A blast from the past.
Hablo espanõl? No. We knew we were in trouble the moment we landed in Santa Clara. We were drastically underprepared for Cuba. In particular, collectively we had almost no spanish, our only booking was the first night's accommodation and Cuba has no internet.
Alright, no internet is an exaggeration. But not far off. The only way to get online is in a "wifi hotspot" (read: plaza) with a prebought internet card. We're yet to find a casa, bar or restaurant with wifi and you can't get a mobile plan that includes it. I kid you not, the only way to get online is in a park. Outdoors!
I'm sure all you GenY's can feel my pain. We've been travelling for three months now and all our research and bookings are done online, on the fly.
So we're going old school. We've stepped back in time, why not embrace it? In our armoury we carry a spanish pocket phrasebook and 16,000 mexican pesos. No, if you were wondering, that's not the right currency and cubans don't take card. Period. Underprepared, entiendo?
Drama aside, Cuba is fascinating! Colourful pastel facades of breezy single storey dwellings line streets buzzing with activity. Horse drawn carts, 1960s dodges, motorbikes with side cars and old men playing dominos are par for the course on the road. Bicycles of all shapes, ages and passengers weave down narrow streets in ordered chaos. Kids, dogs, goats and horses mingle with traffic making even just spectating quite stressful.
We're staying in casa particulares. They're everywhere and typically are just a spare bedroom in a family home. As Cat said, it's really just Air BnB but the Cubans beat them to it. The families to date have been genial and oh so hospitable, despite our ignorance to their culture and language (oops we're sorry). Most of them don't speak english but you'll be surprised how many ways there are to communicate. Cat speaks the first most spanish, so Scott and I usually thrust her forward to recieve the barrage of incomprehensible dialogue, which is quite often followed by 'no entiendo'.
Santa Clara is less touristy than the other areas we planned to visit, and it was nice to spend our first evening immersed in Cuban culture without the entourage of the 'you buy somethiiiiinnnggg's!!!!'. Oddly enough that slightly contradicts where the night went from there.
Taking in the activities of the plaza from an adjacent bar, we were approached by some locals whom we chatted to between drinks. One of them, Reina de gainer - number one in Cuba, offered to show us to a nearby restaurant. We followed causiously, helping him with his litre of port along the way. He ended up dining with us and, as we grew to expect, didn't have a dime to contibute to the bill. It didn't phase us, he was great insight and even better entertainment and the total bill was less than 25USD. We even had some rums with his brother at a cafe afterwards, at 4USD per litre (yes, you buy by the bottle!?). Finally an affordable country!
Still in recovery from the previous nights dinner, our stomachs were pleasantly assualted by breakfast. So much breakfast! Our casa mama had made (just for us) fresh fruit, crepes, omelettes, bread rolls, two types of cake, biscotti, guava smooties and espressos, all neatly set in a sunny outdoor courtyard adjacent our room. At 4USD each (we later found out we could have paid 3) I didn't want to leave.
We spent the morning investigating transport options to our next destination, Trinidad. With buses booked out, and no trains due to a hurricane in 1993 (still not repaired), we defaulted to a taxi and spent the next few hours in the comfort of a car cruising through the Cuban countryside. Happy as Larry.Read more
Santa Clara, CubaJanuary 22
A blast from the past.