Friday 8th July -train ride

The English family have told us about an old steam train that does a run out to the sugar plantations of old. They were going to come with us but are not well this morning. Seems like a bug is spreading through that household which might be why my tummy was a little uneasy yesterday but I am OK. The Grandfather says he will take us down and is glad of the walk but first Ren and I have dashed to the bank. I saw it was to open at 8am and arrive to find a queue outside. Finally ushered in its a million degrees and once again, no aircon, just fans moving the hot air around. My number comes up and the bank teller tries the card that worked ok last time, but her machine can’t read the strip. The next card is declined. The third card, thank Christ works! It’s rather strange knowing you have money but can’t get it out. I actually feel faint during the 20 minutes this takes and can barely imagine how terrible it is to work in this heat. There’s about thirty staff at desks and once again most are doing little more than fanning themselves. 

Interesting that this perhaps depicts the Cuban view of a tourist. Haha!

The train heads off and we travel through lush green countryside with a welcome breeze flowing through the open air space. A guy with a guitar gets up at the front and while not the best singer, he has a huge smile and a rendition of some Cuban ballads along with toe tapping, guaranteed to please ones, like ‘A-la-bamba’.

We chug past thick banana plantations heavy with fruit. Miles and miles of sugarcane that was once tended by slaves. Sometimes we disturb beautiful butterflies of all different colours as we pass through rainforest. I have read about Cuba’s many unique species. 

We stop at Izunaga to see a tower and there are many locals hoping to sell us their fruit or handiwork. Ren has made a friend for life. He’s gorgeous and keen to sell us coconut, which we buy and share. He trims it, slices the top off and pops a straw in and tells us to come back when we have finished and he will chop it so we can eat the meat. Delicious. They chat while Gilbert and I head back to the train and before it leaves he is at the windows trying to sell his last bananas. “You are very beautiful!” he calls out looking in our direction. “I think he was talking to me”, I smile at Lauren who is laughing out loud and waves to him as the train leaves. 

Next place we stop at is a hacienda. “What’s a hacienda?” Ren muses, but before she has her guide book out Gilbert and I tell her about ‘Bonaza’. The Hacienda was called ‘Ponderosa’. It’s the ranch where they live. We get excited and tell her the storylines and how beautiful the women were and the men were all out guarding the horses and cattle and stuff and Ren’s face is looking more and more disbelieving. And when I was about twelve the women had to wear hats to church and Mum bought me a mantilla like Maria used to wear to church….it was black lace.” “Wait on, wait on…she says, I feel like you’re just making this up.” “Nah. It was a real TV program we laugh. It’s all true!” 

These guys are just waiting for the train to pass. 

The guys at the hacienda by the horses have the full cowboy get up on waiting for clients to take riding. Ren asks one about the mango tree. Ready in August he tells us, you want to go riding Mum? she turns to ask me. “Ummm. No thanks.” I laugh. He says something that sounds like kilos. I’m assuming he’s saying only so many kilometres. “No problemo” he finishes. Ren laughs her head off. “He says it doesn’t matter how many kilos you weigh. It’s no problem.” “Ya always gotta go to the fat jokes aye Ren!” I laugh. The guy just stands there unsure what’s so funny. 

Mangoes growing on a long thread. When ready they are a bright orange globe. 

We wander around the Hacienda and someone is waiting by the outside toilet. I’m guessing you’ll have to pay I say to Ren and we check we have some coins. The girl hands over a couple of squares of toilet paper and I hear Ren through the wall. “Oh shit, it doesn’t flush,” and then, “aaand there’s no water in the tap, so we can’t wash our hands.” We both head out at the same time and a young boy is waiting ready with a bucket of water to flush it through while the young girl who took our money directs us to a muddy spot around the back where a tap is almost at ground level and runs off around the rocks at our feet. 

The trains a gentle rock back to the bottom of town. Ahhh…back to civilisation Gilbert smiles. 

We shower and siesta before heading out for dinner. We choose a restaurant close by that is actually someone’s lounge and dinner is pretty damn good tonight. My red wine is chilled but within a couple of minutes it’s warm as we are serenaded by a brother and sister who have beautiful voices. We take a slow wander home through the square and as we turn corners young men and old, make ‘kissing/smoochy’ sounds instead of a wolf whistle. It’s pretty hilarious and right up to when we get to our door an old guy stops us and asks Ren if she wants to go dancing. He looks like he’s about eighty. Ren laughs as we come inside. It takes a bit to get used to but they are shameless and relentless with their teasing and flirting and it’s never pursued past fun. “…and he’ll probably dance the legs off you”, I say as the door shuts behind us and he melts away into the night. 

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