Today was a free day although Mariana and Deb, both from Brisbane, and I had elected to join the other group for a picnic of spit roast pig by a river this afternoon. This left the morning for a wander in Baracoa, a bit of time on the internet to transfer some money to a bank account whose card actually worked in the machines here, and to change some dollars.
I have been caught out with the money exchange here as Mastercard debit cards do not work in the machines at all and, when using my Visa debit, the amount is first converted to U.S. dollars at an unfavourable exchange rate, which my N.Z. bank will then also charge a fee for converting into NZ dollars. With hindsight, it would have been infinitely more economic to have brought Canadian dollars but I am uncomfortable carrying large amounts of cash. By the time all that was done, the morning had disappeared and it was time to return to the Casa to wait for the taxi with Monica (our guide) to go to the river.
The taxi was a typical mode of Cuban transport in jeep form with a couple of bench seats in the back. The road was more than a little bumpy and the roof very low but luckily non of us hit our heads on the roof!
The venue was a camp site in a park and we had to wait a while for the other group of English/New Zealanders to arrive and the pig to finish cooking. Whilst waiting we were served with a beautiful fish soup and I had a fairly strong mojito. The pig, last seen strapped to the sidecar of Willo’s motorbike when it left the casa, was cooking nicely and someone had been hand turning the spit for the last four hours.
The other group have all known each other for a very long time and started on the mojitos and pina coladas very quickly, with the result that events turned quite boisterous and slap stick.
It was one of their birthdays, so an extremely colourful pink and yellow cake, whose icing slowly melted, was the centrepiece of the table. There were also a couple of local musicians providing music and soon everyone was dancing. Unfortunately, as mentioned before, I cannot dance and spent quite some time sitting on the side lines bearing a strong resemblance to the traditional wall flower, something I thought I had left behind with my teenage years. One of the men attempted to dance with me a couple of times but soon gave up when he realised I had two left feet!
The pig, however, was excellent and probably the most tender pork I have ever tasted. We returned to Baracoa at about 7pm and I then had a very quiet evening in my room. I find that I usually need at least a little time away from the group when I am travelling en masse. Luckily for me on this tour, the combination of the group has meant that I have my own room even though I have not paid the single supplement. Mariana and Deb are both friends and share, and the three Melbournians are also friends and comprise one man, who obviously has his own room, and 2 women who share.