Tarsands Oil refinery, Canada
Tarsands Oil refinery, Canada
  • Sancti Spiritus - The streets are cobbled with gold
    • 16/05/2016
TRINIDAD
Took the Transtur bus which was fairly new and air conditioned. It was still an anxious hour late - i haven't quite relaxed into island time yet.
The motorways are interesting, 3 empty lanes with traffic swerving all over to avoid bumps, potholes, tractors, and people riding horses towards traffic.
The bus pulls a u-turn through the central reservation to get to a service station, where the first thing to greet you is a bar selling pina coladas!

Arriving in Trinidad i had been told to expect someone to greet me, but it didn't happen - instead i was besieged by several other casa owners gesticulating, pleading, claiming their daughters spoke perfect english etc.
After a few minutes i gave up and got a rickshaw taxi to the address of the casa i had reserved.
Like many houses in Trinidad, a large, high ceiling front room with flat screen TV, giving way to a courtyard containing patio furniture and fruit trees, with bedrooms off to the sides.
Seeing this really drives home the huge gap between the affluence of Cubans working with tourists, earning hundreds of dollars a day, and those who work for the state and get by on 30CUC per month...

Here i met Andrea, an Italian living in Australia. He was living as much like a local as possible due to complication with Australian bank cards not working, and took me along to a restaurant away from the tourist beat, where the meal and beer came to 3CUC (£2)
This would still be considered a treat for the average (not working with tourists) Cuban.

Trinidad is an UNESCO world heritage site, and it is indeed beautiful. The cobbled streets and brightly painted houses are picturesque, with the town nestling between jungle covered hills, plantations and the coast.
It was built on the wealth of sugar cane plantations and the industry of slave labour.

Whilst beautiful, it is however a tourist honey pot, with tour groups of germans everywhere. (well not too many but still).
Ahead of me in one street, a group of 20 were filming and photographing something round the corner - it must be something amazing i thought, and hurried to see... turned out to be a couple of dogs going at it! Really one for the holiday slideshow?

Next day i took the rather decrepit tourist train out to the Valle de los Ingenios (valley of the engineers) - the line being quite a feat of construction and a surprise to see still operating at all.
Every evening there was music and salsa dancing in the main plaza.
I have to admit that after 5 minutes salsa and soca music does my head in.

That evening i managed to communicate with the casa owner that i wanted to go on a tour in the jungle, and so next day i found myself with two Czech tourists and a spanish guide, William, who had originally come over for a holiday and ended up marrying a Cuban woman.
He took us up into the hills used by Che Guevara during the revolution and later by CIA backed counter revolutionaries, but we were there to visit a traditional and still operational coffee plantation, tucked away in the jungle and overseen by two ageing blokes living in a wooden shack, surrounded by pigs and chickens.
A dead dog strung up over the entrance was not the most welcoming introduction, but our hosts were friendly enough.
I tried coffee for the first time. No surprises though as i didn't like it.

On the hike back we stopped to swim in natural pools under a little waterfall - there are more spectacular locations in the national parks nearby, but we had this to ourselves rather than being surrounded by bus loads of german tourists!

In the evening i met up with Maarten again and we had a rather more expensive dinner at a place recommended to him by another tourist...
Later whilst chatting in the plaza, a cuban guy introduces himself as wanting to practice his english - his profession is a chess player / tutor, and he hoped to "earn his freedom" from Cuba by ranking up to the level of Grand Master so he would be invited to international tournaments.

Next day - taxi collectivo to Vinales.
Shared taxi taking 6 hours instead of 9, all good. I was sharing the first stage with an Isreali lad taking a break after finishing national service - we talked football for about an hour until the first service station stop, when i got out and had pins and needles in my right leg -
Only the numbness has still not gone away 10 days later. I'm due to see the fracture clinic this week!?!


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