Santiago – too much Cuba for me
First the positive, the former capital of Cuba has much architectural diversity to offer. That’s it. I did not like Santiago and I was glad to move on after 2 nights. I guess because of many negative experiences I made in this overheated city. On the one hand, I was not able to walk through the city by myself. Every few seconds someone tried to talk with me on, only for “conversation” and they “for sure” don’t want money. At the end, they ask you for a beer, a coffee or if you want to buy a bottle of rum. Fore sure, downright ridiculous cheaper then in than in the official shops. Really annoying, but still alright. In the end it is the Cuban way. But for every Cuba traveller: the words “just communication” should set the alarm bells ringing.
A night to forget
The worst thing was that I got rubbed after I got 100 CUC from the ATM. To explain it shortly. I wasn’t guiltless, too. After I bought a bottle of rum (asserted to be a really good 15 years old one) for 20 CUC I went back to my casa. The party started there with a few glasses. Later I met a few Rasta-Cubans, which I met during the day and made a really nice impression. We finished the bottle together at the main square and went to a club. Stupidly I still had the 100 CUC in my wallet, which I ,as clever as I am, didn’t wore around my hips . Instead I put it in the back of my jeans. Later at night when the memories already faded, I received the bill. My wallet laid at the floor, for sure completely empty. The 100 CUC were gone. I don’t know how or who did it, but I have the suspicion that the Rastas only spent the day with me to get my money later. Certainly the next morning they didn’t show up, although we made an appointment the day before. But in dubios pro rep – I can’t change it any more and maybe that is part of the real Cuba experience (I met some other travelers who had the same problem).
Travel like a Cubano
A bit disappointed of Santiago and the people over there I moved on to Baracoa on the very East of Cuba. This time not with the touri bus Viazul, but the first part to Guantanamo with a shared taxi (collectivo). From there to Baracoa I wanted to try one of the trucks, the so called camiones. The ride with the taxi was pretty funny. I sit with 6 other Cubans in the back of the car. After a while one of them put out a thimblerig and the lively betting began. I kept me out of this. You never know if this is part of the trick to get your money and they all work together…As you see, the Cuba trip made me a bit more suspicious.
When I arrived in Guantanamo everybody told me I have to go to the other bus station. For sure, you have to take a cab (3 CUC). Without precise informations and knowing how I can move on, I had to follow the advices. So I toke a taxi to the other station. Over there they told me first there is no truck to Baracoa but they could drive me privately in one of the trucks to there for 60 CUC. When I just weary smiled and rejected, suddenly they told me there is a camione to Baracoa which is 12 CUC. I knew that the Cubans only pay max. 30 CUP which is a bit more then 1 CUC. So I bargained with the guys and finally I had to pay 5 CUC. The trucks don’t have a timetable. That’s why I had to wait till enough people also want to go to Baracoa. To my surprise Nadine and Helena from Germany also wanted to take the truck (usually you don’t see any tourists in there). So we get in the truck together. Imagine an animal transport, add a few benches and you get a good impression of this vehicles. Finally the ride could begin…theoretically…in practice we drove through Guantanamo for donkey’s years to pick up more people. For sure, we also drove by the other bus station where they told me I have to get a cap to the one I pick up the truck. Actually, after 1 hour we also passed by this bus station again, before we start ur way to Baracoa at last. It was not really comfortable and after quite a time I had no idea how to sit or stand in this overcrowded transporter any more. Don’t forget: I still was kind of hangovered. 😉 After approx. 4-5 hours later we finally arrived and my casa-dad picked me up to bring me to my really nice house.
The very East of Cuba was long time isolated of the rest of the island. But Baracoa was my absolut highlight of Cuba. Culinary far better than any other place at the island. At my casa I always had the big breakfast with the regional cacao speciality. Also for dinner I didn’t want to renounce the cooking skills of my casa. I could choose every time between every kind of fish and meat like shrimps, chicken, steak or even octopus. Everything was possible. The appetizer was every time a soup with interesting but really nice spices. Beside the culinary treat it was also nice to be in a smaller town where you can reach everything by walking and the people are more relaxed. The people were totally different to Santiago. Really nice, but not as intrusive as over there.
The first night Helena, Nadine and I just wanted to walk through the city to get a first impression. So we went to a cocktail bar at the main square to relax. The truck ride was exhausting enough. After a drink we went to a bar with live-music. The plan was to have a drink there and then go to sleep. But as you know plans are made to be changed. At the bar we met a group of crazy but lovely Cubans. It seemed that they prepared for a long party night with all the rum bottles on their table. After a short time we start talking and joined them at their table. Obviously we also joined them to the local club above the roofs of Baracoa. I can tell you, it is getting hot over there. The girls dances as lascivious as you imagine for the caribbean hemisphere. Partially it looks like sex in clothes. 😉
Finally we made our way home. We arranged to meet the Cuban guys the next day again. A bit too late, but still in the range of Cuban punctuality, Robert and Co (jap, some of them really named Robert 😉 ) picked us up with a kind of beach buggy. We wanted to go to Playa Manglito, about 30min from Baracoa. After few minutes we had to make over first stop. No rum no party. The guys prefer to drink it straight out of the bottle. They call it tucci tucci. With a few bottles of rum we continued. Next stop was a bridge from where we jumped into the river. The bridge was about 8 to 10 meters high. Another jump on my list. After the cooling we arrived at Playa Manglito a bit later. Wonderful, paradisiac! White sand and blue, turquoise shining water.
Meanwhile the guys stick to their guns. Countless tucci tuccis later the first bottles of rum were empty. Immediately 2 new bottles were ordered. Towards evening we made our way back to Baracoa. After a quick dinner at my casa, we met the Cuban crew again at the main square. First we went to a salsa bar – I can tell you these guys can dance! Last stop was the club again. Sorry, I can’t tell you much about it, the rum didn’t failed its effect. As my casa-dad told me the next day, my party night was over at 2am.
Hangovered beach walk
The next day I walked pretty hangovered the black beach next to the city by the ailing baseball stadium. On my way I met Francesca from Cologne. Together we passed the shaky chain bridge to the land of the Cuban Indios. From there we took a guide to show us the beautiful landscape. Fortunately Francesca speaks Spanish. Her father emigrate to Baracoa (as a foreigner you have to get out of the country every 6 month). So he translated everything to me. Many thanks again. The walk or better to say hike was pretty exhausting (still hangovered!). We had to hike the rocks up and down till we arrived at a cave where we could swim in the cool and clear water. After that we went to a few viewing spots. The Indios hide there of the Spanish conquerers.
Pretty exhausted we went back at afternoon. At my casa I met Josu from my casa at Trinidad again. My evening activities were very relaxed. Another delicious dinner and a short walk to the city through the rain, that was all. At this point a huge sorry to Nadine and Helena. I slept in and couldn’t make to meet you in the city center. But I am pretty sure you had quite a time with the crazy Cubans. 😉
Early at the next morning I had to take the bus again. 20 hours back to Havana. I arrived there at 4 in the morning and had to wait at the historic Havanna Libre hotel till I could go to my casa. Like a real backpacker I didn’t take a taxi but walked the 4km with all my stuff. Another way to kill the time…