The bus trip is long, aircon is struggling and the roads are not great. This is exacerbated with the shocks on the bus being shot, so we have constant rocking like we are on a boat. The view is acres of sugarcane and possibly tobacco but I’m not sure exactly what this looks like. There are overgrown orchards of avocados, mangoes, coconuts, bananas and all this is punctuated by dusty villages. Not that I really knew what mangoes growing looked like before coming here but let me tell you they are a big round tree with huge orange globes hanging on long strings like its Xmas. Oxen working and laden horse carts are everywhere. It should have been six hours but is lengthened an hour, partly because a guy has motion sickness and the bus drivers are very understanding, stopping and waiting as he empties his stomach several times along the way.
We didn’t have a guide book and with no wifi and little language, it’s been tricky to find anything out, so feeling a little bit lost but on the bus Ren notices people sitting opposite her have a ‘Lonely Planet Cuba’, so asks if we may look at it and she hurriedly takes pics of what might interest us to refer to later. It tells us when we get off the bus in Trinidad to be ready to be accosted by touts. They are indeed waiting for us but it’s not too bad and we move on past them. We are looking for ‘Cassa Particular’. These are people’s private homes who have a spare room they can accommodate visitors in. So like BnB but if you see a sign out just knock on the door. It is expected you will look at the room and decide from there if you will take it or not. We go to knock when a lovely older lady approaches us. She has a lovely warm smile and purple hair with a band around it. She has just got back from buying milk and welcomes us in. We leave our bags at the bottom of the stairs and head up a narrow and steep staircase. She offers it to us for c$15. I think this is about $25NZ. The room is tiny. Aircon dubious. Bathroom not the best. I feel stink as she is obviously pretty keen we will stay. We knock on a fancier door and he opens the doors to a wide and cool space. His floor space is perhaps ten times the first lady’s and his furniture tells us he is affluent. For us it’s more about the aircon and shower. He’s $30 so double the price. He says he can’t take us in until tomorrow but he has a friend just two doors down, who may have room for us tonight and then come back to him. We agree and wait while its organised and are quickly installed for one night, two doors down. To stay here is c$25 a night. They offer us breakfast for c$4 pp and dinner c$9 pp showing us what looks like fresh snapper. Agreed, we drop our stuff and head out to explore.
There are some similarities to Morocco and Spain for me. It’s so very different to Varadero and we are glad we have trekked this far. The people are super friendly with lovely smiles. We hunt down one of the few wifi spots at ‘The Grand Hotel’, with cocktails and good aircon and we disappear into our own worlds for an hour trying to check emails for the first time in three or four days. A man approaches Ren and says “I am a magician. I will do some tricks for you”. Before she can say ‘no thank-you’, he starts and she keeps trying to say “no more” where he responds with “just one more”. When he finally stops he rather pointedly is waiting for a tip but we all are back into our drinks and wifi, ignoring him until he finally moves away. It’s interesting to watch as the people who sit at the table beside us laugh and ohh and ahhh at his cleverness, when as Ren said, it was pretty basic and she could see him hiding and moving things from hand to hand. As he coerces $ out of most people he’s getting paid ok I’d say.
“So…. I don’t know if I should tell you this, Ren starts as we relax after having giggled at the little messages the kids have sent us, but the girl that sat with me on the bus told me she and her friend were group mugged in one of the areas. Not hurt too bad as such, but their handbags taken, so lost all their money and were quite shaken up”. Gilbert and I are surprised. Everyone has told us Cuba is pretty safe. She went on to explain to Ren that they were pretty naive. They had arrived somewhere late, decided to go out at about ten pm to look around and were in a bad part of town. All their instincts told them it wasn’t safe, but they didn’t turn around. They were carrying all their cash and separated for a bit trying to figure out the street names. “So pretty much stupid”, Ren tells us, but none the less a warning that we need to not be complacent because we have been told it’s safe. We order another cocktail as we digest this, which by the way are cheap and strong, then Ren says casually as we go to leave. “OK guys, I’m just going to wander back and I’ll see you there.” “Ok”, we say as we tail her. “Guys, you just go back. I’ll see you there.” “Yeah, we’ll just be heading back too- the same way as you.” Ren stops and says “you don’t have to follow me. I’ll be ok”. “Ren, I say. You got us drunk with cocktails, told us a mugging story and then expect us to let you walk home alone. No. We’ll just be following you for now. Ren’s laughing her head off. Besides, I add, I’m scared I might get robbed myself.” Arrgggghhhh Ren laughs out loud. “Ok. Come on then ya babies. Walk with me!”
We head back to our Cassa for dinner we have booked and spy a whole lot of pregnant girls rocking in chairs in a big pink building. We smile at the scene and they laugh at us urging us to take a photo, so Ren and I step inside. They are all at various stages of pregnancy. From three months to nine months and are sweltering. They tell us it’s a place to go to for help when you are pregnant. Ren tells them I have five children and ten grandchildren, and they gasp in admiration. I sit for the photo and they show off their bellies and to be funny, I push my handbag under my top which they think is hilarious. One has ok English and she says they want us to come back tomorrow. “With gum” one of them adds. “Ok, we say. We may not have gum but we will get something sweet.” There is not much for sale anywhere here and I’m glad I have caramel lollies in my bag. I will gladly share those.
Dinner is massive. A soup to start I can’t quite identify, two whole fish covered with a salsa type sauce, salad consists of tomatoes and cucumbers and perhaps tinned beans, a plate of rice and a bottle of wine. You wouldn’t come here for the food but there is nothing too bad. The plumbing however is reminiscent of China as we notice all toilet paper is to go in the bin, not the toilet. “That is the worst shower I have ever experienced”. Gilbert says as he comes out of the washroom that is attached to our bedroom. Pressure when on hot but it is scalding and as soon as you add cold in it weakens, until on cold it is little more than a dribble and you would never want a hot shower here!
It’s been a long day and we collapse fairly early to sleep with breakfast booked for eight am. The bed is wire wove with a thick piece of cardboard, and a firm foam mattress. We all sleep well.