Today was such a contrast to yesterday. The entire day was spent in the bus travelling from Camaguey to Trinidad, a journey that should have taken 5 hours and ended up taking 7 1/2 with all the stops and delays. We were scheduled to leave at 9am but Monica had a couple of things to do so we had a coffee at the cafe whilst we waited and eventually left at 10am.
This was after a ‘discussion’ between Monica and Ricardo, our driver, about a route we were scheduled to take in a couple of days time, which he said was too many kilometres extra to that which he had agreed to do. (The discrepancy resulted from our tour going the opposite way round to the scheduled itinerary. I have no idea why this should make a difference!) Ricardo lost the argument and was consequently extremely disgruntled as we left Camaguey, taking his temper out on the bici-taxi drivers, who were parked in his way in the narrow streets, and then hurtling along at break neck speed on the open road.
We stopped for a break at a parador for about 30 minutes, which seemed a bit unnecessary when we then stopped for another break just down the road at Ciego de Avila, which is the town in the centre of Cuba. Here, I had a wander around the attractive square, admiring the architecture, and then settled on a park bench opposite an intersection and amused myself watching the people and traffic, which consisted primarily of bicycles, horse and carts and ancient ladas. I then suddenly realised that I couldn’t see any of the group and hurried towards the bus, which had already started to move! Luckily, Monica had done a head count and, as I watched, she descended the steps to come and look for me.
Another half hour on and there was a lunch stop at a somewhat expensive roadside restaurant, which delayed us yet again. However, after this, there was a good run of a couple of hours (also at breakneck speed) until we were almost in Trinidad, when we took a short diversion to Iznaga, a village where there was a former sugar mill and plantation.
Here we wandered through the displays of locally made table cloths to the tower, which had seemingly been built for no other purpose than to satisfy a man’s ego. The story goes that, in the days of slaves and rich factory owners, this particular owner had 2 sons who were both interested in the same ‘mulatto’ girl. The father promised to settle the argument by telling his sons that the one who built the tallest tower or the deepest well could have the girl. (Obviously the girl had no say in the matter!) However, when they had both been built, the father kept the girl for himself and the sons had undertaken all that hard work for nothing. The views from the top of the tower, however, were magnificent.
The landscape had changed quite considerably since we left Ciego de Avila. In the Camaguey province, it had been very flat with many sugar plantations (although not large ones), bananas and cattle. After lunch though, the hills appeared and the terrain seemed much drier, although still relatively green.
We passed through a number of villages in which there were small stalls outside people’s houses, selling onions particularly (obviously a local speciality). At one point, Ricardo screeched to a halt outside one house for no obvious reason and then disappeared up the garden path. It transpired that he was buying carrier bags of beans, which were for sale, and which he obviously knew about.
On our arrival in Trinidad, we were dispersed to our houses and I seem to have drawn the short straw once again with a very depressing room next to the kitchen, with no window and a temperamental toilet. As I am here for 3 nights, there may have to be a discussion with Monica tomorrow!
We met again for an orientation tour and were horrified to discover the degree of tourism that exists in Trinidad. Every single shop contained souvenirs and these were interspersed with restaurants, which had waiters outside hustling for clients. I haven’t come across this to such a degree anywhere else so far in Cuba. Needless to say, I went into escape mode immediately. Unfortunately, there is no real chance of escape for at least three days!
After the tour, we had a wander around the town and then, as it was already 8pm, found a small restaurant for dinner. It was obviously not my lucky day. The mojito was from a mix and the spaghetti was smothered in tomato paste and lumps of melted cheese. It was fairly unappealing and not a patch on last night’s dinner. I suppose you have to put up with the good days and the bad days with travelling but why should such a wonderful day be immediately followed by such a bad one?
We were supposed to be going to The Steps in the middle of town, where live music is performed every night. However, Mariana and Deb both decided they were too tired so it was off to bed. I then couldn’t sleep and spent several hours listening to some live music outside somewhere, debating whether I should get dressed and go and find it as, unlike the others, I am definitely missing out on the night life here. After actually getting up, I opted to stay put and then got more and more annoyed listening to the noise being made by the family as they played dominoes, crashed in the kitchen and eventually went to bed, putting the television on in the process! I was not a happy traveller tonight.