Apr 30, 2013

An exercise in Cuban carelessness - Cienfuegos & The Bay of Pigs (Part 8)

Hasta la vista, Habana! Bienvenidos Cienfuegos!

On the next day we say goodbye to Havana and take on the Autopista towards Cienfuegos. The Cubans and the road markings aren't close friends, so the later ones are missing from the road. We get off the highway and continue onto some third class road. In one of the villages that we go through, only the main street is asphalt-paved, the side streets are gravel and mud. In this area, the main means of transport are the horse carriages and the bikes. However, I've got the feeling that the only thing the Cubans do is to travel, because under every palm tree, there are people waiting for somebody to take them on the road. On the next palm tree, we witness the following funny event: a car stops at something like a bus station and all the 15-20 people waiting there rush to the vehicle with the idea to get in. After a while the people back off and surprisingly nobody has gone inside the car and the vehicle is whole. In the village that we pass through and even in the larger towns, almost every house has the following mandatory tools of the loafer/kibitzer – rocking chair positioned toward the street and a working TV inside the house, which can be heard through the opened windows.
Another pimped up Moskvich

We arrive in Cienfuegos, which is kind of industrial center, it even has a nuclear power plant. Our guide tells us it is the only city in Cuba, established by the French and it has an arch and a compass in the city center, as most of the French cities have. Compared to Havana, the people here offer us restaurants and not cigars and drugs. (As we are toward the end of our trip, my desire for shooting has significantly decreased, so there will be less pictures for you to see.)
The bay around Cienfuegos

We leave our stuff in our new casa-s particular and Osmel takes us to a small restaurant to eat. The place is really nice and represents a covered back yard of a private house, decorated with all sorts of things, among which something like a 3D landscape of Cienfuegos. Finally, we have the pleasure to drink a great Mojito, the best that we'll have in Cuba. Also, it is the most personalized – if it's not strong enough, they come and pour some more rum. The food is also exceptionally tasty, on par with the cocktails, which are pouring down into our mouths simultaneously with the rain outside.

With every day passed, my transformation into Che progresses (I forgot to take my shaving machine) and I decide that the hat of one of our girls will suit me better (it's in a revolutionary green color). I put it and expect that the owners of the place will see me as their national hero and will say that all the Mojitos are on the house. That, of course, doesn't happen, but it doesn’t stop us from continuing to wipe out their supplies of mint and rum. As we eat and drink, one of the guys accidently tips off his cocktail and soaks his part of the table. Ashamed for a second, we order another round of Mojitos. Being in the opposite end of the table, geographically and in terms of dampness, I spill a second drink, again without any intent (since there weren't any intents or thoughts in my head at the moment). After a solid quantity of Mojitos we decide that it is time to go to sleep. With full majority and communist unanimity we announce the dinner and the drinks for the best ones for our whole trip in Cuba (although there are a couple of days left, we know that this restaurant cannot be surpassed). Salut and Buenas noches.

Crocodiles and pigs

Our first stop for the day is a crocodile farm, close to Guama. There, we are walking around crocodiles at the age of 1 month to 50 years, all in cages, of course. Almost without exceptions, all creatures are standing still and are basking in the considerable heat. We go to a guy holding a small and safeguarded specimen to have a photo with it. At first nobody ventures to grab it, but as I am standing in the front and I am the hugriest of the group, I take it from the man. After which everybody from the group have their try with the crocodile. Part of the animals bred in the farm are let in the wild, as we are on the territory of the Zapata national park, another part stays at the farm, and the rest (mainly the naughty ones) are prequalified into clothes, accessories or the main meals at the near restaurant. We learn a disturbing fact – the crocodiles can reach a speed of 60 km/h or 37m/h on land and the only way to run away is to run in zigzag.

We leave the farm and go to the restaurant on the other side of the road, where one of our group risks and orders some crocodile dish. Although, the majority of the exotic animals taste like chicken, the crocodile meat is more like pork and is rather good.

After the interesting lunch we go to the coolest thing in the whole wide world or at least according to the signs – a boat ride with a speed boat to an Indian village. We go into some manmade channels and after a while we enter a large lake, at the opposite end of which we reach the island, where the Indian village is located. There, we walk next to statues of the Taino Indians, which show their way of life and culture. The path leads us to a wigwam, which we enter and see some Cubans in Indian attire to dance. They invite us to dance with them, put black marks on our cheeks and put out their hands waiting for uno peso. We are amazed by the fact that they are taking us for Indians, even Osmel is astound by the show, which lasts only 5-10 seconds. We continue with our tour of the island and find some normally looking villas for renting.
Toward the wigwam of the Indian charlatans
A local bird of prey

We head to the Bay of Pigs and the first thing that impresses us is the tranquility and desolation of the place. After we take a look at the War museum, we head to the holiday village on the beach. There, we find nice fine sand, palms, it's almost sunset, a swimming pool full of kids, but even they seem as someone have pressed the mute button – perfect calmness. But to ruin everything, when you look at the sea and the horizon, your look hits a concrete wall, a real one, built in the sea, parallel to the beach, probably to keep the people safe from the beauty of the sunrise and the sunset. Total madness. Most probably, a war madness.
One of the few living creatures around
The inhuman tranquility of the Bay of Pigs

After we go back to Cienfuegos, we head for a walk around the city. We take a look at the city center with the arch and the compass and continue our walk on the Baby Malekon, a small sea side boulevard, where we find another wonder of the Cuban genius – a billboard with its own electricity meter, hanging on a couple of wires.
Evening impressions 1
Evening impressions 2

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