November 2015 - January 2016
  • Day49

    Cuba - casas and internet

    January 16, 2016 in Mexico ⋅ ☁️ 18 °C

    CASAS
    There aren't enough hotels, and being state-run the standards of service aren't always great. So the government has let private houses offer rooms for rent. There are some limitations: they are inspected from time to tile, must be clean, have hot showers and air condidtioning, and offer breakfaxt (usually a real spread) and oftern dinner.

    Because they are in private houses there is good communication with locals. They are a lot cheaper than hotels, generally CUC25-30. They are available (there are nowhere like enough hotel rooms for the number of visitors). And they help you out: finding a casa at your next town, calling a cab, or just lending you their phone.

    But they are not so private, and Luci found this hard.

    INTERNET
    There isn't the infrastructure to have internet all over Cuba, so the telecommunications company ETECSA has WiFi spots in main parks. The weather is kind and it means that internet does not intrude too much. It also means internet acces is a more social affair, with people congregating to conect. Access is CUC2 per hour, you can log on and off and use your time as you want. But it doesn't always work, and it seems the system is not compatible with newer Samsung equipment, so neither Aleisha nor I can connect....
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  • Day49

    Back to Mexico

    January 16, 2016 in Cuba ⋅ ☁️ 25 °C

    Luci and Aleisha were up around dawn to see the valley, I woke a little later to the sound of the restaurant above getting ready for the day. The view certainly was pretty with an unbroken layer of soft white cloud stretching across to the mogotes on the other side.

    Last night we had washed our shoes to remove the mud of the fango. Not a problem for the others, but I had no spares so I wrote them wet. Later on the way to Havana I took them off and they dried well in the breeze in the back of the taxi. On arrival to Havana we were early so we asked the driver to take us to the Plaza de la Revolucion which we had previously missed. It was very impressive with the huge monument to Jose Marti and huge images of Camile Cienfuegos and Che Guevara on nearby buildings.

    Then to the airport where the driver had to pick up his next fare to go to Punta Maria la Gorda before returning home to Pina del RIo about 9pm. In the airport there was little to buy and less to eat. The only things for sale in abundance were bottles of rum. At the cafe downstairs I bought the last ham and cheese sandwich, and it was only 2pm. Upstairs at the other cafe Luci got another boring sandwich. Meanwhile Mira lay on the seats, feeling too sick to move.

    The flight was called and we were on our way. I ended up swapping with Mira for the right window seat. Mira had found the passenger next door interesting; he had lived in over 20 countries and had worked in a circus amongst other things. I found him to be a rather pretentious Englishman with a Mexican lady friend, so we didn't talk a lot.

    Over the Caribbean I saw a boat and a coral atoll but little more until we arrived to Mexico City. The air was clear, so good views of the mountains. After landing the immigration processing was overwhelmed. It took about 1 1/2 hours to get through, sped up when 2 of the 5 desks re-opened after staff came back from a break. One lady we queued with was interesting. She was Danish, but 40 years ago had married a Mexican and came to live in an eco-village at Tepoztlan, a very pretty area near Cuernavaca. Residents included an architect, ballerina, painters, etc who gained a living giving workshops and commuting to Mexico City. She had separated from the Mexican many years ago, but they had a som, now about 35 years old who had just started work as a tour guide in Cuba. A week ago she had received a mignight call saying her son was expected to survive but with no other details. 4 hours later snother call told her the son had had a heart attack and was in hospital in Pinar del Rio. She flew there next day. Apparently he had been staying at a casa outside Vinales when he had the heart attack, his pulse shot up to 250 and he was in a bad way. All the same they didn't get a car and he had to walk 500m to another house where they realised the danger and drove him to town.

    We cleared immigration, Wawis and Riki were waiting for us. They took us to eat tacos then back home to bed..
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  • Day48

    Cuba day 17 Vinales

    January 15, 2016 in Cuba ⋅ 🌬 24 °C

    This morning we changed casa. We loved staying with Misleidis and her family, but Luci worried about the mosquito bites, and besides the new place had great views. So we packed up and got a taxi to the new place. Mira meanwhiloe had gone off to meet the guy from yesterday who would take her horse riding.

