Instead of leaving Trinidad I hung around and decided to do the steam train tour of the old sugar cane countryside, and I was glad I did. It was the four of us again and a great experience I will always remember. A guy was singing on the train and just was starting to make up the words after a moment, it was most funny. We also saw a pig getting cut up click here Pig Carving Video. We were all going to head down to Santiago to Cuba on a mamouth bus trip of 12 hours, Dera didn't make it. We had a decent last night out on the town but it hadn't been the best - time to move on.
Santiago de Cuba and Baracoa
We didn't plan on staying long in Santiago de Cuba, I couldn't due to time and the others were all keen to see the also heavily recommended Baracoa. We had to do one night and got in a crappy casa, and the rain was very heavy, for the rest of the night. I was knackered due to the late last night and bus trip. We were straight back out for the 5 hours to baracoa. In Baracoa I felt my time was short and discovered that I had not a great choice of flights out, otherwise I would miss my onwards flight back to London, also I hadn't yet done Havana. On the bus I met up with a Turkish guy living in London Kerem and he was already booked onto the flight I needed, and also had flown on my identical flights from London and return flight too. So it made sense to hook up en route as it were. But first the charms of Baracoa awaited- if it would stop raining. The first evening another run, down the Malecon and past the baseball stadium, an amazingly beautiful and weird combination of fishing communities, boats with fishermen bringing in the catch piglets goats and palms galore lagoons bridges made of 100 planks, beaches base ball stadium and battered sea front of the town. I did about 6 miles and knackered myself for the evening but but but, it was a truly memoriable time that will be etched into my brain. I was looking for Playa blanco and in fact stumbled into a military zone, making things equally bizare. With my GPS watch on I didn't want to be near or in this are, there were steel targets and no people around, but I shouldnt have been there, time to turn back, or I wouldnt make it.
There are many swimming opportunities in and around Baracoa as there are many rivers and waterfalls and beaches, there is el yunque the local "mountain" which I regret didn't get time to do. And alas I know I will have to return to this part of the world. I didn't much care for the nightlife in this town it was short lived and expensive and I felt the quality in other parts of Cuba was better, so I didn't really like it and was arguing about paying the entry fee straight to the band, "but it goes to the band" I was told so later again had to kick up when the band comes round as is custom asking for money for drinking and music etc, and selling CD's .. this is Cuba and it works like the council here, you just have to pay twice :) for the same thing...
Ed1 was around but the original group was decimated a fair bit and so it was mostly meeting new backpackers again. I was to head off with kerem on the flight to Havana shortly. I didn't get to catch up with Dera he still hadn't arrived, my t shirt got lost in the laundry here but it was a super duper casa apart form this where we stayed. We did a beach and the last day headed over to player blanco, which is really really tiny and therefore compressed if you are not the only one there. No denying the beauty again. I simply have to return to this country - I am not done yet, and still Havana to go, so lets get on with the show, get on the plane boy.
Havana and Varadero
As sad as it was to leave the rest to their enjoyment of the beach and Baracoa I set off for Havana. Since It's the capital and therefore I'm likely to return at some point I thought I would join kerem in Varadero for a night, at least I can comment on it now for you. Great Beach, not much else can be said. Don't buy cigars here (they are 10-15 % more) buy them in the factory store and never off the street, Varadero has a great beach but lousy nightlife, and the food is buffet style. We stayed at the palma real and it was ok, but 4 stars never mean 4 stars in Cuba, though it was really ok. One found oneself walking a distance for all. The beach was a block away, but the beach is nice here and the pools also good. Another night would have been ok, but a week here way too much. We saw this cabaret in this cave with a pirates theme, though it was freezing until it got rammed, and I was severely tempted to swat a little shit of a jinitero telling me where I couldn't walk unless I had a table him and his mates...yawn. So I'm not crazy about Varadero, and for once we got a result for 25 CUC a private car to take us back to Havana and our casa particular block to boot. There is this one block of casa particulars in vedado just behind the national hotel in havana which is full of casa particulars it is also a stunning block and a bit more money to boot. 30 knocked down to 25. I wasn't sure If I was to return here as wanted to stay in old havana but realising It was my last night, it would make little difference. Hanging out with kerem made sense sharing cabs etc, so I decided to stick to what I knew. We stayed here the night of our flight from Baracoa you see and we across the hall in neighbouring casas. So we saw an alternate havana the miramar very much the upper class suburbs- a bit like some south beach Miami streets I know, and where we were to go our in the casa de la musica de miramar. We had also checked out the commodor shgopping mall earlier in the day and the most fascinating thing being the cigar shop there. Cool I can get into this cigar thing, shame the stuff kills you.
The evening our last was an anticlimax, we were hounded by jiniteras, who would have made good company had we not had to pay for the chat- so didn't, can you see why it's so unfair on us guys..trying to chat to local cuban girls is almost impossible. They simply don't can't go out. We entered at the opening time of 11 and had to wait almost 2 hours in freezing temparature before the live music came on. It was good quality when it did but damage done to wallets with high drinks prices and entry and the temperature, meant I even dozed off 2 or 3 times.