Published: February 5th 2013February 4th 2013
Estatua de Che Y Nino
Day 461 Monday 14th
We woke up to glorious sunshine and the prospect of a huge day of sightseeing in Santa Clara. After reading the Lonely Planet again we discovered the Che Memorial is not open today so we have to do that tomorrow and then over breakfast Maria told us the Cigar factory was closed for the Christmas holidays till the 19th
so no tours were running. After this we had a shortened plan for the day which included lots of walking. During breakfast Maria rang and reserved bus tickets for tomorrow to the next town and rang the next Casa to make a booking for us; it is so easy travelling this way.
The first destination was Monumento a la Toma del Tren Blindado where the 18 rebels from Che’s group led by Ramon Pardo Guerra (Guille) derailed an armoured train carrying a few hundred soldiers using a bulldozer. The following battle lasted 90 minutes but sealed the end of the Batista Dictatorship with him soon after fleeing the country. The site features the original bulldozer and carriages complete with bullet holes, in a lovely park next to the train line
Taxi options old car or horse and cart
where it happened back in December 1958. A few blocks up the road is an amazing statue “Estatua de Che Y Nino” depicting Che and a child, nothing unusual about a statue of Che in Cuba but this one is worth seeing. The figures themselves are beautifully done and there are all these small details all over the statue for example in the folds of his trouser leg are tiny figures symbolising men climbing a mountain, in the belt buckle there are 38 figures representing the men and women who died in Bolivia fighting with Che, plus the more you look the more you see.
We kept walking to Lomo de Caparo which is the hill that was a vantage point Che and his forces used during the liberation of Santa Clara in 1958, it is also a great lookout of the city. During this time Santa Clara was bombed by Batista’s forces doing quite a bit of damage. We made our way back to the town centre being asked by car, bicycle and horse & cart taxis if we need a lift, it is amazing how many horse and carts are still used as taxis. We spent the
Monumento a la Toma del Tren Blindado the bulldozer
afternoon wandering around checking out the buildings and going to the Cigar shop to buy some cigars and you may ask why when neither of us smoke……but when in Cuba. About 5.30pm stopped at a local bar off the main tourist area for a drink, here a draught beer about 450ml was only 1CUC and a soft drink 0.55 what a bargain. For dinner we tried a great little peso restaurant called Alba which basically means the prices are in the local currency and full of locals and not tourists. The meals were really nice with Scott’s pork dish being only 2 CUC and my fish 3 CUC and both meals were big and tasty.
Day 462 Tuesday 15th
Had breakfast and got out the door walking half an hour to Monumento Ernesto Che Guevara to end our Che trail at where he is buried. When planning this trip across South America and to Cuba we did not plan on seeing Che sites but we have ended up seeing the town he was born in Rosario and Alta Garcia where he spent some of his childhood in Argentina, then Bolivia
Lomo de Caparo
to La Higuera where he was killed and the area where he was initially buried and now his final resting place here. To say that Che casts a giant shadow across Latino America is a massive understatement, the guy has become almost a God like figure.
It is a sad moment and final farewell to a man that holds so much mystic and that seemed to be larger than life. He and 16 others killed in Bolivia were buried in mass graves and then were brought here in 1997 including Tania a female revolutionary fighting with him. The mausoleum is underneath a huge monument including a statue of Che and burial area is not what we expected and seems subdued compared to the larger than life character of Che. His plaque is the same as the others, but maybe this is fitting as they all lost their lives for the same cause.
Walked back into town before heading to the Casa and collecting our bags, the taxi driver was already there sitting talking to Maria’s husband everyone seems to know everyone in Cuba. At the bus terminal we sorted out our ticketsthat were reserved and waited for our
Horse and Cart Taxi
1.00pm bus to Camaguey and started talking to a fellow traveller a nice German man. The bus trip was very slow with our driver and conductor plus another passenger using this trip to do their weekly shopping, first we stopped at a fruit and veg stall at the side of the road to pick up tomatoes, then another stall where they brought dodgy looking slabs of pink/grey coloured processed meat then finally another veggie stall. Oh there was another stop for some kind of beans that 2 men were selling out of large tins, now all the shopping was done we finally made it to Camaguey about 4.45pm. You have to love the casualness of a bus full of people stopping so the driver can pick up his groceries.
The next Casa had sent a taxi to pick us up and the German man came with us hoping there may be a spare room available. The taxi driver turned out to be the Casa owner’s son so when they did not have an extra room they rang another casa and he drove our fellow traveller to the next place for free this is how Cuba works and you will
Central Plaza Theate
always get somewhere to stay. We are having dinner here tonight so went for a quick walk before our 7.00pm meal. The town looks interesting and we will have a better look tomorrow. Dinner was served in the house’s beautiful large garden it is a very romantic setting.
Day 463 Wednesday 16th
For breakfast we returned to the lovely garden and sat under dropping flowers and alongside orchids, it is a real little oasis in the city. Afterwards we headed out to explore the town of Camaguey, which is reputed to be a bit of a tangled mess of roads, as a result of several pirate attacks including one from the legendary Henry Morgan. Apparently the town planner’s way back when thought that by making lots of corners it would confuse any would be attackers. Unsure how it worked against pirates, but it is effective against drunken backpackers. Today we are sober and without a map and trying to navigate to the other side of town to the markets and didn’t find it difficult at all. It was a thirty minute walk and once we got there we sort of
Bulldozer used in train derailment
wondered why we had bothered.
Cuban retail is something quite different to anything we have experienced before in that you will have these large open shops with next to nothing in them. Often there will be rows of shelves with hardly a thing on them. Shops will have several sales staff most of which will be standing around talking whilst a queue of people wait for service. As a tourist we rarely need to endure the frustration of Cuban retail and if we do we tend to seek out the flashier shops selling goods in CUC’s with a slightly better level of service. The markets today were sort of as interesting as standing in a queue at the post office. Really not a lot to see or buy and not a lot of others selling or buying.
Again without a map we made our way back through the streets of Camaguey and wandered in search of things to see. The town does have some nice buildings and street views but is fairly unremarkable. As a tourist there really isn’t a lot to see or do but is okay for a day. Whilst wandering around we spotted a Government
One of the train carriages
internet office so decided to check our emails. As usual, a huge line extended down the street from the front door, which was composed of locals wanting to pay their phone bill. We noticed that a computer inside was free and had to jump the queue and sneak through the door as someone was leaving. As with most of these places a door security guard controls who can enter and when, but as a tourist (not paying a bill) you find doors will open.
After checking our emails we headed out to wander the street some more before returning to our casa to get out of the hot afternoon sun. Stayed there till dinner where we had a lovely chicken dish at their table in the garden once more. Afterwards we headed out to walk the town at night and see what action was happening…which wasn’t much. Stopped for a coffee at a café/bar that was pretty horrible before walking back to our home. Tomorrow we are moving onto a town we had high hopes for, Santiago de Cuba.
There are more photos below