Poinsenta tree is what Errol called this tree and all over Cuba and Bahamas its on fire.
We ask about a laundromat and Errol offers to drive us there. We’ve been washing our clothes in the shower each night and hanging up in the wardrobes or draped around and its all dry by morning no trouble. You’d have to wash each day as you’re drenched with perspiration, but things don’t feel like they get a proper wash and rinse.
On the main road
Ren says she’ll stay at the laundromat and we decide to wander down to the beach and ask Errol which way. He says it’s about twenty minutes that way, but he doesn’t recommend we walk it. Not that part of town. “Really! We look at him. You mean not safe?” “Yeah, not safe, he reiterates. It might be ok in the day time, he continues but definitely not at night. You can call me and I’ll take you thar” he offers as he leaves. Gilbert decides we’ll be ok to walk, and while I’m thinking about it and am 50/50, he’s gone. Marching down that road like he owns it. it’s absolutely fine. Hardly anyone in sight. We pass a school and a couple of liquor stores, some run down housing, two cemeteries and a funeral home too. I look behind me a lot. Hmmmm…
Not sure I’d like to meet the guy that works out on these concrete Dumbbells!
We arrive without incident at a beautiful beach. Another of one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, no doubt. Gilbert’s hungry and I’m not, but when I see salad on the menu at the Hookah Bar, with chicken wings and fries, I’m in with a beer too and devour the greens immediately. All of Cuba had almost no fresh greens. Possibly too hot to grow them and I missed them greatly. Had wifi so texted Ren to meet us there later and went and sunbathed in the shade.
While dipping in the clear light blue waters I ask a lady also in the water if the length of white balls in the water are nets and are they to keep sharks out. Noooo, she laughs and then yells something to her husband to check, “cause she sure as hell ain’t staying there if there be sharks around.” “Are ya all crazy? He yells back, course there ain’t be no sharks around here” We laugh together. She asks me if we are off the cruise ship and I glance to where she’s pointing. It’s past a big concrete jetty jutting into the water and I actually thought it was a building. “No I’m not, I laugh. Wow that’s massive.” She laughs and tells me her family come here every year in the school holidays as her brother lives here. They’re from Virginia. They stay with her brother and have a ‘good ole party’ for a couple of weeks. Her family is black American. Her husband joins us in the water then and I tell them I’m from NZ. I ask her about not walking down that street we came down and whether the guy was a bit over the top. She gave me a sideways glance and said, “there’s some really BAD areas around here and if a local tells you not to go down there, then yo don’t wanna go down there for sure.”
It’s crazy how a massive cruise ship like this just cruises past where we are swimming.
They ask me what hotel I’m staying at and I say I’m at a BnB. They have never heard of that and when I explain, they say that’s what they should do. It sounds like a great idea if they travel. We talk about our jobs and they tell me they have an idea for a business. They’re very shy about the concept and look around to make sure no one is listening. “You tell her, go on”, she encourages her husband who explains it all to me but I’m sworn to secrecy by her and he says “no she can do that in NZ. That’s not gunna hurt us back home”. I tell them it’s a great idea and I wish them well.
Her husband tells me he really wants to go to NZ. He’s heard it’s a beautiful place and ask me questions all about it, but they heard it was cold. Just how cold does it get? I tell them that depends where you go. Furtherest North is subtropical and warm but maybe not quite as warm as Bahamas at about 35 today at least..and the furtherest south can be zero or lower. Her eyes are open wide. “What’s lower than zero? Can it even go lower than zero? “Yeah, I answer. It could be as low as maybe -10 but that’s not normal. I’m saying that’s the really coldest.” They both are staring at me like I said I come from Mars. Speechless. Silence as they digest this. Then she says “well, you know you can keep your zeros cause I ain’t goin nowhere that’s zero, or a minus cause thats cold man. That’s really cold. I ain’t going nowhere that’s a minus ya hear me.” She’s looking at her husband now. “Uh ahhh. No sir.” He’s joining in now and agreeing and it’s not meant to be funny but I’m laughing my head off. Their accent and kind’ve southern drawl is hilarious as they are are shaking their heads and telling me “they is gotta be warmer than that. Yes sir.”
As I get out of the water I hear her call out to her daughter who looks maybe 15. She’s tall and gorgeous with her hair braided and piled on top like a turban playing with the younger kids in the water. “Chloe! Look at you girl, her Mum yells out. I can hardly believe how dark you’ve got in one day.” “It’s cool”, the teenage boy I assume is her younger brother or cousin beside her answers. “I know, the Mum yells back, but by the time we leave here you is gunna be black as girl!” …and they all laugh. It’s funny hearing this as just quietly, I didn’t think they could get any blacker.
We head to a place called ‘Fish Fry’ where we are to meet Renny. We assumed it was an eating place but discover its a group of eating places. In fact about thirty of them! We are set upon immediately by taxi drivers and restaurant touts. One in particular is tall and striking and when I say we need wifi to message our daughter he invites us to use theirs. No problem. He has a daughter in Florida and he would swim the waters if she needed him. Of course once we find Ren we feel obliged to eat at his place. ‘Goldies’. He tells us to go right out back as his special guests so he can tell us the history of this place. Goldies has been here more than a hundred years and is one of the original restaurants started when the fishermen would bring their boast in to shore and clean out the conch shells. People would line up to buy the fresh fish and so they started shelling and cooking it straight from the water and he points to the millions of conch shells that have been thrown in the water. The restaurants have actually been built on reclaimed land from the build up of shells. Hmmmm. Not sure about that myself.
“Take a seat and enjoy our hospitality, he smiles, I’ll be right back.” And he disappears to lure more in. We enjoy a drink while waiting for dinner to arrive but almost as soon as the food is placed on the table we are overcome with flies. Thick and hundreds of them. It’s unbelievable and we struggle to keep them away as we gather up our belongings to go inside. We eat deep fried conch, chips, macaroni cheese, salad and peas’n’rice, which is steamed with a kind of black bean sauce and is my favourite by far. Kind of a crazy combination but what the locals do. I think I’m missing rice as I gobble the rice up first. Ren tells us how she was just wandering and a lady stopped her from going down a street asking Ren what she wanted going down there. Ren said she was just taking a look around, and the lady told her you don’t wanna be taking a look at nuthin down there, strongly discouraging her, at which Ren turned around and changed direction. Good girl.