    After dropping the bags at the new place we walked back down to Vinales, but we stopped at the entrance to the park where Luci met someone she knew, we asked about horse riding to the Valle de Palmeritos and a guy with a taxi said he could take us to Vinales and arrange horses and guide. It was a little muddy getting to the horses, but once we were on them and on our way the track became a sea of fango, sometimes so deep our feet were just above the mud. Aleisha's horse seemed intent on going slowly, but she was in front and at one stage a bush knocked the sunglasses off her head and into the mud. Amaxingly the guide found them. A bit later there was a drier patch and lots of people milling around for a cock fight. We continued, in part when I had gone yesterday, but there was still 'mucho fango'. And then there were a few drops of rain and then the sound of distant thunder. We decided to abandon the trip and turned around. We stopped at a restaurant for a snack, and then the rain started to pour down. Just as well we hadn't continued. Our shoes were now totally mud covered and our legs and even shirts mud splattered. We cleaned up a little in a muddy pool then took a taxi to the casa. The disadvantage of being on an out-of-town hill was that you had to take a taxi every time you wanted to move.

    The taxi was an old Fiat from the 1950s, passed from father to son through 3 generations, still with the original motor and gearbox but with much else changed; it smelt of exhaust so we kept the windows open, besides no aircon and it was hot. The driver worked full time at the water supply plant, but his week was 2 days each of 24 hours earning CUP950 (CUC38) per month, so on his days off he drives the taxi.

    We cleaned up at the casa, I had no other shoes so chose thick socks and wrung them out a couple of times as we listened to music that Luci thought was amazing. When the band had almost finished we went to eat at a Mediteranean restaurant. Several times during the day we had tried to find Mira, and several times she had tried to find us. Then she suddenly appeared, she was in a taxi on the way to Nenitas hoping we might be there when she noticed us at an outside table.

    Mira told us she had had a great day, horse-riding through the fango, then visiting a swimming hole at the end of a 50m cave, then eating recently-slaughtered kid and pork with her friend's family. It had been a memorable day for her.

    Mira stayed in town to dance further when we returned to the casa to get ready to leave in the morning. Mira got back about 1:30 but was up most of the night with an upset tummy.
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  • Day47

    Cuba day 16 Vinales

    January 14, 2016 in Cuba ⋅ 🌬 24 °C

    Another rainy day, not inspiring for going out. Luci's foot was improved, but still I insisted she wear a bandage when se wanted to go to the park to connect to internet to find somewhere for us to stay Friday night, a hotel in Havana was what she had in mind, she was sick of casas. Mira was tired, Aleisha feeling ill (mainly in the tummy, but also coughing), so they stayed in the casa. Aleisha had also been devoured by mosquitos last night. I counted around 80 bites on her left leg, 60 on the right leg, 40 on the left arm and 30 on the right arm.

    I tried to hire a bile, not so easy because all tours had been cancelled due to the rain so everyone had hired bikes. A English-speaking US couple were also after bikes and in due course a guy turned up offering bikes CUC6 for 3 hours. I complained this was too much so he dropped it to CUC5. The Americans were happy with this and rode off. The guy came back and offered CUC4 until 5pm so I took it. The gears didn't work properly and the brakes were dodgey, but it was good to be going.

    I rode out towards the north, past fields and a vege area, then turned right along a road past the Cooperative Republica de Chile (revolutionary slogans and a school inside), in the direction of Laguna de Piedra. It was very quiet, no machines, only a motorbike and a truck in 30 minutes' riding. Pleasant countryside, then at a village I turned off down a little track and there was a lovely view of a lake, and in a rough field an old woman was digging with a knife for boniuta, a tuber. An old man came out of another house with a wooden hoe fashioned froma a branch to help her find more/ It was very picturesque but I wondered what would happern when she could no longer dig for boniuta. Malanga is another tuber, rather like a cross between a potato and sweet potato.

    On the way back I was stopped a couple of times by people asking for money, rare in Cuba. Back at the thighway I turned right amd wemt through a chasm between two mogotes. Very beautiful. It is all limestone, so the rock was very erodes. At the base was a cave with a bar inside, tunnels going through the mogote where runaway slaves used to hide. At the end of the tunnels was a restaurant with unusual paintings on some walls.

