OUR LAST PIT STOP BEFORE DEPARTING CUBA
25.05.2017 - 27.05.2017
DAY 109 THURSDAY 25TH MAY
TRINIDAD TO SANTA CLARA
This morning we decided not to have breakfast at the casa, instead we wanted to have brunch at the Taverna across the road. The food there has been so good we wanted one last splurge. We waited until about 10.30 to head out only to be told that they were closed! What the??? Supposed to be 24 hours, but some guy was giving the tables a good cleaning so unfortunately, we could not have our planned brunch. Still hungry we went looking for somewhere else to have breakfast. Of course, we could find nothing open but were lucky enough to spot a guy on the street selling ham rolls. He had a leg of pork that he was cutting ham straight off the bone. 1 cuc each was our price, although I know for a fact the locals only pay a fraction of this price, but that’s how it is. It was still good value for us at 1cuc.
We ate them while slowly walking back to the casa. A taxi was due to pick us up at 12 so we wanted to be ready in time for that. We were actually ready ahead of schedule for a change and when the car showed at just before 12 we were set to go. Iris had come up to say goodbye and to collect our payment for the last 4 nights & breaky.
It’s only about 88km from Trinidad to Santa Clara (60 cuc private car) and I had read this is the nicest drive anywhere in Cuba. The sky was overcast when as we left Trinidad and we drove through just a sprinkling of rain on the way. The roads were through the hills which were green and lush looking, yes this was the nicest scenery we had driven through so far.
The driver was kind enough to stop just a little way outside Trinidad so I could get out and take a photo of the slave tower, before we continued on our way.
Almost instantly as we entered Santa Clara Provence the lush green rolling hills turned into, brown dry barren hills. It was uncanny the instant change in landscape.
Santa Clara looks like no other town in Cuba that we have been to. Hardly any tourists here, it’s a University town. Main reason for us being here is that we are flying out of the Santa Clara airport in few days, so no other plans really.
Our Hostal Vista Park (35cuc per night) is right on the central park, so a good location and we have 3 separate beds! It’s very hot here, not a skerrick of a sea breeze being so far inland. Perhaps that is why the landscape looked so dry and barren. After checking we stayed indoors and relaxed in our room until about 5.30 pm when it was a little cooler and we went out for stroll around. Like I said not much to see here, and we noticed everything is quoted in CUP (which is the local currency, which we don’t have) this is much different to the other towns we have visited.
Earlier on when I went up to the roof top to check out the view, I spied a hotel next door with a big inground pool. We might be paying a visit to this hotel tomorrow to see how much they charge to use the pool, we have a whole 2 days to kill.
We ate dinner in the casa, for 10 cuc each. I had pork and L & D both had chicken. The soup we had here is by far the best tasting soup we have had all trip! As usual there was too much food served to us, but we managed to force down the 3 scoops of ice cream they served us to finish the meal.
DAY 110 FRIDAY 26TH MAY
We had breakfast at the casa and quite frankly I am so over fruit & eggs and crappy coffee! But there is even less choice in this town than we have had in others. Not any tourists here, suppose it’s because there is not much to see or do here.
And it’s hot, very hot. We spent most of the day sitting in our air con room just biding time really. Only reason we are in Santa Clara is because our flight it out of here, could have easily just done one night or even just come from somewhere else as out flight is not until 6.24pm tomorrow night. But I guess this gives us some relaxing time before we hit Miami where we have a full 4-day itinerary already booked.
We did venture out of our room late afternoon when it was a little cooler. We walked to the only sight of note in Santa Clara the Che memorial. It was about 2km up a busy road, but we needed to give our legs a stretch and breath in some unfiltered air.
The monument is a giant statue of the man himself Che Guevara, and I’m afraid to say the artist commissioned to make the statue, did not, in my opinion do a very good job. A statue of a man with one of the most famous faces in the world would be a big challenge I guess, but this looks more like a statue of one of the characters in the Plant of the Apes. You know the old blonde one; Julius I think his name was. But, yes, just my opinion, but take a look at the photos below and decide for yourself.
