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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Saluting Che....and a journey to Trinidad

CUBA | Saturday, 31 October 2009 | Views [1501]

Once I got off the Viazul bus filled mostly with well-heeled Cubans, jinteros immediately starting literally breathing down my back, saying "casa particular" over and over. Finally I turned around and got upset with one of the guys; it's annoying when they have to get all close to the point where I can barely move. Oh my God I was annoyed! The first time I got upset in Cuba (and it would ultimately be the only time). The owner of a casa whom the Dutch travellers I was chatting with had booked was there and we all took a taxi. I offered my share of the fare but they told me not to worry. The casa was full, so Rafael (the owner) called up another and they had space available. Rafael is, by Cuban standards, very well-travelled. He's been various places in Europe and has a brother living in Sweden. Rafael walked with me over to my casa where I immediately put my stuff away. What I really wanted was a delicious cup of coffee and something to eat, so I opted to get dinner. This casa particular is 15 CUC per night and dinner is 6 CUC. Santa Clara is a college town, so it has a high student population. Like last time, the owner had to take down my passport information. Ahhh, the cup of coffee felt so good! One thing I'll really miss when I leave Cuba is the coffee! For dinner I had chicken with a side of vegetables and rice and the whole nine yards. If I were staying in Santa Clara two nights I'd wrap up half of my food for tomorrow night but I'm going to hitchhike to Trinidad tomorrow. Two nice girls from Canada are staying here tonight as well, and one of them speaks excellent Spanish. Nicole, Diana and I chatted for a bit; they flew directly from Canada to Santa Clara, and the entry stamp looks a little bit different. As much as Cubans love domino and chess, they also love their pelota (baseball). Alfredo, the son of the casa owner, and his friend are on their way to watch the World Series at a friend's house. Right then I was about to go out, but not to watch baseball. I wanted a refreshing mojito and a game of chess with some locals, and I did just that. In four games of chess (en cuatro juegos de ajedrez) I got my ass kicked each time. Of all the countries I've been to, Iceland and Cuba are the best known when it comes to chess. All over Havana I'd see young guys on the sidewalks playing and using a timer while moving as fast as they can. Instead of an American anti-socialist, I'm more of an anti-American socialist. From what I've seen so far in Cuba, it seems that socialism isn't all that bad. However, a true socialist society should have no leader. For awhile I sat up at the Plaza de Armas and chatted as best I could with the various locals. The young man who beat me at chess invited me to a club, so I went there and hung out for a bit before deciding to head back to my casa. Tomorrow I'll be seeing the mausoleum of Ernesto "Che" Guevara. This casa has air-conditioning, unlike all the other places I've stayed at. I took a nice long shower and then....

