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CUBA     DIARY 3 

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 From Diary 2 we now finish the round trip.
18.
We've reached the part of Cuba where there are hardly any tourists. Over the next 4 days, 3 out of 4 tourist cars greet me, I don't think the 4th saw us! In Cuba there are many types of license plates, in addition to colour differences, it is also in lower case letters what it is for a type. There was only one that was rarer than tourist, it was military. You just don't see that in Cuba.

We drive off a road which on the map is marked as a broad highway. It is wide all right, but it is not asphalted. Wherever you see a sign "Road under construction" in Cuba, you should consider writing "Bridge under destruction". It is also seen elsewhere that one is missing a sponsor. You try to maintain the facade, but it can pinch a bit, not least with it behind.

After 150 Km we are approaching Santiego. Along the way, we buy some yellow bananas at the roadside. The greens we bought in Holguin are still totally inedible. When you open it, the juice almost sprays out. Lesson learned from past experience, we start by finding a hotel while it's daylight. We succeed, and we take it to its neighbour: Casa Morro, which is an impressive fort from 1663. All the buildings are intact and there is also some interior. It was designed by an Italian engineer in 1576, but was first erected by the Spaniards some 100 years later, to protect the bay from pirates.

The last part of the day, Jesper and I spend planning the next day's 3D sightseeing. After getting it in place, we walk around the hotel's large facilities. We find a staircase leading down to the water. 250 steps down, we have passed countless crabs and reptiles. There are some small, very flimsy brown anoles that I do not know. There is a great view from the cliff face, but it is getting dark, so we head up again. Back in the room to pick up rum and cigars, and down to a sea-facing terrace to enjoy the moon's reflections in the Caribbean Sea far below us.

19. Yesterday's planning is a success, we drive straight down into Cuba's second largest city, pass through poor and rich neighbourhoods, a large factory, drive all the way out to the water, and come straight to a cigar factory. We see how they separate the dried leaves. With a single grip, the stem is removed from leaves by rolling it around the wrist. The inside is rolled, shaped and a cover sheet is glued, which is glued with rice paste. As we have seen, and not least bought (black exchange) cigars, we continue to the city's central square, where Cuba's oldest standing house is located.

We find a space just around the corner and enter. It is an unusually well-preserved governor residence of 1522 (Columbus "discovered" Cuba 1492). The ceilings are the original cedar works, the floors are of the old yellow and red clay tiles. Furniture, on the other hand, is "new". The bedroom is from one time, and also represents the country that held power at that time. Each living room is its century and country. Very tasteful. The walls are freshly painted, but then they are a copy of the original "cheat panels". They are preserved in some places so that you can see the extent of the restoration. An incredibly fascinating house, with its original atmosphere.

When we get back to the car, it has got a much needed wash. An old man stands and finishes his work, lighting up a big laugh as he gets a dollar. Why don't we have some like this at home? We drive around the square, down past the harbour, get a cup of coffee down at the new station, and end at the original Bacardi factory. The Bacardi family took themselves and their patent to the United States during the Revolution, but the factory is still working. Recently, the manager has decided that it should end with visitors, only the shop is open, and what does it appeal to us?

We continue to the town's ZOO, where we park in a small empty parking lot. That means; it is not completely empty. There is a school class and when we come back the car is totally over-greased with little fingers and noses. The most modern cars they usually see are Moskovites from the 1970s.

Inside, the zoo is a quirky mix of far too small and just cages for monkeys, for very large plants. A brown bear has really good space in green. It's just evident that it has grown up in a very small cage. Small circles in the corners show its size. A cage contains a bunch of black animals that I do not know. They resemble most of all red pandas, Latin name: Arctitis binturong, Malaysia. (Looking up the library reveals that they used to belong to the half-bears, but now they belong to the squirrels?, which, however, they differ pretty much with their heavy bodies, grappling tails, diet plan (omnivorous) and their behaviour). We see several of the local unique animals. Small birds, snakes, mammals and reptiles.

The temperature rises, and after a hearty banana / biscuit meal, we drive the old people back to the hotel, where they explore the rocks down to the sea. We continue, first beyond the plain, then up into the mountains, where we pass a place where a cow is broken out of the fold. A bunch of cowboys have caught and tied it and are now pulling it under the barbed wire, into the fold. We stop many times to enjoy the view, somewhere we find some completely black anoles, the size of green. The strap bag is white.

