A place called Colón
But for a small diversion, we first went back the 88 km from Trinidad to Cienfuegos the same way we had come. But this time, we stopped in the city center, at Marti Park, to take a breather and a gander. The rectangular plaza, and every city has one, was under the watchful eye of a massive, roof-top mounted Che poster below which the words "Tu ejemplo VIVE. Tus ideas perduran" / "Your Example Lives. Your ideas Last"
admonished all and sundry. Ringing the square was a collection of immaculately restored and equally well-maintained Spanish colonials. In the center was a large statue of incredible detail. The handsome features of journalist, philosopher and revolutionary hero Jose Marti stared down from the chiseled stone with piercing eyes; the left side showing a relief of Marti at his writing table. There was a vibe in Cienfuegos - the city of a 'Hundred Fires'; a liveliness we wouldn't be able to further experience because of time constraints. Maybe one day. Another 28 km brought us to the Autopista and, for the first time ever, we went over on the northern side. We drove thru little dusty but lively barrios
with enchanting names like Las Amarillas and Calimete with its lovely, small square with pictures of famous men; past Manguito and Guareiras. This part of Cuba seemed more rural and from all appearances, more needy. Another observation was that the majority of the people we saw were of a darker hue.
The sun slid behind a row of sugar cane stalks gently waving in the cool evening breeze and darkness started to descend. It was night when we arrived in Colón and, even through the veil, we could see that there wasn't much here by way of accommodation. With Ty in tow, we asked around for places to stay. Many people didn't know and/or were stunned to find English-speaking foreigners in this neighborhood and
with a child as well. The people who knew, including the two policemen we stopped in their tracks, directed us to an awful-looking, derelict structure that probably once was a hotel (or still was). One long-range glance into the front door told us that we would rather not sleep there and so we pressed on. Twenty minutes later, someone gestured half-heartedly towards a building accessed by a long, dark, narrow pathway. In response to our
calls and banging on the door, the owner stuck his head out and gave us a curt: "No tengo habitacion" before disappearing again. With the last and best chance of decent accommodation gone, we dejectedly retreated and started re-loading our bags, trying to figure out how comfortable a night in a Hyundai i10 would be for three. Space, rather than safety, was the issue. Cuba had already proven to be one of the safest countries we had ever visited.
As we shut the door of the car, someone rapped on the back glass. It was the owner who had, just moments ago, shut us out. Between gulps of air, he managed to tell us that a room had just
become available. 😊
The room was overpriced at CUC 30 and was one of the six that opened straight onto the pathway. Behind the creaky metal door was a smallish, bland room. A curtain hung on the back wall but there was no window behind. The bathroom door was a dated accordion screen that didn't close completely and this caused the dank odor of bad plumbing and poor ventilation to seep into the already stuffy room. On the small
glass table, a laminated printout showed an amorous, spooning couple in a state of undress in a heart-shaped frame. We flipped that over quickly, revealing a menu of alcoholic beverages no doubt contained in the room's, oversized fridge. There was nothing we could do about the suggestive painting of the couple on the wall and we hoped the tired child wouldn't pay too much attention to it. By now, our 'spidey' senses had clued us into the real use of this room. Shanna hurriedly whipped out and installed our emergency bed sheet and pillow cases. The bed, a wobbly aluminum frame thing, was big enough for one. We pleaded with the owner for another mattress and he brought a child-sized one and sandwiched between the cabinet and the fridge. We didn't have another emergency sheet. Because of this, Vibert would get bottom bunk tonight, and especially because it was almost eye-level with the open condom wrapper that was beneath the bed.
Dinner was under-cooked chicken and a sorry excuse for pizza which was served at a busy "restaurant"
. Both were left virtually untouched. Roadside 'jugos naturales' took the edge off our hunger and we decided to call it a
Morning took its own time to come. We were all packed from the night before, something unusual for us, and, even before breakfast (a most unusual occurrence), we had bailed on the little 'boom-boom' room. The only thing that stopped our hasty departure, was another donation of school supplies to the local primary school. That lovely, heart-warming exercise aside, well folks ... we guess you can say that we got exactly what we should have expected from a visit to a place called Colon
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