Trip Start Jan 24, 2009
7Trip End Feb 23, 2009
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I am looking forward to a night on this town without the noise and smell of the pollution. Getting off the bus was a breeze when the people at the casa found me and helped me to my place for the duration. When you get off the bus there qre swarms of people waiting to take you to a place to stay. This small town is used to tourists and there are no lack of places to stay. The scenery is much closer to my kind of town and I am looking forward to biking around at my own pace without the traffic. Along the way I have seen places and things that I will visit on my own The beauty of this town attracts many touristas so there is a little more concern for security although it seems deceiving by comparison to habana.
I had to negotiate the cost of my supper from 8CUC to 5CUC upon arrival. Being skinny as I am it gave me the reason to say I don't eat much (LOL). I was not sure how to eat the meal they gave me. I had an empty bowl in front of me then there was a huge bowl of plain rice, a bowl of whst looked like pea soup, a salad plate of tomatoes and lettuce, and a plate of leather. It reminds me of a meal that Tyrone had back in Habana when he ordered a beef plate. It was sort of like a stew without the sauce. He put a piece in his mouth, chewed then spit it back on to his plate. He did that for every single piece of meat on his plate perhaps hoping that he would find one that he could chew to a reasonable consistency for his stomach. He never did!! When I asked him how he liked it, he said "the potatoes were good".
Anyway I will attempt to get this email off today because the last days of internet service have been unpredictable. I wonder what is for breakfast?
I met a couple from Alaska who flew in from Mexico City that were on a 2 month tour but they figured that they would run out of money in a couple of weeks because of the money they were spending on phone bills at $5.00 a minute.
We spent about a half hour shooting the breeze and I let Michael try out my little toy bike. He was pretty impressed with that funny looking beast and after taking a few few pics we bade each other farewell as they continued their journey on to Los Terrazas. The scenery is breathtaking and I am in my element cycling through this hilly countryside. It is a cyclist's paradise taking my time to pedal around the goats, cows, dogs, chickens, potholes, and other things that kept my attention on the road. I estimate that I did about 25km including the dirt roads and cow paths that me through tobacco fields always being in good company with the local animals. I stopped to watch a turkey being followed by quite a few little chicks struggling their way through the underbrush. I couldn't get a good count of how many there were but it was fun trying. I am really glad I brought my bike because I am covering distances with ease and it is very relaxing. I am getting my "legs" back and my posterior is not complaining so La Vie est Belle et Viva Cuba Libre!
The internet connection at the only place open was not in service today and the other place was closed, probably because it is Sunday, so this is "es Cuba". Relax and breath through the nose or "respirez par le nez" as we say back in Montreal. I will try again later or consider sending a postcard which might be quicker LOL. I haven't decided how long I will stay here before moving on but who cares?
There is a bus to Cienfuegos from here everyday except Tuesdays which means that I would have to leave tomorrow or wait until Wednesday ... so I'll wait till Wednesday. This is a very nice town and I am getting the opportunity to meet people who can speak English because there are many tourists but not crowded. I went for a stroll and ran into the couple I met on the bus (Edmonton) and we have made a plan to meet tonight for music and dance. We separated and I ran into a couple from Montreal (LaSalle) who gave me the chance to speak my French and talk about all kinds of things. I know that if I wanted to come back here for any length of time, say a month, I could stay for 10CUC per day. It is very appealing although there is no beach, the friendly people and beauty of the countryside makes it an ideal spot to chill out a month or two of our winters.
For 20CUC I was offered a private 4 hour guided tour through the area hiking to a swimming place and up a mountain and around tobacco farms .... maybe tomorrow. The pleasant part of the people here is that they are not aggressive and just saying that "maybe tomorrow" is enough to end the offer with a smile and another opportunity for the next day. Horse rentals with guides are possible also. I might try that since my posterior seems to be alright, so how much damage can a saddle do?
I spent the morning with my dictionary figuring out how to call a casa in Cienfuegos to get a room but it didn't work out. Ana, my gracious hostess did the calling for me with the info I gave her but they wanted too much so I said forget it ... I will play it by ear when I get there. I leave Wednesday at 8AM and should arrive around 2:30 or 3 PM in Vinales.
