We started the day with an early start at Casa 1932 in preparation for our trip to Cienfuegos. We were travelling there by bus on a journey that would take about four hours and that would take about four hours, taking us from one coast of Cuba to the other. Unfortunately Cuban law means that Cuban and foreign visitors are not allowed to travel on coaches together so this meant we were stuck on a coach with back packers in a variety of shapes and sizes. A whole different world from the Cuban conviviality that I had become used to.
The journey from Havana to Cienfuegos takes about four hours and, once you get out of Havana, it is virtually empty roads all the way. As we travelled across the country the landscape became more and more rural until we were driving on narrow country roads through fields of sugar cane with small fincas and country houses nestled in between. It was also interesting to see how much the horse is still relied upon as a means of transport in rural areas both pulling vehicles and as a mode of transport in its own right. In fact, in the countryside, it is very common to see farmers in their cowboy hats riding around on sharp, hardworking horses. As we got closer to Cienfuegos it was also noticeable how many huertas and organopónicos there were – much more apparent than around Havana.
Cienfuegos, or The Pearl of the South as it is known in Cuba, is on the South coast and is the only French colonial settlement on the island. This means that the architecture is very different from other parts of Cuba. As soon as we got off the coach the plan was to head down to La Punta Gorda, which is a residential spur of land that juts out into the gorgeous bay that surrounds Cienfuegos. The neighbourhood is largely residential with large house constructed in the 1940s and 1950s lining the streets. It is certainly one of the nicest places to stay in town. After finding a casa down there, in the home of the wonderful Oreste and Perla, we walked out to the end of our street to watch the sun go down over the bay. Just perfect!
Then we walked down to the end of the point where there is a little park and lots of beautiful spots to watch the sea. The park is delightfully serene, surrounded by gently lapping water on three sides. Right at the end of the point local fishermen quietly fish in the shallow waters. There is also a small bar where a three piece Cuban band play most nights.
On this night the guys in the band wanted to know where we were from – as soon as they found out we were from Manchester (which is relatively close to Liverpool in their mind) the obligatory Beatles conversation began. It was a big surprise to me how famous the Beatles have been and remain in Cuba. This included even greater excitement from the gentleman working on the bar as he had a friend who had left Cuba in the 1960s and who now lived and worked in Liverpool. The same guy also served us amazing mojitos which he explained were particularly good because they didn’t add any water – just rum, ice and lime all the way!
The guitarist also got super excited about the proximity of Manchester to Liverpool and proceeded to give his own unique rendition of I Want To Hold Your Hand in remarkably good English. Especially as he admitted that he didn’t speak English and actually didn’t understand most of the words that he was saying!
After that we finished our day with another huge and delicious Cuban meal on the patio of our casa followed by sleep and speculation at what the large traps on the neighbour’s roof outside had been set to catch!