    I rode back towards town, concerned that the girls might have felt stuckin the casa, when to myy surprise I found Mira riding along the same road. We chatted, she continued, I turned off the road up a track and met a 75 year old farmer who told me he worked his farm in partnership with Fidel, selling the produce to the state. He seemed content with the arrangement, but offered to arrange for us to go hore riding tomorrow (CUC4/hour). He showed me a track back to Vinales with the warning there was "mucho fango" on the way. At that stage I didn't realise it meant tracks of water and mud. ruined by the horse traffic.

    It was pretty walking through fields of tobacco and corn, with egrets sitting on the cows and horse-pulled ploughs. The track deteriorated and became impassable so I followed a foot track next to a field. But after a while I came across a mother an her two young children. The children had been playing with slingshots, they showed me a sparrow they had stunned but appeared otherwise uninjured. The mum was less friendly, she told me the route to Vinales was not the track next to her fields but the fango track.

    After only 3 metres on the fango track a local showed me another track to take which avoided the fango. As he showed me the way he offered to arrange horse-riding for tomorrow, CUC5/hour, saying he would meet me at 8.30 in the morning, and if I wasn't there that would be ok. I asked for his phone number and said if I didn't ring not to wait.

    Back in Vinales I looked for Luci but didn't find her, back at the casa she wasn't there either, but Mira and Aleisha were. Mira had had a great afternoon, meeting a local boy who showed her over their farm and restaurant, gave her a free meal of freshly killed kid and pork, and offered to take her (us) hores-riding free in the morning. Luci arrived excited as she had walked up the road to the Hotel Los Jasmines with great views over the valley, and had arranged for us to stay tomorrow night at a casa next door. Not all of us were keen aboout moving, but she said it would be mosquito-free.

    Dinner was at the casa, host Misleidis prepared a real banquet of our preferred meals. Later Luci wanted to take me to a bar with live music, but when we got there it had finished so we went on to another where a couple of professional dancers led the way, she pointed out how I should learn from how the Cuban dancers dance.
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  • Day46

    Cuba day 15 Vinales

    January 13, 2016 in Cuba ⋅ 🌬 24 °C

    Unfortunately the day dawned grey; a low pressure system had moved in and there was drizzle on and off all day.

    Luci's foot was still hurt so she stayed in the room most of the day.

    Aleisha, Mira and I walked into town and rented bikes, not the most comfortable but in general they worked. We headed south into the countryside between fields of tobacco and maize. At the sign to the 'Mural de la Prehistoria' we turned right. Just a little way in I saw a couple of men milking a cow 50 metres off the side of the road by a tree, so we stopped and went and talked with them. A tall skinny guy around 30 was doing the milking, he didn't say a word. His father, in his mid-50s, was sitting, watching. He talked a lot. About how the revolution had brought many improvements, how he ran his farm with cows being milked once per day and giving about 8 litres each. The milk is collected in 25 litre buckets and sold to the state. Depending on quantity he earns about CUP6-7000 each month (around CUC9 per day).

    We continued biking, passed a camping ground, a dirt track went straight on (to the Valle de Palmerito, which would have been good to see) but the road curved left and we came to a large cliff that had been painted in bright colours, it looked ghastly. Entrance was CUC3 so we declined and rode back.

    Mira was thirsty and a stall with no-one there was selling bananas. When a bright, excitable, happy young man appeared we asked for water and he offered a bottle of water that comes from a spring. He took us on a tour of his farm; it had a mango tree, avocado tree, coffee trees, tomatoes growing, pigs, chickens, tobacco. The mother showed us how to roll and smoke a cigar, her mother showed us coffee beans. There were a couple of young girls who danced with Aleisha on a trailer. A worker cut tobacco leaves and hung them to dry on timber racks, later they would be transferred inside a covered drying room.

