Saturday 7 July Day 2: Cienfuegos via Santa Clara

Published: July 24th 2018
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Saturday 7 July Day 2: Cienfuegos via Santa Clara

The next morning, we met David and after breakfast we took our bags to a taxi van which we to be our transport to Cienfuegos and Trinidad. This was where we would change drivers and vehicles. As we were only a group of 4, they didn’t need a large bus.

We drove about 3 hours on the excellent National Highway 1 to Santa Clara. Upon entering Santa Clara, we encounter a huge statue of Ernesto Ché Guevara. We then took some time to visit the museum that is directly under the statue, and which told the story of Ché’s fascinating life. We could not take our cameras in the museum. There is also a mausoleum with an eternal flame that commemorates his death and that of the revolutionaries who were with him in Bolivia. 39 people were buried in the mausoleum. The system in Cuba was to bury the dead for 2-3 years and then dig them up, clean their bones with alcohol and put the bones in a hole-in-the-wall. Ché’s body had been lost in the Bolivian mountains for 30 years. It was eventually found and was treated in the traditional way.

We then head back to towards the Caribbean coast and to Cienfuegos, which is a lot more modern looking than Trinidad. It was developed by the French who came here to settle. The French had a strong influence on the city layout, which features an expansive main square, and a very pretty boulevard that runs from the city centre, along the edge of the bay and to the end of the peninsula. In fact, Cienfuegos is the only city in Cuba that was founded by the French. As a result, it feels a little different than other Cuban cities, with wider streets. There are two main areas of interest to tourists; Pueblo Nuevo, the city centre; and Punta Gorda, a peninsula with lots of 1950's homes.

Before going to our accommodation, we stopped at the Palacio del Valle which was built by a sugar baron but is now a restaurant next to a multi-story modern hotel.

Our accommodation through out this tour was to be in people’s homes. The trend in Cuba is for locals to set up their homes for tourists rather than staying in hotels. We had comfortable beds, air conditioning, Ensuite bathrooms and breakfast supplied. Our room in Cienfuegos was very, very pink. Have a look at the photos!!

As it was heading into the wet season, we could see a big black cloud coming towards us. Just as we sat down in our accommodation to have coffee, down came the rain. For this reason, we decided to do the city walk the next morning. As all tropical storms last for a short time, this did also so we went for a walk before dinner.

We had dinner in a lovely restaurant after stopping near a building which had wifi. Tom & I shared a main course, plus he had soup. Both Jessica and David were very interesting to speak with, both of whom have travelled extensively also.

The city walk focused around the Plaza de Armas where we learned a cyclone literally wiped the town out in 1819 and the wealthy families (Spanish sugar barons) decided to fund the rebuilding. Around the square was a Catholic cathedral (which was open as it was Sunday), a theatre which we paid 5CUC to walk around, a Cultural Centre and many, many art and souvenir outlets as well as cafes and restaurants. The park included statues of historic people. One statue was a famous musician who was the father of music in Cuba, Dany Moore. We saw several statues of him.

Camillo our guide also took us to a shop that sells only Cuban-made clothing and products. All the prices were in CUP (24 CUP = 1 CUC). The locals wait for a shipment of new clothes to come in as all were very cheap. However, we noticed that all the locals were dressed very well. We were told that this city was one of the wealthiest due to the oil and sugar refineries. We walked down to the harbourside were we saw a rowing regatta being staged. Next was our drive to Trinidad, again on reasonably good roads, mostly following the southern coast, taking about 1 ½ hours.

Some interesting history, before 2003 Cienfuegos had a reputation for teenage prostitutes. Girls would skip school to go to the airport three times a week for the flights from Canada and meet Canadian men. Beginning in 2003 the police cracked down on prostitution and now Cienfuegos has a reputation for the most vigorous anti-prostitution police patrolling in Cuba (and there are no longer flights from Canada). After dark be careful at nightclubs, restaurants, or on the streets; simply asking an innocent young woman for directions could get her arrested. People are warned not to bring a Cuban guest into your casa (guest house) unless she signs the guest book; several home owners lost their homes because tourists brought "girlfriends" home for the night. If a woman is arrested twice in a year for being with a tourist she is fined. If she's arrested three times she goes to prison for four years. (Tourists are usually not arrested or punished.)

We by-passed the Bay of Pigs which is off the southern coast of Cuba. This is where the landing of counter-revolutionary exile militia occurred in 1961. The ensuing battle with the Cuban Revolutionary forces resulted in the first defeat of a U.S backed take-over in Latin America.

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