Yes, that’s right…ten days in Cuba. Americans can go and it’s easier than you might think. I had the idea that it was going to be difficult to get a visa for Cuba, but it was the easiest thing ever! You just bring your passport and buy a pink tourist card in the airport at your final US departure city. And that’s it!
Now on to the good stuff….Cuba is a land of old rusty stuff, beauty, culture and confusion. Old Russian 1960s trucks full of workers, horse-drawn carts with tourists blasting disco music from speakers and a whole lot of delicious rice, beans, rum and salsa. What more could you ask for?
This clay cup was full of canchanchara, the traditional drink of Trinidad. The family at my first casa particular (private house that rents rooms) offered me one of these and I gulped it down with delight. It is a mixture of light rum, honey and lemon juice and it is deeeeelicious!
My first excursion in Trinidad was to Topes de Collantes, a famous waterfall in the mountains just outside Trinidad. This was a jewel and I would highly recommend it to anyone going to Cuba. Our excursion was a group of 14 tourists riding up the mountain on an old Russian truck with an open air bed with secured sides. Quite a trip! I met an interesting German guy on the trip named Wolfgang. Only older Germans have names like this. It turns out, he had gone to a disco party in Munich, Germany, in the 1960s with Albert Hoffman, the man who invented LSD. Like I said… quite a trip!
The next day, I ventured out to do some spearfishing with a local Cuban guy who knew the reef like the back of his hand. We got a bag full of fish and even a Moray eel! He cleaned the fish at his house with these two crazy Russian guys and we feasted on a table full of grilled seafood along with two bottles of rum – courtesy of the crazy Russian guys.
My last day in Trinidad was spent at Maria Aguilar beach, which lies between the small fishing town of La Boca and the more popular tourist beach called Playa Ancon. It was great to chill on the beach for the afternoon before heading out on a 7 hour taxi ride to the town of Vinales.
Vinales is definitely a tourist trap, but it’s the best tourist trap I have ever been to. If you like small town charm with good hiking and horseback riding, Vinales is the place!
The picture above was a farm we saw coming out of the Cueva de la Vaca just outside Vinales. I wandered down into the farm with a Belgian friend and came upon an old farmer who looked like he had been there since before Castro’s time. He was wearing a green military uniform. The farmer approached us and in country Spanish asked, “what country you from?”
Without thinking, I responded “Canada.” My assumption this was the correct answer was confirmed when he replied, “Ok, you can pass, but if you would have said you were from the United States, I would have told you to go back where you came from!”
This was the only time in Cuba I ever felt any animosity due to the fact that I am from the U.S. Everyone else was very friendly and helpful.
The morning fog that settled on the valley in Vinales was like a fairy tale and the cool air was perfect for sipping a cup of strong morning coffee.
The next day, I ventured on to Jutias Key, a small peninsula just a few hours north of Vinales. The actual distance was only about 60 kilometers, but it took at least two hours riding five deep in a 1946 Plymouth taxi. These colectivo taxis are very common, but somewhat of a gamble because they break down a lot.
The next morning, the roosters woke me up and I went out on the patio to observe an old farmer working his plot of land the old-fashioned way – with two oxen and a wooden plow.
The sunsets in Vinales were second to none.
All majestic pics aside, this shell of a crab captures the essence of Cuba for me. Timeless, backward, forward and beautiful.