Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Trinidad de Cuba

We picked up our hire car and headed off out of Havana, for a roadtrip. Jessie in the back feeling the effects of a dodgy meal, and Melissa figuring out how to drive on the wrong side of the road. Heath and I were studying the maps, ready for a 5 hour trip down to Santa Clara.

Hours later, we figured out that we had completed a round trip down to Cuba's Las Vegas and back, and then had been around the loop and back trying to get on the road to get us to where we wanted to go. Like driving the Western Ring Road and back, trying to choose the right turn off to Ballarat, with absolutely no signs and nothing to distinguish the autovisto from any other turn off. Just when we were about to give up, and the level of frustration in the car was high, we took a second turn and a soldier on the road confirmed we were on autovisto. I think we could have all kissed him! He was nonplussed when we slowed up to him again and confirmed we were heading in the direction of Santa Clara.

The four lane highway, once we were finally on it, was a breeze, passing trucks loaded with people, and so many people walking along the road, looking for a ride. We stopped at a roadside servo for food, and our ever pressing obsession with el bano (clean? lady on the door demanding money? how much did you pay? did she give you paper? door close? flush??), before following actual signs to Santa Clara.

Santa Clara is the final resting place of Che Guevara, and the site of the battle of the Revolution. Arriving fairly late here in the day, we had limited time to see the main sights. A lad on a bike offered to take us around, him riding in front and showing us the way - and thank goodness he did! The Plaza de la Revolucion Ernesto Guevara and the Monumento a la Toma del Tren Blindado were on either side of this town in the middle of Cuba.

Our man Renald got us to the mausoleum with just 5 minutes to spare, and I am glad we made it. The reverence of being inside the resting place of those who had fallen for Cuba's revolution was very well done, and felt meaningful. Back out into the blazing sun to admire the bronze statue, we then jumped back into the car and Renald took us through the tiny one way labyrinth streets of Santa Clara to the four train carriages of Barista's troops left from the battle with Che and his men, now a musuem - which was actually closed when we got there.

Renald took us out to the road heading to Trinidad, his little legs having peddled his and our way around Santa Clara, for a few dollars.

Santa Clara to Trinidad was a road through the Escambray mountains - climbs and dips, with drops to valleys on our right and speeding trucks coming in the other direction. A stressful, and beautiful drive through, of which Heath did with ease! We made it to Trinidad in time, before dark. Here we believe we were scammed into staying at a casa particular that was not where were had planned to, which was actually going to be Nelson from Havana's contact. After our long day of travel and stress, we were taken along to Maria's house by another lad on a bike, assuring us that he knew Nelson. Tired and over it all, we were led, checked in, and then taken to the other side of town for dinner to 'the best place in Trinidad'. Grumpy and feeling scammed, the overpriced deal and the chicken-lobster-shrimp did nothing to impress us!

A new day, and well rested, we were served breakfast at Maria's, and then started wandering the gorgeous streets of Trinidad. A Heritage listed town, the balconied colonial houses and cobbled streets were amazing. We walked through, chatting to the locals, and taking in Plaza Mayor and the church, and then seeing the view from one of the highest points in town - from mountains to sea, rooftops and streetscapes.

After a few beers to wait out a heaft downpour, we grabbed the car and headed to Playa Ancon, for some beach time. Blue blue water, white sand....and pina colada's brought to you in the ocean - why would you want to be anywhere else!

That night we sought out a dinner that wasn't chicken-lobster-shrimp, despite much hassling by touts, and then took in the salsa of the gathering on the steps near Plaza Mayor with mojitos. Deciding that the grand stand style gathering of tourists did not need to see that white girls can't salsa, we soon headed back to our casa for the night.

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