    The guy offered to take us riding to Los Aquaticos but I wasn't sure despite Mira's enthusiasm, we ended up agreeing to call of we were going. It was getting late now, so we rode back to town. We met up with Luci and had dinner at Casa Nenita, it was ok but not special.
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  • Day45

    Cuba day 14 to Vinales

    January 12, 2016 in Cuba ⋅ 🌬 24 °C

    The taxi arrived earlier than expected, and turned out to be different from what we expected. It was not air conditioned and while I thought it was 20 years old in fact it had been manufactured in 1953. It was a Jeep, rather like a Land Cruiser. But the seats were comfortable, and it was there. So we took it and the driver was an intelligent 31 year old who lives in Jaguey (pronounced 'Ha-wei') Grande, and the guy we had met last night had phoned someone who had phoned him, knowing that he wanted to go to Vinales some time to collect a debt. He had driven 70km this morning from Jaguey to collect us.

    On the way we passed Playa Grande, second site of the Bay of Pigs invasion, with memorials up the road showing where Cubans had died in the fight. Very moving.

    We also saw a pond that appeared to be a collapsed cave, with very clear, sterile water. Xxxx told us it was very deep, and how a car had once fallen in the water. Carried by the current through caves the car had reappeared about 9km away in another flooded cave.

    Sortly after we visited a town called 'Australia' where there had once been a large sugar mill (called a 'central'). At the time of Bay of Pigs Fidel Castro placed his headquarters in the sugar mill, and Central Australia became a well-known place. Also there were some functioning old steam locomotives with 'Australia' emblazoned on the sides from the old days.

    It was interesting talking with the driver, he was 31 years old, clearly intellligent he had graduated from university with an engineering degree. But with engineering paying about CUP600 per month he chose to be a driver instead. His family had been rich, with houses, farms, cars. With the revolution much of this was confiscated, but some remained, and they were able to trade up to end up with the Jeep. Apart from the body there wasn't much of the original car left: the motor and transmission were from a Toyota, the instrument panel was from another car, there were truck parts in it.

    He told me how people get by doing things on the side: a farmer selling some of the produce privately, a bus driver keeping the fares of extra passengers, others with tips, police with little bribes, and so on.

    When we got to Vinales we couldn't find the Casa Nenita where we were reserved, at Salvador Cisneros #1 there was a noisy petrol station. We continued down a road, saw a sign for a casa somewhat off the road. They didn't have a room, but the lady took us to a place over the road but we didn't like it much, so she took us to another place which we took.

    In the afternoon we walked to town. Luci really wanted to find the Casa Nenita where we were meant to stay, she had previously had to call them twice to change our arrival date as our plans changed. It turned out she had noted the wrong directions, instead of 1 Salvador Cisneros behind the Polytechnic it was the first street off Salvador Cisneros behind the Polyclinic. They were a big place with 9 rooms, a swimming pool and restaurant, more of a backpackers' hotel run by Nenita and her son.

    At the plaza we met the girls who were enjoying internet connection. Later we lost Luci, but found her again sitting with a lady from Curacao at a restaurant with vegetarian food. We had to queue to get a table, but the food was quite good.

    In a corner of the plaza there was a bar with music, nearby there were portals with dance lessons.

    Late evening we returned to the casa. Mira was in the alcove room, I was lying on the bed snoozing. Suddenlly there was a crash and shout from the bathroom, and Luci staggered out bleeding, asking for the first aid kit, holding her right foot. It turned out that she and Aleisha had seen a mosquito in the bathroom and Luci had supported herself against the handbasin to reach up and swat it. The handbasin had separated from the wall, and crashed to the floor, breaking on impact. Luci's knee was in the way of the falling basin, her foot cut by the broken ceramic. The tap was torn from the wall, Aleisha had her finger over the broken pipe. Mira went back to sleep but we woke her to get help from the hosts. Aleisha knew best were the first aid was so she and I swapped positions. I was able to clean up the area a little and make space, she made and applied butterfly bandaids to the wound. The hosts cut the water supply, closed off the open pipe, and assured us it would all be ok and we would have a new handbasin next day.

