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Published: January 8th 2010
Viva Trinidad. I can't tell you how excited I was to see this spectacular spot on the planet. UNESCO you rock. Keep up the good work.
By far my favourite in Cuba (so far), Trinidad is amazing, slightly more touristy, but quite literally frozen in time for 50 years.
There is a photo opportunity around every corner. Every dog has an attitude. Trinidad is the epitome of what I thought Cuba would look like: cobblestone streets, men playing dominos under street-lamps late into the cool evenings, horse and carts clicky-clacking down the lanes, glorious white sand beaches only minutes away, red and orange tile roofs that sparkle in an evening sunset.
It's all sensory overload.
We lucked out again with our Casa Particular family too. Hortensia and Ricardo are the sweetest, friendliest people you could ever know, and welcome us into their house like long-lost relatives. Hortensia's hobby turns out to be gardening...and cooking, so when we weren't talking flowers, she fed us gourmet Spanish inspired meals for the three days we stayed. Have I mentioned the electrical showers yet? Oh, ha...well maybe you need to just experience yourself. I'm not sure what is worse, the electrical
on/off switch right by the shower head, or the trickle of luke warm water that comes out. Very unnervy to turn the switch on while standing in a pool of water, let me tell you. But I haven't been electrocuted yet.
So! What to do first? Options appear endless here in Trinidad. We all agree to take a hike in the National Park called Topes de Collantes also preserved by UNESCO. It's beautiful up in the mountains, traversing rocky slopes and gingerly stepping across suspension bridges. The pay off? A plunge into the frio waters to paddle around, daring to stick our heads under the thunderous waterfall. It felt so great, since it was about 35 celsius and the humidity was heavy. The walk back is leisurely, none of us in a hurry. I always try to identify all the plants I see. Birds and butterflies flit around. Something rather large runs across the path in front of Lorraine. Whatever it was, the blood-curtling shriek took care of it.
Later in the evening, I was walking down the old cobblestone streets trying not to break an ankle, with the plan to meet up with a few of my
tourmate amigos for drinks and to watch the goings on at the "stairs". I passed by a group of young Cubans playing dominos at a card table under the only light. They have gold chains and wife beaters, and are yelling into cell phones. The street lamp was bright enough only to see they were drinking rum, and I felt a little nervous as they eyed me up as I approached. Just as I went by, I realized that one of the domino players was my tourmate called Doug. He had sat down with them earlier and went tits over teakettle, the chair unsteady on the cobble. Laughing with (but mostly at him), he had won over these young men in an instant, and now there was a feverish game going down. After introductions, I was passed a glass of rum. The guys chatted back and forth, one of them talking in English so Doug would understand. Cuban son music leaked from a venue just down the way, and I had to take a moment to capture this amazing experience in my mind forever.
Like I was saying, absolutely endless music around every corner in Trinidad. So many options
right in the downtown core where we were staying, we didn't even have to venture to the outskirts, to a nightclub someone said was famous for being in a Cave. After a few games of dominos, Doug and I met up with the rest of the gang and went up to the "steps". Live music takes place near the main church steps and someone magically appears to get your drink order. You can't help but jump up and dance. Later on, as the town starts to wake up, the Trova venue get going. If you like more afro-cuban beats, chose the more Santeria type places. The Trinidadian nightlife doesn't quite match up to the crazy nightlife of Santiago de Cuba or Camaguey, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.
We were all excited to have a beach day, especially after having so many days of rain, and of course the hurricane. Playa Ancon is about 20 minutes out of town and absolutely deserted at this time of year. We spend a beach day watching huge storms roll across the ocean far from us. We have a palapa and a beach chair, and the glassy turquoise waters kicked up a bit to
frolic in. Someone brings us a fresh bucanero (beer) every so often. Heaven.
The following day we took a Catamaran ride out to a Cayo (Island) Blanco. Again, isolated past the point of being ridiculous, we all were a tad hung-over and lounged while the boat sliced through the waters. Passing out rum, it was easy to get back into it, and most of us snorkelled, before having a lobster lunch, served up at a nice little hut on the Cayo. All for about $40 cuc. The beach was breathtaking and remote, and we spent the rest of the day in the shallow waters floating until our skin shrivelled. Then we had hermit crab races (mine won by the way), under the shade of the coconut palms. On the way back into town we cram into a small taxi, the driver decides to crank Reggaeton on his really fancy stereo, which I don't mind, and then while weaving frantically through traffic, he starts to Text, which I do mind. I tell him in Spanish that in Canada its frowned upon to text while driving. He politely puts it away for a second. Everyone thinks Cubans are behind the times,
but they have all the technology and audio woofers as we have....well at least the taxi drivers do.
We are told the train that takes you out to a sugar plantation wasn't working right now, but low and behold after taking a taxi all the way out, the train zips by. Hmmm, maybe the taxi driver has friends in high places? Oh well, we were also told it was a museum, but unfortunately its a tourist trap, and not much to see, other than the mechanical press that crushes the sugar cane, demonstrated by a really bored Cuban lady who wants 1 kook for her troubles. The lace and tablecloth girls are everywhere, but they sell their wares so freaking cheap that you can't resist wheeling and dealing a bargain. Now even I have napkins and table runners for my imaginary dining table back home. The sugar baron that owned this land got into some kind of bet with a sibling as to who could build what faster, and he (with the help of his black slaves) erected a huge tower on his property. He won I think. Anyways, this tower is pretty tall, but has seen better days.
Rickety steps up to the top aren't the only unnervy thing. The cement itself appears to have been hurricaned a few layers away, and everything seems duct taped together. Sorta like a thrill ride to go up. Double dog dare ya. I make sure to test each step...just in case. The view is worth it. A spectacular valley of sugar cane, the hills in the backdrop, the little cane train winding its way back into town without us. Back in town you can climb up all the churches bell towers for the same spectacular views, and if you can catch a sunset, even better.
Trinidad is chocablock full of tourists. Not sure where they are coming from, perhaps the all-inclusive resorts on Playa Ancon, or maybe even bused in from Havana or Varadero. There are lots of them shopping and looking around, I don't mind. I notice the Cubans attitude towards them is way more aggressive, and lots more stop me to ask for pens or soap too. We go to a local kook store to stock up on bus munchies and one girl actually has the guts to come up to me and start saying in English 'my
baby, food, food for my baby'. I tell her something not so nice back in Spanish, and she gives me a coy smile before going off to the next target. No baby ever starves in Cuba, but it's a good racket. As I'm exiting the store I see this old couple handing her a five cuc note and am disappointed. She winks at me, and then peels outta there with her loot. Only to be back a few minutes later, haggling over a bag of used clothes with two of her accomplices. They are trying to figure out how much money they can get for the items. They don't need clothes, unlike what they've obviously told the tourists. If only those tourists could hear what these girls say about them, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't be so generous.
We decide to have dinner out again, at a local restaurant instead of Palador, and of course are disappointed. We decide to only go to Paladors from this point forward. Restaurants are horrible in Cuba, and we've been spoiled by the homestays.
My group encounter "wankers" the last night in Trinidad as they were walking home from a night of
drinking at a Trova. Gangs of young guys stand in doorways to risk being caught doing things to themselves, all for the thrill of freaking out a tourist, male or female. Oh well, I guess if you don't have cable TV.
The next day we are off, headed to Cienfuegos, then to Santa Clara to check out the Che memorial and mausoleum.
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