Next day. I woke up early and washed up because I had a long day ahead of me. Excitedly I went out to the cocina (kitchen) and chatted with Nicole and Diana over a copa de cafe (cup of coffee). In their Cuba book I was reading that peso pizza was first created during el periodo especial (Special Period). Fidel declared this period in 1989 because the collapse of the Soviet Union caused Cuba to lose a great deal of foreign aid, and combined with the fact that the U.S. wouldn't trade with Cuba, there were major food shortages. El periodo especial ended in 1994 with Cuba opening up to tourism. Casas particulares were started around this time as well. Desayuno was a good one: fruit, rolls, and all that. After eating I packed up my gear before deciding to go see the Dutch couple (whom I met last night) and go see Ernesto "Che" Guevara! The owner said I could leave my mochila at the casa. Then I walked up to the Plaza de Armas and got on a horse-drawn carriage down for Che's mausoleum. Ten minutes later and my wallet 1 CUC lighter, I was at the final resting place of El Comandante! I had to leave my camera and book at the desk. The lady asked me "where are you from?" and my reply was "Ireland" because I've heard they normally don't allow Americans in the museum and mausoleum. David told me to tell them I'm Canadian but Irish is my heritage. It was an interesting feeling being in the museum, seeing the various Che relics. Che was murdered for one reason: because he hated capitalism! He was the guy who tried to teach the world how to share, and America and the CIA made sure they quickly eliminated the problem so they could continue their greedy ways. One of my favourite quotes: "While envisaging the destruction of imperialism, it is necessary to identify its head, which is none other than the United States of America." However, both communist and capitalist societies have their advantages and disadvantages. I then wandered into the mausoleum, and I was only a few feet from the tomb where Che's bones are kept. His mausoleum isn't a traditional mausoleum where you can see the embalmed body; Che was murdered in Bolivia in 1967 and he was subsequently buried beneath an airstrip. His bones were uncovered in 1997 and brought back to Cuba where they were interred along with various other Marxist revolutionaries killed in Bolivia. Inside the mausoleum is an eternal flame lit by Fidel. It was a slightly creepy yet otherworldly feeling being in here. Outside, I retrieved my camera and Lonely Planet book before going to salute the statue of Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Hasta la Victoria Siempre! After paying respects to El Comandante, I got on a horse-drawn carriage heading back into town. After changing some CUC for CUP, I wanted to get my backpack and then hitchhike to Trinidad. With all my gear, I thanked everyone at my casa and then began walking south toward the edge of town. Looking at my map it seemed that the Autopista wasn't too far away, but I couldn't have been more wrong. I kept walking and walking in the blazing heat, passing a military base and getting deep into the Cuban countryside. I didn't have a bottle of water and I had some pretzels to snack on, but if I really needed some water there were homes nearby so all I'd need to do is go up to a house and ask. Walking for more than an hour and sweating bullets, finally a dull-looking blue jeep came barrelling down the dirt road. There were like eight people (including two children) in the jeep which normally would fit four but they still managed to squeeze me in. Chances are they've never seen a tourist on this road! We drove for about 20 minutes and I chatted as best I could in broken Spanish, until he dropped off his family and got me a huge glass of water! When he dropped me off at the Autopista I gave him a few CUC as a thank you. With a huge smile I stood there content, feeling like I was part of that family. Feeling like I was only a ride or so away from getting to Trinidad, I took time to admire a beautiful butterfly that landed on me. The wait was a good awhile; the Autopista is most emphatically not US Hwy 101. A car turned around and picked me up and this nice couple on their way to Santiago dropped me off on the outskirts of Sancti Spiritus. Incredibly, they refused a tip when I offered. Deep into the Cuban countryside, all I had to do now is get from out here to Trinidad; only about 70 km or so but that turned out to be a mision (mission). Stopping at the petrol station for a botella de agua I asked a couple of Germans if they were going to Trinidad but they were heading toward Santiago. Too bad, if I were heading that way I'd be totally in luck! When I walked down the road headed toward Sancti Spiritus I passed a happy Cubano farmer rounding up his cattle. He smiled at me; like he'd never seen a foreigner. After all it is unusual for foreigners to hitchhike in Cuba. With my thumb out for about 20 minutes, a man headed to Sancti Spiritus picked me up. Interestingly, foreigners are allowed to ride in Cubans' cars but they're not allowed to ride in taxis meant for Cubans. The other day in Havana I had to get out of the car because a police officer saw that I was in a Cuban taxi. Sancti Spiritus was only like 10 km up the road but the guy asked me if I could pay him a hefty 50 CUP. I didn't have much on me so I gave him 30. Cubans reuse everything, and I got a view of that when I went to throw away my two water bottles; an elderly Cubano asked me for them. Even though it wasn't in my intentions to stay the night in Sancti Spiritus I was dully impressed with the beauty of the town. As I walked out toward the road to Trinidad I saw a beautiful blue church with a clock tower. The architecture out here is definitely more colourful than in Havana. My back was starting to hurt from carrying my mochila around but the sun was going down it wasn't so bad. Walking for like 4 km I was on the outskirts of town where there was a covered area for hitchhikers. The amarillo went home for the night so almost nobody was there. Cars were few and far between and I was really hoping to get a ride. If I were stuck I'd just have to stay in Sancti Spiritus for the night. Horse-drawn carriages at night light a flame on the back of the carriage as a taillight. I saw plenty of those but they would take forever to get me to Trinidad. A local told me that a bus would be coming at about 11:00 PM and it was about 7:00 PM; by then I was already waiting for over an hour and I was tired. In Costa Rica, Jonathan gave me a traditional Chinese energy drink, so I popped that open and drank it in one shot. There's a young Cubano standing here with me as we wait for the bus; praying that something would come sooner. It did! The bus came shortly after 8:00 PM. The driver told me the fare was two pesos so I assumed it was 2 CUP but I embarassed myself when I handed him that because the fare was actually 2 CUC. Either way, it was a local bus, not a tourist bus. The moon was full and the starry night of the Cuban sky really made the experience feel special. Sitting next to me is a guy drinking this homemade soda that tastes a bit like bubble gum and in front of me is another Cubano with a bag full of live chickens. They're curious about me! This is unreal to them! Everyone wonders why, especially as an American, that I'd ride a local bus. Right now, I'm a Cubano. I was tempted to get off the bus, knock on the door of one of these houses out in the middle of nowhere and ask as best I could if I could stay the night but the other half of me wanted to get to Trinidad so I stayed on the bus. I hung my head out the window as I admired this beautiful night! Trinidad was only about 60 km away but I didn't care right now. When you're on a bus full of Cubans out in the middle of the Cuban countryside on a starry night with a full moon, what more can you ask for? The bus was dropping people off at all these hamlets along the way; one of these days I'll visit Cuba again and stay somewhere where no tourists go! At around 9:00 PM I was finally in Trinidad. As I was walking toward Plaza Mayor, a lady asked me if I wanted to stay at her casa particular. She showed me the room and at first I wanted to go see what else is out there but she told me I could stay for 20 CUC with breakfast included (normally they charge 20 CUC per night and 3 CUC por desayuno. I put my gear down and asked for a copa de cafe. Ah it felt good to sit down after such a long day! What an adventurous day this was! Juana, my host, offered me dinner but I thought I'd get something while I'm out. She told me about la Casa de la Musica. The cobblestone streets lead up to a steep set of outdoor stairs where the music blasts from the amplifiers. Cubanos play their prized instruments as my soul is lifted by the amazing Cuban music. Downing a Red Bull and then a mojito I was up for some energy. Many people were salsa dancing but no-one danced with me tonight.

