Around the World a Bit at a Time

Travels: Past, Present and Future

Posts Tagged ‘Trinidad’

A Bed on the Beach

Posted by Leanne on January 24, 2011

Instead of lying in bed all day in the dark, I thought I’d try lying on a sunbed all afternoon on a nearby beach, since the four walls of my casa were getting a bit tiresome by now.

We took a ride in an old beat up taxi, and I clutched my painful neck as we bounced over the cobbles, out of the town and towards the coast.

It was probably slightly better than lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, but still quite difficult to enjoy when I could hardly speak.

The Beach - Trinidad

While I went back to the casa, the others went out for dinner. Later, I received a text message:

“Cheese and Jam for pudding. Worse than you can ever imagine.”

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Ice cream

Posted by Leanne on January 23, 2011

Today I ate a whole tub of ice cream, and nothing else.

And Jon said my neck looked fat.

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Trapped!

Posted by Leanne on January 22, 2011

Today I learnt the Spanish words for “tonsils”, “very swollen” and “high temperature”.

After spending  a sleepless night lying on the cold floor trying to cool myself down, I gave in on any thoughts of walking with our friend from the hilltop or even on eating anything solid, since I was finding it difficult to swallow water.

While Paul went out with Jon and Robin, I stayed in bed.

When the most violent downpour I’ve ever seen started, I wanted to stand outside in it, because rain is cool (in both senses of the word) and I was still running a temperature, but found out that I was locked in. Paul had taken the keys to the gate out with him.  So I found a saucepan in the kitchen and put that under the indoor rain that started shortly after the outdoor rain and when I saw the rain building up on the terrace, put everything on top of the bed in case we were flooded.

Downpour from behind a locked gate

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On the Hill Top

Posted by Leanne on January 21, 2011

Jon and Robin weren’t due to arrive in Trinidad until early afternoon, so after a pleasant breakfast at Casa Juan we decided to do what all self respecting tourists do anywhere in the world – find a high place to look down at the town from.  Fortunately there was just such a hill a short walk from our Casa, so we set out in the glowing warmth of the early morning to climb it.  On the way past a church, near the cave with a nightclub inside it(!), we were accosted by two women, who wanted small change, money in our currency or decent clothes, which they seem so desperate to have in Cuba.  We didn’t have anything to give them – so they recommended we climb back up the hill at sunset – when they would be waiting, and we could hand over our worldly possessions then.

After shaking off the women, we climbed higher up the hill towards the radio tower, where we could sit for a while and look over Trinidad in complete isolation.  After sitting there for about 5 minutes, a man, dressed in casual trousers and a T-Shirt started walking towards us from the direction of the radio tower.  We thought he was going to shoo us away, but instead, invited us to walk up to the top of the hill for a better view.

“¿Cuantó cuesta?” I asked suspiciously, having learned my lesson that nothing comes for free in Cuba.

“Es libre.” he replied, and so we followed him towards the tower.  He asked me if I spoke Spanish, and I told him I did – then he told me some things about the surrounding areas and stopped, telling me to translate for Paul – so I did.  Once I had proved myself, he went on for several minutes without giving me the chance to translate again, obviously satisfied that I’d been telling the truth about the understanding Spanish thing.  Though there were moments where I got lost in the   beautiful rhythm of his rolling rrrrs and forgot to extract the meaning from what he was saying.

Half way through our tour of the hill top, a man on a motorbike started riding up the hill, so our new friend asked us to wait where we were for a moment, and ran back to his post at the tower.  As the motorbike man arrived, we looked around to see that our casually attired friend was now wearing a shirt and tie.  When he finally returned to our sides, he’d changed again back into tourist friendly clothes and told us more about the land around the town and offered to take our photo:

On the Hill Top above Trinidad

At the end of our conversation, he explained that, as well as working at the radio tower, he also did guided walks for a small price, and that we were welcome to meet him at 8am the next day when he was meeting a French girl to take her on a walk.  I told him that we’d talk to our friends about it and maybe see him tomorrow.

Later that afternoon, we met up with Jon and Robin, found them a casa and popped into a bar for a few mojitos while a dance group rehearsed on the stage behind us.

After dinner, we went to a bar to see some Afro Cuban Rumba at Palenque de los congos reales:

We also won a CD in a raffle.

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Trinidad

Posted by Leanne on January 20, 2011

It was an earlyish start for me and Paul this morning, but we felt that it was a welcome start, as we chewed listlessly on the worst breakfast yet. Hotel Lincoln reached new lows with their soggy aubergine and cheese surprise, so much so I had to spit it out.

The bus picked us up shortly after 8am and proceeded to drive slowly around Havana for the next hour, picking up other people from outside posher hotels than ours. Rather than lamenting the lost hour of sleep, I stared out of the window, contemplating my surroundings. Outside the Hotel Inglaterra, a policeman moved on a barefooted local who looked like he could have been homeless. In a society where everyone is meant to be given a home, but where there aren’t really enough homes to go round, I was unsure as to whether this could be the case… yet it seemed that anything was possible in this less-than-perfect reality. Nearby, another local was chatting to some tourists while his accomplice stood away from the scene and quickly sketched them- I wondered if they were aware of this, or whether they’d be taken by surprise when they were pressured into handing over cash for the rapidly scribbled likeness. Around the corner, a Che look-alike paced up and down like a big issue seller, peddling copies of the propaganda-filled communist newspaper, whilst sucking authentically on a big fat cigar. More tourists piled onto our bus until it was almost full.

Finally, we drove out of Havana through untouched countryside (well, apart from the big fat road running through it). Clusters of locals appeared sporadically at the side of the road, often accompanied by an official, whose job it was to enforce the ‘you have to pick up hitchhikers if you’re Cuban and there’s room in your car’ law.

As the morning wore on, my thoughts turned to the fact that we hadn’t booked any accommodation for the evening, so I looked to my guide book for comfort, which assured me that, with over 400 casas in the small town of Trinidad, we’d be spoilt for choice.

“Do you know what the casa sign looks like?” I asked Paul, referring to the sign I had read that casas have to display on the door of their house by law.

“No,” he replied unhelpfully, leaving me to nervously hope that we’d recognise it when we saw it upon arrival in Trinidad.

We stopped briefly in Cienfuegos, about an hour away from Trinidad, and as we were driving out of the town to take on the last leg of our journey, I spotted the numerous blue anchor signs displayed on the doors of the town, just as Paul stated “I think I know what the casa symbol looks like now.”

“Me too,” I agreed.

Arriving in Trinidad is like driving into a painting. We rumbled over ancient cobbles, behind horse drawn carts amongst peeling pastel painted buildings. The Lonely Planet suggested that it would feel like we’d been transported back in time, but Trinidad delivered one step further by transporting us into an artist’s fantasy.

After securing a casa for the next few nights from one of the aggressive touts who wouldn’t leave us alone until we agreed to go with them, we explored the cobbled streets with a bounce in our steps.  In spite of the scores of people offering us cigars, taxis and chances to take photos of a man with a chicken on his head, it felt like the weight of an aggressive Havana had been lifted, and we had finally landed in a place where we could enjoy our time on our own terms.

Trinidad

We headed back to the casa in time to watch the sunset from our private rooftop terrace.

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