Trip Start May 11, 2011
6Trip End May 23, 2011
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I had five hours to kill until my domestic flight from Havana to Santiago and waited patiently with nothing there except an old terminal building and a very basic shop selling cans of beer and packaged biscuits. I luckily killed a big hunk of the time by chatting with a local that was waiting for a friend. I would have pegged him for early twenties but it turned out he was thirty six. It’s amazing what an equatorial climate does for delaying visible aging. We chatted for about two hours about all things Cuba including the government and the advantages and disadvantages with living and working in a socialist state
The domestic flight to Santiago was in a very old Russian plane where humid air leaking into the pressurised cabin during take-off and landing and condensed to look like smoke thick enough to hide your feet from view. From the airport in Santiago I accepted a taxi offer from an old guy and ended getting a lift in his battered old 1950s car that took a few minutes to get started and only two of the four doors worked. Santiago was much like other small Latin American cities just without any true slums or poverty. However, the living conditions are still much lower than the western world. Gorgeous girls are everywhere and the Cubans are just as easy on the eyes as the Colombians.
Our Cuba plans took a bit of a battering when one of Dave’s flights from Spain was cancelled
So I spent the first two days without Dave, however met a cute Cubana called Rosaura early on and we spent the two days together and made me forget all about poor Dave stuck in Havana. The first day we hired a taxi and headed out to the town of her father, where we spent the afternoon walking the streets and listening to music in his house. They insisted on touring me through the dirt streets of the town (definitely not on the tourist trail) where we basically walked from bar to bar having a beer at each. I certainly attracted alot of attention on the streets and Rosaura got strangely possessive which weirded me out a little.
Her father and his family (wife, grandma, four or five kids) are of the poorest of the poor and spending time in their shack was a truly unique experience which I still can't believe I had. The house was a battered wooden shack with a small dirt courtyard out front sided by crumbling concrete walls
After dark, I finally convinced the now very drunk Rosaura to leave so we could head back to Santiago. The family walked us back through the streets and I realised that it wasn't the sort of town that had taxis nor many cars. We waited on the main road for a long time and eventually her father spotted some local who owned a car. We waited on the curb for another 40min while the man rode his bicycle home to get his car. We ate bread rolls with ham from street venders and I marvelled at the bustling activity on the street all around us and wondered whether I would survive the night sleeping in that town. I was incredibly relieved when we finally sat inside a car headed back in the direction of my hotel.
Day two, I got in touch with Dave via internet and we organised to catch a bus out to Bayamo together the following morning. With a lot of screwing around organising tickets and meeting places we finally got a plan in place. I headed out to La Gran Piedra with Rosaura, a large rock lookout on the edge of the Sierra Maestra. The poor visibility was testament to the sheer amount of pollution from the ancient workforce of cars, trucks and buses that ply the Cuban roads.