The next morning I awoke and was ready to explore the colourful buildings of Trinidad. First I washed up and had mi desayuno de frutas y pan y un copa de cafe. Mucho delicioso! My host offered to wash mi ropa when I asked her to. I haven't had clean clothes in quite awhile on this journey. I was ready for my walk. Trinidad is so colourful and looks so similar to Granada that it'd be easy to confuse the two in photos. For 2 CUC I visited La Museo Historico Municipal. After climbing like 600 stairs (well, not that many, maybe 60 or 70) I got the breathtaking view of Trinidad. Some French tourists up there were surprised at the sight of an American in Cuba. Wow, the view is amazing! Mucho bonita! La playa es en la distancia! Reluctantly, I descended la mirador y walked around town. Although I do have a message for everyone: jandals and Trinidad do not mix well! The streets are made of cobblestone and it's very rough on the feet. My feet were sore, my eyes were candied, and my mind was absorbing the beautiful sight of colour, colonial buildings, and cobblestone streets in Cuba's luminescent jewel. I continued my stroll until I stopped to get a peso pizza y botella de agua. My host, Juana suggested going to Playa Ancon so I opted to do that after I relaxed at home for a bit. On the bus I met a pretty Brit named Charlotte. In talking to her I found she's a bovine veteranarian; something I'd never do but that's a rather exotic profession. She said she loves it here! I'm sure few people leave Cuba disappointed. When we reached la playa we all got out. Unaware there was food for sale at the beach, I was about 50 centavos for to get un hamburguesa y papas fritas but they were nice enough to let me get it anyway. The hamburger was one of the best I've ever had! Jumping into the warm waters of Playa Ancon, it was magical! I've been to amazing beaches and swam in warm waters of Australia, Fiji, Cuba, Niue, and various other places! Wow, I truly am blessed! Swimming out as far as I could I was really enjoying the warm water. I'm sure it's much more fun to stay in Trinidad and laze on the beach at Playa Ancon than to stay in Varadero because you can stay at a casa out this way and it's more authentic. For more than hour I swam and then I walked along the beach for a good distance. The bus came as the sun was setting, and I waved goodbye to the beautiful Playa Ancon. What a special day! It's so special being in Cuba. The first day or two I was a bit scared but now I know I'll be alright. The Cubans I've met are enamoured by me. When we got off the bus in Trinidad I said goodbye to Charlotte. She's not on Facebook or anything like that; that's ok because I can't keep in touch with everyone I meet on my travels. There was still enough sun that I got some photos of the setting sun glittering like gold off de los edificios. Just then I met a group of Americans who are here to donate medicine. One thing that Cuba doesn't really seem to need is medicine. As I've said earlier, you don't see empty shelves at las farmacias. Tomorrow I'm hitchhiking back to Havana and I'm sure going to miss beautiful Trinidad. After enjoying the golden sunset befalling over Trinidad I headed back to my casa where, on the roof I had cena de polla, ensalada, arroz y frijoles. Mucho delicioso! Tonight I had to shell out more than 50 CUC to cover my stay. That leaves me with only about 10 CUC until I get back to Havana, so I can't take a bus even if I wanted to. Up on the roof I was watching the moon as it rose into the sky. Oh Cuba, you're so special. I'm glad I came here to visit you! Then I was ready to salsa! I wanna chacha! I reluctantly donned my jandals and walked toward la Casa de la Musica. After munching down on some papas fritas and indulging a mojito I was ready to partake in some seductive salsa! Finally I got my chance with a German girl. She was quite good, but I would have loved to have danced with that guía muy cubana en Viñales. Ella fue mucho bueno. After getting my chance at un bailar seductivo I had my chance with a cubana chica. She was very good as well. However, shortly after she danced with me, she and a couple of other people were arrested for some reason. The officer asked me if she was my girlfriend but I tried my best to explain that she was just dancing with me (I didn't speak enough Spanish and the officer didn't speak enough English). They probably presumed she was trying to get money from me or that she was a jinetera. Not knowing what to think, I rejoined the crowd and saw those two gorgeous French girls whom I met in Viñales a few days ago. They're leaving Cuba tomorrow. Both of those girls are very beautiful! A long time ago I dated a girl from Nice and all she liked to do was kiss! It was getting late and I decided to say goodnight before making my way toward mi casa. The night became quieter as I ambled slow as a tortoise along the cobblestone streets. Don't ever wear jandals/sandals/flip-flops/thongs in Trinidad! Your feet will ache and you'll end up needing like a 12-hour foot massage! When I got home I took a shower and then I washed up and relaxed. Tomorrow I have a looooong journey ahead....

Tags: adventures, beaches, che guevara, colonial architecture, hitchhiking

 

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