the bridge we saw on the map didn’t exist anymore and we found ourselves facing the river. On the other side there were two men with bamboo boats who offered to take us and our bikes to the other side, one by one. But, as they saw that we didn’t really have any other choice, they asked us for a lot of money. We thought about it for a while but then decided that it was not nice of them, they could have just helped us for free or for a small tip. So we said no thanks and started biking all the way back. But we hadn’t realized how far we actually were, or that it would soon get dark. So we biked at a crazy speed so that we would get out of the forest before sunset, and so that we wouldn’t miss our bus back to Guilin. You can only imagine how exhausted we were when we were finally sitting in the bus! Here’s some memories from that trip, it’s not the Caribbean but it looks as pretty as here.
Back to the Caribbean. Playa Ancon is said to be the prettiest beach in Southern Cuba, and I think it was very nice. The sand is white and soft and the water clear and warm so no complaints. I haven’t been but I don’t think it can be compared with the marvelous beach resorts in Northern Cuba, like in Varadero or Cayo Guillermo, but since I don’t have the time nor the money to do everything, Playa Ancon would have to do. Besides, even if there are some hotels there, it still is a lot more undisturbed and less touristic than how it would be in the north.
I tried to take a selfie in the sea but it was a bit complicated. :)
I had planned to stay at Playa Ancon only for a while and then bike to a nearby town called Casilda, before heading back home. However, when planning to leave, I decided to go to swim one more time. And well, then I stayed and never made it to Casilda (but that’s a reason to come back one day! ;)) While swimming I met an Argentinian guy, D, who was also alone on the beach. He is traveling here for a while and will then attend a movie/film-making course for three weeks in a town near Havana, called San Antonio de los Baños (I love the name!) We started talking, got along very well and went for drinks. Drinks turned into a long walk to the other side of the beach, to another drink and to sitting in the sand until almost sunset. Even if D speaks very good English, I also practiced my Spanish a lot and I’m very proud of myself (I’m vanidosa, would D say, sorry inside jokes). I also learned a lot about Argentina (I’m already planning a trip to Buenos Aires!) and about the Spanish spoken if different South and Latin American countries. It reassures me to know that even D doesn’t always understand the Cuban Spanish because it is so different from the Argentinian, I guess it is ok that I’m sometimes (often) completely lost. It was very easy being with D, it didn’t feel like we only just met. Time flew by and I think we both spent a very enjoyable day. You know, sometimes it just happens that you meet someone you instantly like and you are having so much fun that you wish the day would never end. That’s how I felt today with D. This is the only picture I took but I think it sums up pretty well our afternoon.
Now you may wonder what happened to my biking back to Trinidad. Well, it was so late when we finally decided to go that all three of us (me, D and my bike) took a taxi. When I arrived to my casa, C asked me how it went with the bike and I said that everything was perfect, but “this is a secret then, I took a taxi back home”. She was like haha I knew you would and no no I won’t say anything. But when we brought the bike back to her neighbor she amused told everyone that I had given up half way through. Thanks C!
I quickly took a shower and changed and then went out again with D, plus my new Dutch friends H and S. Again it was such a pleasant evening: food, drinks, music, talking, walking around, and all the time randomly running into people someone had already met somewhere.
Cubans are creative what it comes to making money. We saw a place that was at the same time a casa particular, art gallery, small convenient store and bar. I don't know why in this picture you can only see the bar...
Overall, the pictures I have from that night just make me smile and think about how fun it was:
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!