30th Nov 2013 - 4th Dec 2013 - Cuba
The Lonely Planet describes Trinidad as “soporific”, a word which, I admit, I had to look up to understand. However, I think this is a pretty apt description. It is a town that is well and truly stuck in time. If Cuba is stuck in the 1950’s, then Trinidad must be stuck in about the 1850’s. A sleepy, small centre with cobbled streets and the highest proportion of horse and carts we had seen in Cuba.
The route there from Cienfuegos was again in a taxi – meaning all the bus timetables I had helpfully printed out were looking more and more pointless. The taxi had been arranged by a Casa and it had also been agreed that we would make a stop en route at Laguna Guanaroca, to see the bird life there. Our guide, who could best be described as bat-shit crazy, had a slight obsession with pointing out the ants. “Look, there’s one. And another one. Ooh, have you seen this one?”! We climbed a lookout and could see way out among all the lands and down to the lake (the sun having finally reappeared). Once at the lake, we went out on a boat in order to get up closer to the flamingos. The colour of the birds – the pink and black – against the blue of the skies was quite a sight.
Once we arrived in Trinidad, we were staying at the Casa of Señor Ruben and his family, a very charismatic man who liked the sound of his own voice. He was, however, very helpful to us. We had arrived early afternoon, so we had the remainder of that day to go and explore. The Plaza Mayor is the main square within Trinidad and the focal point of the whole town. There is a Cathedral on one side and museums on the others. All the surrounding side streets contain small souvenir shops, restaurants or museums. Despite the small size of the place, it didn’t feel overrun with tourists which was a relief, although the “Jinteros” – the touts – were a little bit aggressive at times. Dinner at the Casa was once again the size of 3 meals – soup, rice, chicken, salted plantain and salad.
The next morning was one of those really tough days that you dread when you are travelling. We drove the 12km out to Playa Ancon, where we sat on the beach, relaxing, swam in the turquoise, bath-water temperature sea and generally chilled out all day. It was truly beautiful and a delightful way to spend the midpoint of our trip.
After such a relaxing day, it was time to spend another day doing a lot of travels. We were going to visit Santa Clara, where the revolution of Cuba began and where Che Guevara is revered more so than anywhere else on this island. Consequently, the whole town is a shrine to the man with multiple statues and monuments. The drive was 2 hours through the Sierra del Escambray mountain range and along some very pot-holed roads. Eventually we arrived at the Monumento Ernesto Che Guevara – this is the main monument and contains one large plinth with a statue of Che on top of it, and 4 smaller plinths with various quotations on them. One plinth even contained a whole letter from Fidel to Che, the contents of which I will need to get my Spanish teacher to help me translate.
We drove across town aiming for the Monumento a la Toma del Tren Blindado, though our taxi driver (who we think must have been a friend of Ruben’s) had to stop to keep asking for directions! This monument represents the spot where Guevara and his Guerrilla friends derailed a train, fought and won a battle against Batista ousting him from power and consequently putting Fidel into power. In order to derail the train, they used a bulldozer which can still be seen at the monument site. A little bit further down the road, we saw the Estatua Che y Niño, a rather delicate statue showing Che with a small child on his shoulder. The statue had some intricate carvings on it including 38 people carved into Che’s belt to represent those who died alongside Che in the Bolivian uprising. A little further along the road was the Lomo de Caparo lookout, on top of a hill looking out over the entire town. It was a two hour drive back to Trinidad in time for dinner.
The next morning we went to the Museo Histórical Municipal, not to visit the museum but rather to see the views from the rooftop over all the city and the surrounding areas. We had perfect views of the Plaza Mayor, out to the Ancon peninsula and the surrounding Sierra del Escambray. We bumped into Sandra again in the Plaza and made plans for dinner, then we headed back to Playa Ancon for the afternoon. In the evening, we met back up with Sandra and headed to a Paladar for dinner that had been recommended by the German couple in the taxi to Viñales. The restaurant was in a courtyard of a small home, complete with porcelain decorations and live musicians. It was a rather quaint venue, perfectly befitting the town of its location.
Our final full day in Trinidad and Ruben talked us into going to visit an amazing waterfall out in Parque El Cubano. The usual route is to ride a horse out but we had decided that the 2 hours in Viñales was enough horse riding for us so we had asked if we could take a horse and carriage ride instead. He duly obliged in finding us a carriage to take us out to the Falls. It felt rather like luxury until we hit the cobbles and then the potholes and then it felt rather uncomfy! We then turned onto some farm land and it soon became apparent that this route was not meant for carriages. Nevertheless, we got to the entrance to the park where we then had a 15 minute walk to the actual waterfall. Once there, we were a little disappointed. The waterfall wasn’t really worth the drama of getting there. It wasn’t much more than a trickle and although it had a lovely setting dropping into a pool in a cave but we couldn’t help feeling a little cheated by the whole experience!