    COSTS OF RUNNING A CASA
    CUC35 per month per room in a casa plus 10% of income (before expenses) plus at the end of June and December a means test-based tax (on incomes over CUP75,000 (CUC3000)
    Although called 'Iliana and Jorgito' (her son), the perosn who really ran it was Jorgito's wife Misleydis (pronounced "Miss Ladys").
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  • Day44

    Cuba day 13 Giron: diving and museum

    January 11, 2016 in Cuba ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    Up early, the diving bus was due at 8.30 to take Aleisha and I scuba diving. Luci packed us some lunch from the breakfast remains, and off we went. At the diving office were lots of foreigners, diving equipment and Cuban instructors. The experienced divers went off in a converted truck, the rest of us in the bus to shallower areas. The whole area seems to be limestone, about a metre above sea level, eroded to an overhang by the sea water, with areas of sand.

    On arrival I needed to go to the toilet (no facilities here so the portable bidet was very useful), then we were given a briefing: how to clear a mask underwater, how to remove water from the mouthpiece, th emergency mouthpiece, how to change the buoyancy of the diving vest, how to read the tank meter. Then in the water practice of these things plus communication: the OK signal, eye problems, breathing problems, up and down signals.

    Then out to the coral and although there were patches of sand and a few areas of dead coral in general it was very pretty. Fishes, seaweeds and corals of different colours and shapes. At one stage a shool of 'normal' fish included an apparently deluded pipe fish about 3 times the length of the others. Elsewhere a small white fish with a yellow face, about 75mm long and 10mm wide, swam away from me, found its hole, positioned itself vertically above the hole, and swam backwards into the hole. Long yellow-green tubes coming up from the floor were pretty too, as were the lace seaweeds. After 50 minutes the instructor steered us back to the shore, but it felt like it had been well over an hour.

    We rested a bit then they started to pack up. Concerned I asked about a second dive. They said we needed to have told them that before leaving (which I had), so they relented and Aleisha and I went again, this time I took my camera. This time we were 45 minutes, but it felt like half that. The corals and fishes were just as pretty, but taking photos made it more interesting. One photo I couldn't get was of an organisim about 2-3cm long that came out of certain corals and looked like a little Christmas tree without lights: every time I got close it ducked back inside the coral. Colour correction was a probloem with photos:everything had a blue hue here, so the best photos were with flash.

    Back at Playa Giron we went to the beach and found Luci and Mira there; they had not felt so good so had had a quiet morning and were now resting on beach chairs partially under a thatched shelter, drinking coconuts. Mira did a bit of slackline (tightrope) walking, Aleisha and I went across the malecon and continued south towards the second beach. I climbed to an old watch tower, probably from the Bay of Pigs invasion days.

    Then to the Bay of Pigs Museum, with aircraft, tanks, machine guns, canons, news clippings and other displays from the battle. It was moving stuff, though it could have been better presented. A panel showed photos and short biographies of all those who died in the attack. Interestingly many of the attackers once captured claimed to be cooks, not soldiers. Also of interest were the statistics: "an analysis of the prisoners showed that 800 of them, or their families, had owned 370,628 hectares of land, 9666 housesand buildings, 70 industries, 10 sugar mills, 5 mines and 2 banks. There were also 135 ex-Batista army soldiers and 65 delinquents" (ex-prisoners). Mira and I also saw the 1961 documentary about the invasion, very moving.

    We went back to the casa for dinner, this time bbq chicken, not a patch on last night. Then came the question of how to leave. Luci had almost got a rental car earlier in the afternoon, the car ental office in Giron (no cars of course) had found a car in Varadero we could have. The catch: we had to pick it up this evening because they don't keep reservations. And Varadero was 3 hours away and it was not possible to get there this evening. Vilma from the casa had been unable to find anything to Luci's specifications of modern and air conditioned. I suggested that any car would do, but still no availability. Luci and I went to walk and get some water, she wanted to go to Matanzas or Varadero and find a taxi or car to take us to Vinales, I wanted to go direct as it would save time and, I believed, money.
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  • Day43

    Cuba day 12 to Giron

    January 10, 2016 in Cuba ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    It is Trnidad's culture week, and they were celebrating the town's 502 anniverasary. An official stage had loud more modern music, and there are tourists all over the place. Accomdation is sparse and prices have gone up.

    A few days ago I was quoted CUC160 to go to Vinales, 350 km distant.Todayit was CUC40+ to go to Cienfuegos just 70km along the coast.

