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 From Diary 1 we head on.
12. Today's first stop will be a coffee shop with a small zoo. Local animals, including tree rats and Santa Maria snakes, both of which are unique to Cuba. We continue through a huge citrus plantation, and are told they are exporting to Israel!

We should have spent the night in a former Native American village, which consists of pole-huts far out in a swamp, but because of the rain of the last weeks, it is not possible. However, this does not prevent us from visiting the city. 20 minutes by a large motor boat and we are among a lot of small islands. Fascinating, but an hour is enough to see the area.

Sails back, and drives to a crocodile farm. It seems that the main nutrition of the overweight crocks is some giant crabs, which are also found in the area. The next stop is in 3 minutes, at a working sugar mill, we are 3-4 people standing and photographing, and then we drive out to our motel. It is located in the Bay of Pigs, right by the water.

After some hassle, we get rented snorkel gear, and see corals, fish and not least; giant sea urchins, maybe 30-40 cm in diameter. The area around the cabins is totally pierced by some 5 cm large crabs with black shield and orange legs. Unfortunately, they do not stick to their caves; I find a big guy in my shoe in the morning. In addition to the black / orange crabs, there are waving-, shadow-, hermit-, and giant crabs in the area.

13. After a walk on the beach, we get into the bus's air conditioning. The first stop is an old sugar cane plantation whose large watchtower (25 m) is the landmark of Trinidad. It goes out through lush hills to another wooden tower that overlooks most of the Bay of Pigs.

It is time for lunch, which is taken in an unusually beautiful and well-kept Moorish castle. Another tower, up and photographing a typical contrast image of old cabin and new hotel. There are others who photograph: When Cuban girls turn 15-16, they get a lavish dress, and are photographed in beautiful surroundings. After all, they are not (particularly) religious, so there is no form of confirmation. As we eat, we see the girl walking around and posing.

As we come out and look up, we see frigate birds, which are very distinctive with their narrow wings and long thin tails. (It's the one with the big bloated, red throat). Jesper finds a blue-headed anole male, slightly larger than a green anole, and but a clear blue front body.

We drive to Trinidad, where we stay in a hotel on the hilltop, with great views of the city. Jesper and I go down to town. In fact, it has not changed in 60-100 years. There are topped cobblestones, old dilapidated houses, lots of people and a relaxed atmosphere. We walk for hours, and see most of the city. In the evenings, we enjoy limited quantities of rum and cigars. I had found some "Delerios" cigars earlier in the day, and Jesper found Cuba's best rum: Havanna Club 7 years.

14. Today's organized tour goes down to Trinidad. I just can't stay awake, so after watching "The Romantic House" (furniture from the last century), I go back to the hotel and sleep for 4 hours.
The hotel advertises, among other things, horse riding, but seems completely stunned, when we order horses. However, we succeed, and we descend through Trinidad's winding streets on horseback. On the other side of town, the landscape becomes even more hilly. A steam locomotive pulls its wagons through the hills, the birds swarm around our heads, and life is beautiful. We reach a 4-5 meter wide river, which we more or less successfully cross several times, until we take a break, feeding ourselves and the horses with mangoes. We continue along the river and reach a 4-5 meter high waterfall. A lively climb brings us down to the pool in front of the falls where bathing. There is real cold!

We turn around and are again deeply captivated by the incredible nature of the area. It's so lush that there are epiphytes on the telephone lines, out in the open! After 3 hours of riding, and an experience of a lifetime, we are back at the hotel, which should have $ 10 per horse.

15. We head "home" towards Varadero, making only a few stops. In the back yard of a gas station, I see a adder's head. I lift the iron plate underneath it, and for a fraction of a second I see its 1 meter long body. The giant crabs are doing better. They are fairly confident with their 30 cm leg span and 7 cm large claw shaft. The curly tail iguanas do not hide, they just keep a safety distance of 2 metres.

We get to Varadero, an old town on a 10 Km long headland, which has been attacked by many new hotels. We have to live in an old and run down one, right in the middle of the old town. Jesper and I go for a walk around town. There is 1st Avenue, the beach road and a lot of Calle´s. The sandy beach is perfect, the sea incredibly turquoise / blue. Despite all the hotels further out on the peninsula, there is very little tourist grab. We are surprised by a sudden thunderstorm, and seek refuge in a fine Italian restaurant that has a good coffee. We are trying to find the Tuxpan hotel, where we will pick up our rented car tomorrow, but it is even further out.

