I was trying to figure out if I loved or hated this place while I was sitting on the stairs looking Plaza Mayor in Trinidad, Cuba.
There is a free stage where bands can play in the evenings and people can sit and enjoy the music with drinks from the bars around.
The three hour delay, accompanied by light interrogation at the airport, which I assume caused mostly by the presence of my underwater camera, could have been interpreted as just bad luck but later on I understood that it is the generally how things work here. Most of the concepts from the cold war era are still alive and in place to puzzle you at every corner. Access to internet was one of those things. It took me half a day to catch a glimpse of the evasive internet in Cuba. My initial standing point, to find internet in cafes, or at the worst case scenario only in hotels, turned out to be only an assumption. One needed to find to find the place where they sell the internet scratch cards which usually has a queue that takes 30 to 45 minutes or alternatively you can take a bus to a less touristic part of town which takes an hour not to wait in line. With the card, you need to find a park where they have wi-fi, and hope it is not much crowded. Because when the park is crowded the connection becomes sluggish and since the internet card is based on time but not the amount of data used, there is good chance that you can waste your card just waiting for a page to open. I think the phrase “limited access to internet” mentioned in automatic email responses would be considered valid if you are travelling to Cuba. But then again the percentage of internet frauds must be very low here and most importantly they are not exposed to tweets from political leaders. I gather that it will take a very long time before an Uber like company becomes operational in Cuba.
Street without a taxi
Street with a touristic taxi, for additional flavor
I had quite limited time in Cuba so unlike most of my travels I made a tighter and slightly more organized plan mainly to visit the natural parks of the country. Of course with limited internet comes limited responsibility so my so called “plan” and “organization” stayed that way for quite a short time before they metamorphosed in to “wishful thinking”. When I arrived in Trinidad as my first stop, I attempted to buy the ticket for the next bus. However all the buses to all directions were full for three days. When I say “all buses to all directions”, one may think it as an exaggeration, but when there is only one bus to each direction and the directions are as few as 5 directions, it is not. This was not something I can afford another time on my trip if I decided to continue, so I changed my well organized and deeply thought “plan” and decided to see Trinidad more thoroughly.
Though the cobblestones look nice they are mostly pointy and uneven where it becomes a huge problem for the mojitonettes on high heels.
To my delight, at the tourist information office, I found out scuba diving was one of the touristic attractions in Trinidad. However for some reason (in a very short time you learn that those reasons are generally beyond one’s grasp) the booking could not be done on the phone, by telegram, postal pigeons or obviously online but only in person. The main problem with this policy was that the diving office was never believed to be visited by local people so there was no public transport. Being 15 kilometers away reduced the possibility of a short or even a medium walk in the afternoon. The taxis cost 25 usd one way. As a backpacker this sounded like sex tourism to me and I was the one being screwed. As the last option I rented a bicycle and rode there. Though the sun and the heat sucked all my energy, I was able to make my booking for the next day. Successfully managing something after quite a time satisfied me immensely, little did I know that this was also only for a short time. Early next morning, I had to take a taxi since the bike shop was not yet open. After waiting a while at the diving office the guy showed up sleepily, maybe surprised with our presence there as well and announced that there were not going to be any dives that day. The compressor had a breakdown previous day and they could not fill the tanks and they were hoping the repair man to show up that day. Noone could guess when it could be repaired. I considered myself lucky not to find out another breakdown while I was under the water. Though I was not willing, this also gave me a chance to taste a bit of the sex tourism since I needed to take the taxi back again and paid 50 USD just to find out that I was not going to dive. The abundance of surreality exposure gave me the idea that this could be the work of Cuban secret service who may have been following me since my entry to the country and wanted to stop me using my underwater camera. Still I was not going to give up my traveler spirit, no, just not yet.
Railroad to Purgatory. Though it seems like an interesting option, it was not always possible to find a functioning train.
When back at Trinidad the only option seemed like renting a bike again and ride to the Cubano Park and waterfall somewhat close to the city. I was able to reach there just 30 minutes later than I anticipated due to a rasta situation of the chain of the undermaintained bicycle. Being a naïve traveler when I think of a natural park and a waterfall, I think of a place where you can observe local fauna, be close to the nature, find inner peace and such but this is quite hard when you end up in the village water park. There were youths jumping to the pool to impress the female youths, yelling parents, a general picnic atmosphere which made inner peace a hard thing to find. So I went back to Trinidad and to take part in the most encouraged touristic activity in Cuba, which is also known as the “mojito”.
El Cubano wasn’t what I hoped for, but if I zoom a bit things could have been seen in a different way.
Yes, much better, looks more like an unspoiled piece of nature with only a lad trying to spoil it.
Finding no easier or reasonable options, the next day I joined a tour to Topes de Collantes, my main event for Trinidad. There were great spots which are really impressive, it could only be better if we were able to stop at more spots to enjoy the view but when it is a group this is usually not possible. It is not always possible to get what you want, but still this was how one learns about the ideas, concepts and general culture of a country.
Topes de Collantes had nice spots
Even with the crowd of the group it does give you a nice nature feeling.
Cuba feels like purgatory in many ways. Nothing happens and nothing gets done. Whatever you do, how much you struggle you are mostly like to disturb yourself and the people around you but end up being suspended at wherever you were in the beginning. Things could only happen outside your will and you are always subject to those things if you like it or not. So forcing things is futile but resistance is not.
I really liked walking on the streets in Habana, it is easier to have a glimpse at the local culture.
The easy going Caribbean culture gives an extreme feeling of well being, great rum cocktails support it, live music from every corner pushes you into it even if you are sceptical and being surrounded by the most beautiful ladies is quite nice but there are things that do not feel right. It is easy to find all the ingredients for a mojito everywhere but it is not so easy to find the ingredients to make a Spanish omelette. Many people embrace eclectic art forms in their bathrooms due to unavailability of the same type ceramic tiles sufficient to cover a single bathroom. It is more expensive to buy Cuban cigars here than Beirut airport which are in fact multiples of the monthly salary of an average civil servant here. The unfortunate biggest of the mural of the world depicts dinosaurs along with the humans and as for the art is a great example of the pointless roundabout art in my personal opinion. My aim is not to make political debates so I would just say that this is not a backpacker place, it is not easy to access the nature but surely interesting for a city person from USA or northern Europe. Also could be used as a time capsule for young people. But in the end while I was leaving the country I still had mixed extreme feelings about the place and could not decide if it was extremely good or extremely bad.
The biggest mural on earth, The Viñales Mural de la Prehistoria. The real question here should be “but why?”
When you insist to open your windows to outside and still want to be safe.