John Bongo Back In Cuba And The Worst Idea We Had – Trinidad

20 Mar


Having spent the majority of my last trip to Cuba in Havana, I decided this year I’d like to see more of the island and as the weather was perfect, our first excursion was a day trip to the beach at Tarara.

It was quite windy causing some fairly big waves and the sea was infested with jellyfish, both of which made swimming a bad idea.

A great day was had by all but by far the most memorable part of the day was on the journey back to Havana after a good dinner at Piccolo in Guanabo.

Travelling along the motorway at about 70 kph, another car drew up along side us and the occupants were gesturing for us to put down the window.

At first we thought they wanted to let us know there was something wrong with our car. How wrong we were.

It turned out a young lady, who was sitting on the driver’s knee, was offering us her services !!! Plus the services of her girl friend sitting in the back making it a “two for one special deal” …

After a moment of stunned silence we all looked at each other and burst into fits of laughter all the way back to Havana.

None of us being able to believe what we had just experienced.

After a few days visiting friends, smoking some lovely cigars and sampling some equally fine rum, it was time to move on.

A road trip to Bay of Pigs, Cienfuegos and Trinidad was to be the next instalment of my Cuban experience.

The journey to Playa Larga, via the Fidel Castro invasion HQ in Jagüey Grande didn’t take too long, although I thought we had taken a wrong turn as we passed through Australia on the way !

Seeing the Memorials of the dead soldiers at the side of the road and the war machinery at the Invasion Museum in Playa Giron  added a different dimension to this part of the trip, but it was a part of the island I had wanted to visit for a long time and I’m very glad I did.

While in Playa Larga we stayed at the beautiful Casa of Homero and Silvya, where we were looked after splendidly being long-time friends of Nino.

That night a beautiful dinner of whole snapper was served on the upstairs terrace, followed great conversation, rum and coffee on the front porch, with Homero and Enrique.

Once again the friendly outgoing nature of the Cuban people coming to the fore and making me feel like a long lost friend.

While in Playa Larga, Nino celebrated a special birthday and sitting out on the roof terrace with Cuban friends after a day out in Caleta Buena, drinking Champagne, smoking great cigars watching the sun dip below the horizon was an evening I’ll never forget.

The following day we set off for Cienfuegos.

On arrival we parked the car and headed to La Union Hotel and then to Bar El Palentino on the Plaza Mayor, where we had coffee and cigars listening to a fine Cuban band playing only a few feet from where we sat.

A beautiful town with wide streets and charming French Colonial architecture, it rightly deserves the name of Perla del Sur.
Specially interesting was a visit to the Palacio del Valle, a Moorish palace at the end of the beautiful bay.

We could easily have spent a couple of days in Cienfuegos but unfortunately time was short, so after a few hours exploring it was time to head on to Trinidad, passing the Escambray mountains and giving a lift to the occasional hitchhiking Cuban family.

The instructions on how and where to find our Casa in Trinidad were a little vague but we had a rough idea where we were going. A barrier across the road and an over officious guard were soon to put a spanner in the works. No matter how much persuasion was used we weren’t getting through the gate, unless of course a few CUC were exchanged. Refusing to be held to ransom, we soon found another avenue to our Casa. This however meant dragging our overnight bags through the none too smooth streets for a few hundred yards.

The Casa Del Arcangel was just perfect, immaculately presented and kept clean as a whistle by Miguel and his partner.

Although Trinidad has character with its cobbled streets and pastel coloured buildings I can’t say we really enjoyed our stay and I know this will sound mad coming from a tourist, but it was packed full of tourists !!
This I know, will no doubt be great for the businesses in Trinidad, it just wasn’t for us. We decided to call it “Trinidad – the worst idea we had” and simply laugh.

However we made the most of our time there and took in as much of the history and ambience as we could.

We eventually decided it was time for some refreshments and stopped in at the Real Paladar which was a beautiful little oasis of peace and quiet for a cigar and a Mojata or three and spent a couple of hours listening to very talented young lady singing and playing the guitar splendidly. Eventually we left with a couple of Cuban sandwiches ( paying 5 CUC for 2 fried eggs on top of the sandwiches, eggs being rationed & hard to find … ) and a few bottles of beer which we ate and drank on the terrace back at our Casa, followed by a few rums with Miguel and a conversation which went long into the night.

Making an early exit from Trinidad the following morning we headed back to Havana, stopping at the Valle de los Ingenios  (Valley of the Sugar Mills) and Torre Iznaga where the views over the valleys below are simply stunning.

My final few days in back Havana were spent enjoying the company of new friends and old, eating some of the finest food like at the new Paladar Marea across from Marina Hemnigway, drinking some excellent rums, smoking the best cigars and planning for next year’s trip.
Highlights in Havana were an interesting Embassy reception for military attaches, a long visit to La Cabaña fortress to meet Cueto, the famed rolled and a private tour of El Laguito, the Cohiba factory and cigar Vatican.

There’s something special about this country and it’s people.

I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what, so I suppose I’ll just have to keep coming back until I figure it out.

However, a wise man once told me, Cuba is not to be understood, Cuba is to be enjoyed !!!

Hasta luego

John Bongo

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