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3 travelers at this place

  • Day10

    A Day in Cienfuegos

    March 11 in Cuba ⋅ 🌙 23 °C

    Travelling in Cuba really is certainly a little bit different to travelling in western countries. I guess because the country has been cut off from the rest of the world for so long, they have no ready yardstick to compare their performance against the elusive “world’s best practise”. The Jagua Hotel is a great example of this. While in some respects it is a good 4 star hotel, in other areas it fails miserably. The air conditioning works well enough to ensure you can have a cool nights rest, but when you step under the shower, the water temperature never rises above luke warm. The shower door itself falls off whenever the door is opened or closed. My bed is comfortable and massive but the door to my patio requires a test of herculean strength to get it to open or close. The bathroom is large, but it stinks of tobacco, presumably thanks to the smoking habits of a previous occupant.

    Although the room has a number of these niggling issues, the view is just so superb, that it is easy to overlook them all. We have two nights here before we move on to Trinidad and our first taste of the famous Casa Particulaires (home stays) that we have heard so much about.

    After breakfast we cycled into the centre of Cienfuegos for a look around the central square. We arrived in the middle of a book fair, with a collection of sellers stocked up with what looked like school text books. One of the buildings in the square is a school and it was interesting to see the well dressed pupils wandering around the exhibits. Education is completely free in Cuba and this extends to the provision of the school uniforms as well.

    We then headed out of town to the famous botanical gardens. The hot and humid weather combined with a succession of hills to make the modest ride a lot more challenging than it should have been. When planning this trip I had been worried about how I would cope in these sultry conditions and the answer was now very clear – not very well.

    After a nice lunch in the garden cafeteria we were taken on a guided tour by a very enthusiastic guide. The combination of heat, humidity and non stop talking soon took its toll on me. I seldom take guided tours at any time and I found my mind wandering. The sultry air seemed suffocating and I desperately looked for a chance to sneak away unnoticed. I walked back to the café and had a couple of drinks in an attempt to wake myself up again. They didn’t work.

    Although I could have punished myself by riding back to the hotel, I really found myself lacking motivation. I can see no virtue in self flagellation at any time. We had paid good money for the services of our bus and driver. It was air conditioned in there, while the air outside was enervating. So in I went (along with several others). It was delightful. I dozed in the cool while the others sweltered their way along a hilly road back to Cienfuegos. It was a brilliant decision.

    Later in the evening we dined at one of the most amazing restaurants I have ever seen. Rather than try to describe it, I will simply say look at the pictures below.
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  • Day9

    A Hundred Fires by the Caribbean Sea

    March 10 in Cuba ⋅ 🌙 23 °C

    Our time in Havana at the Hotel Nacional was certainly memorable, however all things must eventually come to an end and it was time for us to now move on to our next location. We were planning to check out of the hotel at 8.15 am and be on our way, however we soon discovered that leaving the hotel is nowhere near as easy as checking into it.

    In order to get permission to leave the lobby for the final time you must first be issued with an exit ticket from the cashier. This can only be issued once the mini bar contents have been examined by a security expert and the report relayed back to the management. A simple infringement such as an unaccounted bottle of water can mean that you would be bound and held indefinitely.

    This process held us up for a considerable amount of time as each person's room was checked and signed off. If I was being entirely honest I would admit that the final felon was actually myself. When I handed my room card back to the cashier, they simply said "Thank You" and waved me away. I assumed that I was free and clear. I assumed wrong. It was only when I was seated on the bus that a stern faced security guard escorted me back to the cashier. There was not one, but TWO, bottles of water missing from my mini bar. I guess that means I will never be able to regain entry to Cuba at any time in the future.

    Eventually all accounts were paid in full and our bus was given permission to leave. Our first destination was the notorious "Bay of Pigs" . This was the location of the ill fated invasion of Cuba by a group of Cuban exiles. The entire debacle was orchestrated by the CIA with the assumption that the local population would quickly side with the invaders to overthrow the government. It never went that way. Within two days the invasion had failed and the invaders were all either killed or captured.

    Standing by the blue waters of the Caribbean it was hard to imagine the bloodshed that had taken place on this sport almost 60 years ago. That location also marked the spot where we began the day's ride. The route was simple - just keep the sea on our right hand sides and follow the coast to the resort of Caleta Buena.

    The ride was not long but the difficulty was increased by the heat and humidity and the deplorable state of the road. It was impossible to dodge the pot holes, as they vastly outnumbered the bitumen. The vibrations made my hands and backside ache in complaint.

    The resort itself is a playground of the privileged where the entry fee entitles you to lunch and unlimited drinks from the many bars. It is the place where overtanned men and women in far too small swimsuits wobble about with pina coladas, trying their best to look cool. I suspect that very few real Cubans would ever set foot in the front door.

    We then returned to the bus for a short drive to Cienfuegos. This is a relatively modern town situated in an impossibly beautiful location. The name means "One Hundred Fires", although these must have now all been extinguished because I didn't see a single one.

    Our home for the next two nights is the Hotel Jagua. The entrance certainly is impressive, the lifts are the most hideously decorated I have ever seen and the rooms are an exercise in contrasts. While the view from the room is absolutely breathtaking, when you look closer the standard of workmanship leaves a lot to be desired. My shower door fell off, the water was only slightly warm, the light was hanging off the roof and my patio door needed both hands to drag it open. When I washed my cycling jersey I noticed that the water from the tap was about the colour of a cup of tea and it added several new stains to the front and back of the jersey. At least there can be no repeat of the grand larceny from the minibar that happened in Havana. The minibar here looks like it has not been used for a long time. But the air conditioning worked extremely well and the view really was incredible. The bed is huge. In fact I really like it here.