We head back to our Belamar hotel. The field of sulphur oxides stinks from the burning gas of the oil extraction areas. The locals keep partying most of the night, so we easily persuade each other to start another tour, this time in the lower 2/3 of the Cuba island. After a pizza, we start planning the next week's tour.

Now the real adventures start: We get the mob shaken off, get hold of a car and races out through the sugar fields.

16.Taxi to Tuxpan, where we are told; Jesper is the first to rent a car through the Internet. We get a Hyundai Lanzer that has driven 1300 Km. Back to the hotel to pick up the luggage and the old ones, and then down through Cuba. We pass lots of horse drawn carriages, ox carts, overloaded tractor and truck buses , cycling and walking. It goes through magnificent and fertile landscapes, huge cattle farms and sugar cane plantations, but we only stop to refill coffee and gasoline.
After 637 Km we are in Tunas where we find a reasonable hotel. The darkness falls early, but we reach a short walk in the area.

17. We continue to the southeast, stopping at a place where we come very close to a huge anole Anolis equestris. We need to find a bank and try in Holguin, which is a big city. Driving around downtown, looking. During the second round of "City Hall Square" I finally see a sign with Banko Nationale. Unfortunately, it is just the administrative headquarters of the province, but since one explains (in fluent Spanish) where there is a bank we can use, my mother just takes her by the arm and say "comes along". While Jesper and my mom are chasing money, my dad finds the car's ant door. Jesper has complained about a few strikers, but I hadn't really expected an entire living, in a wheel key, on a 14 day old car.

They've got a little cash, and we're ready for today's first "sight"; Holguin Organ Fabrique. It turns out they are not subcontractors to hospitals, but Cuba's only organ plant. In addition to renovating old mechanical organs, they produce 6 new ones a year, as well as guitars, furniture, trumpets, and what do I know. After a bit of driving back and forth, we are there. Everyone stops the work, and comes running. The 3x3x1.5 meter mechanical organs are impressive and it will not any less, as they start playing potpourrier with the Beatles, among others. It is loud, but the wooden whistles have a pleasant soft sound.

We finally get out of there and head towards a Native American Tomb Museum. Incidentally, finding your way in Cuba just isn't so easy. No road signs have been erected since the 1950s, and most letters are worn out. The few road signs which are left, and even with legible letters, point to cities that were important and great 50 years ago. It just doesn't mean they are featured on our new map. You might find out you are in it and that town, and you just have to get off the southbound road, but where the heck is the south? Between 12 and 15, there are absolutely no shadows, even of 15 m high telephone poles, when they are exceptionally vertical. Despite these obstacles, Jesper is doing amazingly well as a map reader and me as a driver.

We find the dirt road on which the tomb museum must lie. I see a sign with "museo or something", and throw the car down an even worse dirt road, which certainly has not benefited from the rain of the last days. We come to a museum, but not the right one. Now that we are here, we might as well drop the dollar and have a look. It is a memorial museum for some old warrior from some revolution, probably the first. There are plenty of informative posters, but only in Spanish. We say "Ihh, Jahh, Nåå and Wawh" and hurry on.

Back on the main (gravel) road we find the beautiful tomb museum. The skeletons with associated jewellery and sacrificial gifts are found on site and there is an English explanation. The tombs date from the years surrounding Columbus's "discovery" of Cuba. There is even a Spaniard between the Indians.
The area's favourite hedge plant is cowboy cactus. They can be 5 m high or cut with cuffs for neat, impenetrable hedges.
We continue south-east and find what should have been the night's resting place. Unfortunately, a 2.2 meter tall Jamaica Negro is a little too helpful so we move on. 35 Km really off-road while darkness falls. The next hotel has closed, another is now only taking Cubans, one is closed due to renovation, one too expensive, but finally there is one working. It is a semi-expensive but truly luxurious hotel, with very few Haiti bird lizards in the corridors. I think the curly tail iguanas keep them down!

There are more adventures in Diary 3





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