    We found a guy with a car happy to do it for CUC30 as he had just brought people from there and wanted to go home. It was a 1950s sedan, plenty of space but not 100% comfortable - but what do you expect from 60 year-old springs?

    Cienfuegos turned out to be less than exciting so the driver took us on to Giron, site of the famous Playa Giron (Bay of Pigs) invasion of 1962.

    When we got there it seemed difficult to find a place to stay: the driver took us to a place that was full. Casa Luis had rented their last 2 rooms just a few minutes ago, but they offered to find somewhere. Luci was instantly grumpy and pessimistic. And they did find somewhere, but going there was very funny. The lady explained one could not drive off the main road, one had to walk between houses. Luci was worried and asked if it was in the cienaga (swamp). The lady replied 'yes', preumably thinking that 'cienaga' was a Mexican word for 'behind'. Luci no longer wanted to go, convinced that it would be surrounded by water and full of mosquitoes. But it turned out to be surrounded by concrete and really quite nice.

    Mira and I went for a walk to the beach and then along the malecon, built in 1959 as a promenade across the bay, but now rather dilapidated. Later on Luci and Aleisha also walked in that direction, but on the way Aleisha's eye suddenly felt like it was on fire. Unknown to them it was a little beetle that had flown in, and is known in these parts for the excruciating pain it causes. They washed the eye out at the petrol station, then returned to the Casa Vllma where the offending bug was removed by Vilma with a cottontip. Still it hurt, but it now started to get better. When Mira and I returned Luci and Aleisha were on the bed, Luci reading and Aleisha in a sorry state.

    Dinner was fish (for Mira), spaghetti (for Aleisha) and crocodile (for Luci & I). The crocodile was I thought very good, somewhere between fish and chicken and tender pork. After dinner Vilma arranged for the guy from the diving centre to visit, so we made plans for tomorrow... She alsotold us a bit about the costs of running a casa: CUC200/month for the licence, 10% of declared income each month, 30% income tax at the end of the year. Perhaps not surprisingly most only declare about 1/2 of their income.
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  • Day42

    Cuba day 11 Stunning Saturday

    January 9, 2016 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    Last night I thought that almost all the cash I had in my toiletry bag had been stolen: USD, AUD, EUR (actually a few days later Aleisha found that I had hidden it elsewhere). So now it seems we depend on getting money from cards, and we have not even enough money to last the day...

    Today we had arranged to go on a horse trip to the Valle de los Ingenios, also to change casa - both at 9 we thought we could do one on the way to the other, and get money at Cadeca also. But the girls took forever to get up, Aleisha had lots of super-itchy bites and Mira had the cold Aleisha previously had. The houses were there by 9 but we got out about 9.45.

    We had booked 2 horses and a buggy. They weren't allowed into the Casco Histórico (historic centre), so we carried the bags several blocks to where they waited, Luci less than happy with the 4 block walk.

    When we got there the girls fought over the horses, who would get the palomino. The guy of the horses resolved that with sharing. But we had to take the bags to the new Casa, so Luci and I and the guide set off in the buggy. He was worried about the horse pooping in the street and getting a fine. We got there and dropped the bags.

    I walked down to Cadeca casa de cambio and was there 15 minutes while the guy checked my passport and credit cards, and then tried to get money. "The line is very slow, " he said, and it was indeed extremely slow. And failed on both cards. He suggested going to the bank.

    I rushed back to where Luci was waiting with the guide, we agreed I'd go to the bank and Luci and the guide would wait around the corner. At the bank there was a queue outside, about half being people with Mastercards which the ATMs won't accept. The queue didn't move for the next 20 mins, then the bank closed. It was 11am. The guard suggested another bank a few blocks away.

    Most of the queue moved en masse to the new bank where we waited in the sun another half-hour and still the queue didn't move, though occasionally people left from inside the bank. I reserved my space between a German girl and a Swedish family, and went to find Luci, worried that she and the girls had no idea what was going on, but fearful of losing my place and the chance to get the money we needed. The guide was there but Luci was not, and the guide didn't know where see had gone. We agreed he would wait while I went looking for Luci and then back to the bank.

