After spending a whole afternoon and evening in the Havana hostel because Kel and Kelvin were so ill, We decided to bail from Havana on our second morning and head for Trinidad in search of sun and fresh air.
While you can catch a bus from Havana to Trinidad, we were told that if you turn up to the bus station about an hour early you can generally find a taxi driver in an iconic all-American car that will take you for the same price. Sure enough, as soon as we arrived at the bus station we had a driver in a bright red, all american chevrolet offering to drive us and a chick we met at the hostel to Trinidad.
All of the drivers managed to squeeze all 5 of our packs into the boot of the car and off we took, even managing to play our iPods on the cars (pretty awful) sound system, which you couldnt really hear over the sound of the engine. The drive ended up taking about 6 hours, no thanks to a tropical hurricane (slight exaggeration) that we had to drive through which stopped us on the side of the road for about 20 minutes because the rain was so heavy.. and the windscreen wipers on the car hadnt actually worked since it was made back in the 50’s.
We made it safe and sound to Trinidad and the driver took us to a Casa Particulares of his friends, friends brothers mother, which has turned out to be fantastic. The four of us have our own little apartment on the edge of town with our own bathroom, balcony, lounge room and kitchen (which doesnt get used) for about $12.50 a night each. The family live downstairs and are absolutely lovely. Lilliam, our adopted Cuban madre is absolutely amazing. Cooks a wicked breakfast each morning, made us a great dinner last night and is generally amazing. Last night she came upstairs and had a few rums and a good old laugh with us. She lives here with her Mum, Dad and son who are all lovely and have a smile on their face every day. Her son is particularly cute and came upstairs to show us a card trick last night.
Trinidad itself is a very cool little town- when I imagined Cuba before I came, this is what I thought it would be like. The houses are all old and falling down, but full of character. The paint is coming off 90% of them, but it just means that you can see all of the colours that were painted before it for the past 50-odd years. Every man, woman and child hang their head out there window or sit in the doorway to gossip with the neighbour, sell something or simply watch the world go by. TV sets blare as loud as they’ll possibly go and as you walk past you can see through every persons door and into their living room as they sit with their family and watch the soap operas. The main part of town has cobblestone streets with horse-drawn carts and bright, metallic all-american cars parked on the side of the road – it’s like the ultimate Cuban cliche and I dont get sick of seeing it.
Our first full day in Trinidad (day three in Cuba) was spent on a horseback riding tour into the national park – Kel was grand on his horse (which was the laziest horse you’ve ever seen – it just plodded along at the back for the entire day) but the rest of us were not so confident. I managed to get the hang of it, but ML and Kelvin struggled the whole time and somehow ended up with blisters between their buttcheeks.
First up we visited a sugarcane farm that made us a drink out of pure sugarcane juice and lime. There was an old Cuban man sitting in the yard, looking very happy playing his guitar and singing. We had a go at playing the bongos while he made up a song about me in Cuba with my cousin and friends, looking for a Cuban man. Si, si, si. He was very friendly and sang with such enthusiasm that he almost lost his teeth a few times.
We kept on riding through paddocks and bush to a waterfall that we could swim in, which was much appreciated after sitting and sweating in the sun for a few hours. After that we made our way back to a little restaurant for lunch (who tried to rip us off through dodgy maths on the bill) and then back into town, which we were very ready for after 5 or so hours on a horse. Having said that, the ride was amazing thanks to the beautiful scenery. Green paddocks with dark green mountains in the background and a brilliant blue sky.
After a few hours siesta, a huge dinner cooked by our Casa host and a few Cuba Libres on the balcony, we made our way out to meet a German couple that we met while horseriding (Maria and Alex) at Casa De La Musica (The House of Music). Casa De La Musica is a bar in the middle of town that has live salsa music. Its not so much a bar as an outside area with a dancefloor and steps that lead up and away from the dancefloor to make a bit of an amphitheater. You take a seat with everyone on the steps and the waiter comes around to take your drink order while you listen to the live music. With the drinks at only $2.50 for a Cuba Libre, Mojito, Pina Colada (the list goes on), you’re very soon keen to have a bit of a dance. The music was fantastic and jesus, can some of the Cubans move. The salsa was pretty amazing, especially when contrasted with my own dismal efforts with a very patient Cuban. The whole place has a very fun vibe to it, with a great mix of local Cubans and tourists (there’s not that many tourists around at the moment). You sit there watching and listening and feeling pretty stoked about the fact that you’re in Cuba.