    Our dinner was at a nearby restaurant where the ambiance far exceeded the quality of the food. They somehow missed serving the four people at our table. We complained and were eventually served but it appeared that the supply of food had just about run out by that time. Each plate had a meager portion spread around to make it look like there was a genuine dinner. A bit disappointing to say the least. At the end of the meal a blackout threw the place into darkness. Apparently these are common in Cuba where all the power comes from oil powered generators.

    As we walked back to the hotel Venus shone brightly over the water while the huge moon shone down from the opposite direction. It had been quite a day.
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  • Day9

    Fähre zum Castillo de Jagua

    June 11, 2017 in Cuba ⋅ ☀️ 33 °C

    Unser Frühstück wird wieder von unseren Vermietern bereitet und wir konnten auch das noch um einen CUC pro Person runter handeln. Eigentlich waren 5CUC veranschlagt, aber Fabi hat es noch auf vier herunter geschraubt.

    Sie macht sich mittlerweile echt gut im Handeln und wir können hier und da wieder mal ein paar CUC sparen. Für heute steht wieder einmal Fahrradfahren auf dem Programm und unser Vermieter hat uns Fahrräder über einen Nachbarn in der Strasse besorgt. Auch die handeln wir noch erfolgreich runter und bekommen einen angemessenen Preis vorgeschlagen. Pro Stunde 1CUC/Fahrrad von ursprünglich fast 2.

    Als wir unser reichhaltiges und sehr frisches Frühstück eingenommen haben, laufen wir zum Hafen, um dort einmal nachzuschauen, wann die Fähren fahren. Uff wir müssen uns beeilen. Die nächste geht um elf Uhr und wir haben es bereits viertel nach zehn. Also nehmen wir die Beine in die Hand und laufen zum Fahrradvermieter. Er hat die Fahrräder schon soweit präpariert und pumpt noch die Reifen auf. Diesmal haben wir einen echt guten Griff gemacht. Das sind super Tourenbikes.

    Wir schnappen die Fahrräder, unsere Rucksäcke und treten in die Pedale. Auf geht's zur Fähre und damit zum Castillo de Jagua. Für fast eine Stunde auf der Fähre bezahlen wir 4 CUC; jeweils 1 CUC pro Fahrrad und pro Person. Völlig Ok. Nach der entspannten Fahrt bei frischer Brise legen wir auf der anderen Seite der Lagune an und laufen hinauf zum Castillo de Jagua.
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  • Day9

    Castillo de Jagua

    June 11, 2017 in Cuba ⋅ 🌙 25 °C

    Oben am Schloss angekommen, übt sich Olli gleich einmal als echter Ritter und zieht die Fallbrücke hinauf, um die Burg vor ungewollten Eindringlingen zu schützen. Nach dem Spass holt uns gleich wieder der Ernst des Lebens wieder zurück auf den Boden der Tatsachen und wir sehen die Preise, für Touristen. 5CUP (16 Cent (!)) für Einheimische und 5CUC (knapp 5€) für Ausländer. Das ist wirklich eine Frechheit und wir wollen schon gleich wieder kehrt machen. Die 2 Damen an der Kasse sind jedoch ganz nett und haben ein bisschen Mitleid mit uns. Sie gewähren uns Eintritt zum Preis von 5CUC für beide. Damit können wir leben und schauen uns das Schlösschen mal an.

    Sie passen sogar noch auf unsere Fahrräder auf. Somit können wir beruhigt durch die alten Mauern schlendern.
    In den Räumen sind ein paar geschichtliche Ereignisse im Zeitstrahl aufgeführt und man kann ein paar Waffen und Kanonen in den Ausstellungsräumen betrachten. Von dem Geschützturm aus, kann man herrlich in die Bucht schauen und sich in etwa vorstellen, wie hier einst gekämpft wurde.

    Die Sonne brennt unermüdlich und wir schwingen uns wieder aufs Fahrrad zurück auf die Fähre. Um unsere Radtour fortzusetzen, müssen wir ein weiteres Mal übersetzen und zahlen diesmal für einen Weg von 5min wieder 4 CUC. Das ist diesmal völliger Irrsinn, da wir vorher auf der selben Fähre 4 CUC für einen Weg von knapp einer Stunde bezahlt haben. Als wir die Besatzung darauf ansprechen, meinen sie dass es einfach der normale Preis sei. Völliger Unsinn, aber wir haben leider keine andere Wahl. Auf die andere Uferseite des Flusses müssen wir nun mal.

    Also gut geben wir die 4 CUC mit knirschenden Zähnen an die Besatzung und dann bloß schnell auf die andere Uferseite. Manchmal nervt diese Willkür der Menschen hier schon. Sie sagen einem einfach mal eine Zahl, begründen es für sich völlig zufriedenstellend als sei es das Normalste von der Welt, haben aber einfach keine Logik hinter der Argumentation.
    Da merkt man nun auch mal warum es in Gesellschaften manchmal so viele Gesetze braucht. Ohne Vorschriften und Regeln, machen wohl leider manche was sie wollen und das auf Kosten anderer, was wiederum auch nicht in Ordnung ist.

    Egal. Den einen Tag verliert man und den anderen, gewinnen die anderen. 😂 Wir geniessen nun unsere Radtour und die schöne Aussicht aufs Wasser.
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