    I looked in the other Cadeca, it was closed; i checked the bank, not there either. So I checked the Parque Céspedes where there is WIFI internet, not there. So I went back to the bank and found the queue had disappeared; there was no one there. The whole outside queue had moved inside, where there was another queue, but they could sit and it was air-conditioned. Gradually more people formed behind me, some people left the bank, in after another half hour or so my new queue was allowed in, and we were able to form behind my prevoius queue.

    Another 15 mins or so and the German girl got to go to the counter, and she got money with her Mastercard. This was encouraging. Next was the Swedish family, but part way through the data connection was lost. When it didn't come back in 5 minutes they asked if we wanted to leave and try Cadeca. We didn't. The cashier packed up, went off for lunch and came back 30 mins later. There was only one counter for card transactions,.

    When she came back the data connection was functioning again. The Swedes got their money then it was my turn. There was a knock at the door, the guide was there with Luci on his cell phone. She had changed some cash at Cadeca and wanted to ask questions but I couldn't hear her well and she couldn't understand me either, so I told her I had to go and would be back shortly. I chose to get CUC1500, the commission was high but at least we had money.

    The guide was still in the vicinity, he took me back to where Luci and the girls were, on arrival Luci taking me aside to say how rude they had been when she got back. When we had left she had suggested they go back to the casa to wait. Instead they waited in the hot sun and were less than happy when Luci returned 2.5 hours leter than expected.

    But now we had money and we had horses, so we set off, the girls on horseback and Luci & I i on the rather bouncy, uncomfortable buggy. It was pleasant bouncing through rural lands, then we were taken to a rustic ccomedor for a very over-priced, somewhat overcooked, very slow meal. At least while we were there a wizened old guy pulled out his guitar and sang.

    The tour went on to a waterhole with a little waterfall, very pleasant, with caves and erosion of the limestone..Lots of foreigners come here, there wass a guy selling drinks, but it was nice.

    The girls alternately rose slowly or cantered on the way back, and really enjoyed the horse riding. They really wanteed to do more in the morning, but rudeness does not beget kindness and they had been rather reluctant to let Luci and I even spend a few minutes riding. When they saw they might lose riding in the morning thewy reacted indignantly then goodygoody in an insolent manner. I wanted a break, but it wasn't to happen.

    After a shower we went out to eat, not a great success, Mira's fish tasted almost rotten (though they swore it was fresh this morning), Aleisha's pasta was over-salted, Luci's lobster pizza had very little lobster, and my stuffed tomatoes were raw tomatoes with shredded cabbage and carrot inside.

    The girls went back to the room, Luci wanted a drink so we continued to a bar restaurant with a duo called 'Jazzy': a girl on violin and a guy on 5 string bass guitar. They were excellent, easily the most innovative musicI've heard for ages. The food here was really good too.
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  • Day40

    Cuba day 9 Trinidad

    January 7, 2016 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 13 °C

    First impressions were that the 'casa arrendador' where we are staying is more like a hostal or small hotel, with innovations we haven't seen for a while: a toilet with a seat and cover, porcelain handbasin, hot water in the shower from a tank rather than a shower head heater.

    But in the morning things were different. The breakfast was good but Luci didn't liike it and wanted a change to a hotel, she was sickof staying in houses. She and I went out to the International Pharmacy to find medecines for Luci as she was catching the bug.

    Then the girls reported they had been bitten during the night, Mirra found an insect in her towell when she had a shower. The manager said it was a harmless "hormiga ancha" (wide ant). But when described to others outside it turned out to be a chinche, well known as a blood-sucking insect. Besides there were a number of blood stains on the sheets corresponding to bites up and down the girls' legs.

    Miora & Aleisha grumpilyy hung around the park and did internet, Luci started looking at the expensive hotels but they were either hugely expensive (CUC380 for a 2 person room) or booked out. Icaught up with her as she was very frustrated,we went up to a hostal in the Casco Historico, but it too was full, except for one room for tonight only, with airconditioning problems. Luci wanted to go straight to the bus station but I took her down another roas and suggested we look at a casa arrendador there. It turned out to be Casa Cofradia run by musicians Lia and her husband Pachi. It was delightful, an old building very tastefully renovated. And as musicians, Lia and Pachi were able to travel, they had been to Canada, Europe, South America, so they had a broad ooutlook.
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