In a clearing by the road is a wooden house with palm-leaf roof. It doesn't really differ from those in the cities, they are just closer. It's easy to imagine the scene 400 years ago. Nothing has changed out here.
The epiphytes dominate some trees in totally. There can be 10 species in a single tree. We try a small trail which has certainly not benefited from the rain of the last 100 years. After 5-10 Km, Jesper thinks it's time to turn around. The car has a pretty hard time getting uphill. We stop several times on the way down, one place to dig up a tarantula, another to dig up a draft fern. It is the oldest tree species to be found, and it will look great in my windowsill. Evening spend with rum and cigars.

20. Up on the mountain again, breaks along the way, but the haze robs us of the best views. We get a cup of coffee near the top, and Jesper and I head up the 459 steps to the top, 1214 meters above sea level. On the way up, we see small birds, countless species of ferns and epiphytes, each crack of the trail revealing its unique composition of temperate rainforest nature, probably the most exciting as species richness reaches right down to earth, as opposed to "real" primeval forest.

The top itself is made up of an almost exposed, egg-shaped rock. It is 51 m long and weighs 65,000 tons. From the top there are reportedly clear views of Haiti and Jamaica. On the way down, I am almost ploughed down by a hummingbird. It is swirling around us and I get some good photos - of the bushes it was just in front! We can spend all day on this summit, but we must go down to the old ones.

We drive a few hundred meters down the mountain and come to the Garden of Eden, a botanical garden. The gardener and my mother wander around with Latin names, we others enjoy the many exotic flowers and plants in the company of a bunch of hummingbirds.
We detach ourselves and come to Camagüy at the dawn of darkness. Something goes "wrong" when we check in, so we get the rooms at a single room rate. The money is shown to them at supper. Speaking of food; Breakfast consists of fruit, eggs, omelette, maybe ham / bacon, pancakes with syrup, bread and cakes. Lunch and dinner are buffet style. First fruit, then cold pasta with meat / vegetables. Then chicken and maybe pork chunks that are deep fried. Sometimes supplemented with beef. The dessert is very beautifully decorated cakes. Delicious food, but you think of the locals mainly getting rice and beans.

21. Further "back home" towards the seaside resort of Varadero, where we should have lived all week. We stop in a botanical park at the Bay of Pigs. They have, among other things, 280 species of palm trees, but we must just see their greenhouse with cacti from America, Cuba and the East. Exciting, but we still have a long way to go.

Along the way, it pulls up to the thunder. We just reach a freeway cafe as it breaks loose. Visibility: 20 m, but only when sitting quietly under a roof. Get some delicious sandwiches, and continue as it pays off.
We put the old ones off with the luggage and drive out with the car. We should have actually delivered it at. 10.00, but got it extended to 17.00, now it is 18.45, but as the man gets a story of the weather we do not have to pay more. Back to the hotel for bath and pizza, and looked to find some souvenirs for René and Morten. We see a couple of good motifs to be taken the next day.

22. We need to check out at. 12:00, but will only be picked up at 15.25. We pass the key at 10.30 and head out into town to find the city's oldest house (find it, but it looks quite like the others). There is also a Native American Art Museum, but they just close before we arrive. It is teeming with one great American cruiser after another. Also trucks and pick-up trucks are mainly the old Americans.
Back at the hotel, totally sweated. A bath would be nice before the return trip, and of course my mom bribed the chambermaid, so we have a room until 1 p.m. 15.00. A much needed bath, and watched the long clothes, down in the coffee lobby, out at the airport. We get the wait to go buy a visa. When we checked into Varadeo a week ago, Jesper handed in my visa along with his passport. When I picked them up later in the evening, it was missing. We thought it was his and got a little strained when they couldn't find it. When Jesper mentions it to the guide she says "Then you can't come out!" Thanks for the help. Well, according to the guidebook, a new one can be purchased at the airport. Jesper does so (for the guide's personal money), as I then try to leave the country it does not work; my name is not Pedersen! Oops, I give Jesper his original visa, find the office, and say I would like to have changed the name of the visa. It works, but the passport controller is sceptical and takes a long time to verify.

We hear a Swedish story about dolphin swimming, a Norwegian about a beach holiday, get a couple of sandwiches, and storms on board. I sit down on the seat that was empty during the flight down. Others sit down, but get lost; people who have ordered non-smoking must sit and smoke. The steward is wise enough not to say that to me.

23. We land at 11 am in CPH, waiting for an eternity on the suitcases (why do people have such ones?!), and being in Roskilde an hour before I go to work. I'm a little tired, when I close in the morning.

Price: DKK 12,500 - well spend!

Diary 1 2 3  Map + Plan  Photos