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Thursday 10 Apr 2008
Cienfuegos, Cuba

Adventure begins

Now the Cuban adventure really begins, today I was heading off away from the primary tourist hotspots (Havana and Varadero), and beginning to explore the "real" Cuba.

Took an early bus to Cienfuegos in the morning and arrived after passing through Santa Clara.

My original itinerary was to stay the night in Santa Clara, which is a town most famous for the definitive battle that Che led against Batista's troops back in December 1958 which essentially secured a win for Fidel's revolutionaries.
I was told, though, that apart from a monument to Che, there really isn't anything else to see there, and to be honest as we drove through the dusty streets there wasn't anything to make me regret my decision to go to Cienfuegos instead.

Cienfuegos on the other hand, is a delightful little town hugging the huge natural bay "Bahia de Cienfuegos". I picked a lovely old colonial casa down south on the peninsula toward Punta Gorda with a back porch directly on the waters edge run by Dr Ana Maria (a lawyer - +53 (43) 513269). The room and food was decent enough, although I was thankful to have my mosquito net wrapped around me at night after I saw a huge cockroach walking over my bedclothes *shudder*

On the other side of the bay, you could see the UFO-like dome of Cuba's first (and uncompleted) nuclear power station ... they stopped building it when the Berlin Wall fell and Russian money ceased to arrive.

The day was hot with no breeze, so I reckoned I would hire a moped off a nearby Yacht Club (was only 20 euro for 24 hours) and speed on off to a beach club about 18 km away.
Unfortunately this was cut short when:
(a) I couldn't figure out how to start the bike at one point (apparently a little red switch had to be clicked)
(b) There was hardly any petrol in the tank (the idea is that you have to go and fill up the second you leave.. I wasn't told this, so had hardly enough petrol to get to the station by the time I realised ... and the petrol-guage was broken!)

By the time I was FINALLY sorted, 3 hours had been wasted and the sun was going down, so I decided to just have a quick spin around the town on the bike and then give it back and do some exploring on foot.

Cienfuegos itself is unremarkable. I was later to discover that pretty much all smaller towns in Cuba look quite the same: a central plaza with large church, leading off to side-streets of dusty white-washed houses and one main street with shops.

Almost an exact copy of any town you would find in Mexico in fact.

I sat in the Plaza Mayor people watching under the statue of Jose Marti, and got chatting to a Canadian bloke who recommended a casa in Trinidad (where I was due to head the next day). I'm thankful he recommended this casa as it proved to be fantastic...


I did have an interesting encounter with one of my horse-chariot drivers though. A bit gruff at first, he soon opened up when he heard I was Irish and started to tell me tales of how he had tried to escape from Cuba to Florida. Yet he had been caught 3 times... the last time he was put in prison in Cuba for a year!

The first two times were on a make-shift raft... the last time was on a proper boat.

I tried to convince him that things in his country would eventually change, or that if he DID leave, he should head to Canada or somewhere since only violence and gangs awaited him in Florida. He just seemed happy enough to get away wherever.

Genuine guy.. even said "no too much!" when I gave him 3 CUC instead of the 1 I owed him.

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Perdido en Cuba de Fidel

Travel blog by peterforan

Swish antique

Swish antique

2 weeks in which I crap-dance salsa-stylee in my own inimitable way; terrorise the Cuban people after one-too-many mojitos and visit bars where they actually ENCOURAGE people to smoke cigars as big as your leg. If I get time I'll take in some culture..

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    People watching
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    Che propoganda
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    Central plaza

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