To the Bus Terminal
Having stocked up on pesos (was slightly concerned my credit card may not work but needn’t have worried) and fruit I cycled to the bus terminal – a rather long detoured route that had me sweating profusely in the Havana heat.
I’d asked for directions from the casa owner who had helpfully told me the easiest route. Only problem was I missed the first turning. I carried on regardless and figuring I could get there easily enough just following my nose. I was like a moth that circles closer and closer to the light source. Inevitably, I eventually arrived, sunburnt and my clothes drenched in sweat, ready to collapse in a heap.
Fortunately, having to arrive an hour in advance gives plenty of time to wash and change tops and generally look more presentable, smell less and stop sweating, which I’m sure my fellow passengers appreciated.
[Mental note to self – exertion, however slight, should be avoided during the midday swelter.]
After 4 easy hours of staring out of the window from the cool, air-conditioned bus, I arrived in Cienfuegos.
The casa owner in Havana had kindly called up another casa owner in Cienfuegos and made a reservation for me. With the name and address on a scrap of paper, I reassembled my bike and luggage in preparation to go in search of ‘Casa de Julieta’. As I attempted to make my way through the group of Cubans assembled at the exit, I heard my name being called by an old hombre with an equally old bike, who quickly escorted me through the crowd and on to the casa – a gorgeous colonial building with huge room and pretty courtyard.
I received a warm welcome and agreed to dinner at 7.30. Great – Enough time for wandering round town.
The Jose Marti plaza was lovely, surrounded on all sides by stunning architecture, most notably, the clock tower and the gran teatro.
I then went for a stroll down the Malecon – a 3km stretch out of town, which came to a rather disappointing end although the walk itself was pleasant enough. Feeling a little lazy, I got a bici-taxi back.
As I walked away from the plaza and caught the last glimpses of the bell tower, I noticed the buildings were run-down and weathered. The socialist slogans remained prevalent though.
Festival of the Shrimp
At dinner I was introduced to Cynthia – an American who was working at the university – and later went with her and Julieta to the Gran Teatro for the last night performance of a week long culture festival.
The music was amazing and by last performance, everyone was joining in – clapping along, singing, even dancing. It ended, rather surreally, with a carnival-type parade led by a shrimp. Not entirely sure I understood what it was about, but apparently it ended with the town procession waving the shrimp off to sail in a boat. Surreal!
Julieta clearly thought I had an appetite to compare to a small island nation and so dinner was lovely, just way too much even for me and the sandwiches she made for my lunch the next day would have been enough to open a small deli/snack bar!