Just a block from the memorial was a local roadside bar, so we rewarded ourselves with a cold beer before walking the 2km back to our aircon room.
Dinner again at the casa, food was good but again a change is needed.
DAY 111 SATURDAY 27TH MAY
SANTA CLARA TO MIAMI
Our last day in Cuba! Our last breakfast in the casa was of course the same, same fruit and eggs and crappy coffee.
Kids in the square were having rides in the back of carts being towed by goats.
Our flight is not until 6.24pm but when we asked the casa host to phone and check the time he advised us check-in was at 2pm at the airport. No idea if the flight time has changed or if we have to check in 4 hours in advance, either way waiting at the airport or waiting here at the casa makes no difference to us.
We went to the ATM for the last time to withdraw enough Cuban cash to pay the casa and for a taxi to the airport. We have just 10 cuc left to buy a drink or something at the airport.
Our host booked the taxi and advised it was an old American car – grande! And yes a big old bomb turned up and drove us the 30 minutes to the airport. Quite an apt way to exit Cuba!
We arrived at the airport very early and had to wait an hour before we could check in, turns out the flight time had not changed. Finally we were able to get rid of our luggage, get a stamp out of Cuba from immigration who checked our visa for the USA and we went to the departure lounge to wait our flight.
We had 10 cuc left over which was not enough for a drink for the 3 of us at the airport so we decided to blow the money on 3 hip flask size bottles of rum which was more than double the price of what we could have paid for them in a shop outside the airport, but here they were a 'special' duty free price. Don't understand how the duty free price is more than the shop price, but there it is.
It was still hot as hell as when we walked across the tarmac to board the plane. Thanks Cuba, we had an awesome time!
===END OF LATIN AMERICA===
Firstly, I want to say I am looking forward to travelling in a country where the first language is English. Not that language or lack of local language is usually a problem for us when travelling, but after so many months it will be nice to just be able to ask for something without having to do some kind of mime or sign language to describe what we want.
I must admit I have enjoyed the last 3 weeks in Cuba, much more that the 3 months we travelled in Central America. Not that our experience in Central America was bad (except for a few unfortunate events) but it just did not have the ‘WOW’ factor that I thought it might. No way do I regret any of our travel through Latin America, but I’m also not quick to add it to my list of places to return to.
Besides a few extraordinary places that stood out ie starfish beach in Bocas, seeing a sloth on the side of the road & our jungle experience in Nicaragua, I’d say the whole adventure lacked something.
Food was for the most boring and monotonous, although we never went hungry. And I have to admit we enjoyed many a beer and rum along the way. Scenery was fabulous in some places and nothing in a lot of others. Beaches were mostly crap, but the rest of the world has a lot to live up to as we spoilt by Australian beaches. One thing, beside the arseholes who mugged me, the people in all these countries overall where really lovely and generous with their patience. Most going out of their way to help and assist us when most of the time they had no idea what we were saying or wanted. Who comes to Latin America with absolutely no Spanish at all? Sure, we were probably ripped off on heaps of occasions, but such is life. I detest the 2-tiered payment system, where there is one price for locals and triple the price for tourists but what can we do? Live with it or not come, or learn the local language enough to be able to pay the local prices.
Cuba has been a lot of fun. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting here, but it sure as hell makes you realize how lucky we are at home. Next time I walk into a simple supermarket with selves packed to the rafters I hope I take a second to remember what the people here in Cuba don’t have. And the fact we have such a variety of food and everything on hand, a real eye opener.
I am so glad we did Cuba after Central America and not before as I would have been even more disappointed in the other countries.
So that is the end of this phase of our travels. Fingers crossed I have no problems getting into the USA with my temporary passport and very expensive US visa.
ADIOS CUBA, YANKYLAND HERE WE COME!