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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are more adventures in Diary 3