Last night was spent with the couple from Edmonton at a bar .They were not really into the atmosphere of the music although they said they were enjoying themselves. I really wanted to get up and boogie but the lady didn't seem to be the type to want to so I just jived on the chair enjoying the cerveza and watching the very good dancers on the floor doing some very "caliente" moves....these people know how to "get it on" . The only thing that is not caliente is the water in the shower but having spoken to some other travellers it seems that I am the only unlucky one taking cold showers .... what the hell LOL.
we walked for 2-3 km through the farmlands and ended up at a farm where the old farmer grew tobacco, pineapples and all kinds of other things.
I was offered a cigar and coffee grown from this farm. So we sat and enjoyed an hour of mimed Spanglish trying to get our communication straight. The coffee was great and although I am not a cigar affectionado ...it was really good. Armando showed me how to cut the tip and mended the end with honey so I could smoke it with my coffee. I am not sure what he was trying to say when he was associating grapefruit with the tobacco but I did understand that his mother died at the age of 90 and smoked these cigars all her life. I wonder if she wore army boots (just kidding). Anyway these home rolled cigars are very mild and I can say that it is the first cigar that I really enjoyed even though it kept unrolling as I smoked it. The cigar was tied at the end with a little piece of string to keep it together so I asked Armando to cut the end for me and he pulled out this knife almost the size of a machete to nip the end .... Wow, where did that come from?
Back in town, prior to bumping into the couple from Edmonton, I sat on the curb near a bar-terrace where there were a bunch of guys with a guitar and the ever present bottle of rum. I sat there for about a half an hour just enjoying the good time they were having and listening to their singing. They had a talent and the "boleros" or love songs that they sang moved the soul. I know that I could have sat with them because they motioned to me to join them but I was a little too shy and I didn't need the exercise with trying to get a message across .... the music was stimulating and the mood even more so. It is almost impossible to describe the moment in words but suffice it to say that love is in the air and the it shows through the music.
Click on the speaker icons to hear what I recorded as I sat there. The pic isn't very good but shows my position as I listened to them. Can you hear the rum?
I wondered about the technique the teacher or dance leader was using because there was very little verbal communication and no apparent instruction but they were getting it together .... now I am beginning to understand why the Cubans are so adept at dance. They love it and learn at an early age where the instruction is semi formal leaving each one to develop their own style. They may not have much money but the richness of the culture goes beyond words. For those that want to leave here I can only say that they do not know what they have .... things that only cannot buy. The weather and the spirit is mucho caliente. Viva Cuba!
It rained most of the night and still is at this early time of 6AM. I really hope that it will stop for my hike with Armando and another stop for a cigar and coffee with the old farmer.
I just returned from my hike with Armando who was a terrific guide. We hiked for about 4 hours stopping along the way for a coconut mixed with rum (what else?), grapefruit and honey before stopping off for a coffee at another shack in the countryside.
Fortunately the rum came after the caves he brought me into. I was not expecting caves but the trek included quite a few crossings over water and other obstacles. The "bridges" required all of my attention not to lose my balance. Made from bamboo, they were a challenge and combined with the inch thick mud stuck to my shoes made it a little more of a heart stopper as this Canadian negotiated the crossings.
At one point we actually had to find a tree to ford a small river which had swollen overnight. Oh man .... I didn't want to get wet LOL. The paths were very slippery from the rain last night and lots of red mud stuck to my shoes so that made it a little more than I anticipated but everything turned out OK and it was a wonderful experience. Even though Armando could not speak a word of English he was pretty good explaining the crops and various plants they use for infusions to cure their diarrhoea or urinary problems. Don't ask me how he got those messages across but he did LOL.
The cave he brought me into was fantastic. Not your typical tourist promenade. We let our eyes adjust to the dark for a bit then proceeded through walking on the very uneven natural formations and at times along a wall with a path not quite as wide as my shoe ... and water below .... and very dark.
I used my lighter to light up a torch at the end of a stick to illuminate the way, it was probably diesel fuel from the black smoke billowing from it. So with a single torch we managed to find our way into the cave where there was a place to swim (which I declined) but apparently a good portion of the population was conceived here ... don't ask me how he explained that LOL. Muchas gracias Armando!
Where I stayed
Casa Ana y Mario