27th Nov 2013 - 29th Nov 2013 - Cuba
I was kept awake for a large part of the night by the most ridiculous storm raging outside – heavy rain, loud thunder and bright flashes of lightning. At 6.30, when we got up, we discovered the storm had knocked out the power so we had to dress in the dark. After an early breakfast, we said goodbye to Mayi and got in our share taxi to Cienfuegos. The journey took 6 hours during we time, much to Georgia’s amusement, we had a short break just outside of the town of Australia! Our collectivo had 6 people in it, one of whom, Méabh, had booked into the same Casa as us. This time we were staying with Pepe and Isabelle who had a lovely Casa with 5 rooms, all entered through the main door and through the living room. Our rooms were the first down the corridor, whilst at the end was a small dining area and upstairs was a rooftop terrace with views on a good day out over the whole of Cienfuegos. Sadly, it was still raining when we arrived and me being me, hadn’t packed for anything other than sun, so I got somewhat wet!! Never mind!
First priority was to find lunch, during which time the rain had stopped, and once that was sorted we went off exploring. We started in the main square, Parque José Martí. The town is described as being the Paris of Cuba and is full of French architecture. The Palacio de Gobierno took up one side of the square, with the Teatro Tomás Terry on the opposite side. The Cathedral was on a third side of the square whilst the fourth had a small Arco de Triunfo (yup, that’s an Arc de Triomphe!) In the middle was a statue to the main man himself, José Martí. The rain had stopped for a bit so we walked to the coast and looked out towards Punta Gorda. As the rain started again, we headed back to the Casa where we had dinner – as is becoming standard we were served far more food than we could have possibly ever eaten. Bean soup, rice, grilled chicken, salad, potatoes and dessert. We then spent a few more hours chatting and discussing Cuba.
Now, in my many years of backpacking, I have considered myself fortunate not to be kept awake in a dorm by others amorous nocturnal activities. Well, this luck has now been broken – not by Georgia I hasten to add, but by the couple in the room next to ours (the walls were thin). Anyway, once we managed to get back to sleep, I slept through the night. Georgia, however, had come down with a rather bad case of food poisoning and was up most of the night. By the next morning, things had calmed down for her, but understandably she didn’t want to do much more than stay in bed. This meant Méabh and I had breakfast alone, then went back into the centre to see what was going on. The rain had stopped but it was still grey and overcast. We came across a small market and bought a few souvenirs before Méabh had to leave as she had a bus to catch.
By the afternoon, Georgia was feeling a bit more adventurous and decided she wanted some fresh air, so we took a very slow walk down to Punta Gorda. This is supposedly the high class part of Cienfuegos where all the posh gentry folk lived. To be honest, to our untrained eyes, it looked very similar to the other parts of Cienfuegos. But it was a nice walk along the coast and it remained dry.
The following day, Georgia was feeling slightly better, which was a bonus since we were booked on a trip to El Nicho Falls. We met up with the rest of our tour group at Hotel La Union where we were divided into two buses, one for English speakers and one for French speakers. Our bus, therefore, consisted of 5 Danish people and 1 German girl, Sandra, who very kindly let me share her umbrella since it was pissing down with rain again! The drive to the National Park where the falls were took an hour and a half along very bumpy, pot holed roads, passing some lovely countryside and some very small villages. Upon arrival at the entrance we were given a welcome drink – what better to do at 10am than to drink a very strong cocktail! We then went off on a 2km walk around the Falls, seeing lakes, viewpoints and various waterfalls including El Nicho which was 20m high. We had the option of swimming in the pool at the bottom of the lake but due to the rain and the subsequent cold weather (cold by Cuban standards, not British!) we passed up the offer. Lunch was served to us in the National Park restaurant – more rice, beans and fried chicken – it’s getting a little bit repetitive!
We had another 1.5 hour drive back to Cienfuegos before having the evening to ourselves. The rain had ceased so Georgia and I, plus Sandra, went to a bar in the main square for a couple of cocktails and to watch the dance class that was going on next door! We were going to continue on to a nightclub for their Cabaret night but when we got there it was still closed and the opening time had been pushed back so we decided to call it a night instead. On the walk back to the Casa I discovered just how perilous the Cuban pavements can be as I stubbed my toe on something sticking out of the pavement which caused a large, deep cut in my toe and my flip-flop to be covered in blood!