Trinidad. Sans Tabego, still in Cuba. On the south coast in fact. But a sea change from Havana. The cars are still here although not as many and, for the most part, not as pristine. The architecture too, but intensified: its Spanish colonial without almost any modern influence. One of the first towns established under Spanish rule (1514) it’s a small picturesque place that still has some cobbled streets and with horse and traps running up and down them. The main difference, however, is the rural diversity that surrounds it. White sanded (almost Caribbean characture) beaches to the south and densely forested mountains to the north, both within 20 mins drive from the main square. We will have ended up staying here for 5 nights, not what we had planned, but busy busses forced our hand. At first, it was a concern that we would run out of things to fill our time but after a morning of rapid exploring we were happy that there would be no thumb twiddling to be had.
Obviously a place that attracts ample tourists, we were able to book an excursion to take us up into the hills for a trek. So, early on our third morning we set off from out beautiful “casa” to our pick up point where we were met by an 80’s Russian truck adapted to seat 16 people in its cargo hold (wasn’t expecting to put a lorry on our vehicle count!) After a short and surprisingly comfortable ride we arrived at a view point at 500m above sea level overlooking the town and the Caribbean Sea. A quick stop here for some photos then we were loaded back up like soviet troops into our truck to continue our journey into the hills. Our destination was a national park and the first stop the park’s information centre, here we were told a little about the region and its history and also shown the trek they had planned for us. Next we visited a coffee house that sells coffee grown locally and still picked, peeled, roasted and ground in traditional methods. The state own the land and the farmers are employed by a co-oporative who have to sell at least 80% of the coffee harvested back to the state at a price relatively low compared tobacco or sugar. Therefore not too much of it is exported from Cuba, but the coffee was certainly nicer than anything you get in a high street chain and probably not far off the coffee we had in Ethiopia.
After the coffee and feeling energised we set off for our hike through the forest. Our lovely guide pointed out coffee, banana and pineapple plants and we were even able to try raw coffee beans. The sap that surrounds the beans are so sweet it’s hard to believe it’s coffee! After a long, steep descent through denser forest we arrived in a clearing with a beautiful waterfall, plunge pool and cave. We were able to stay and swim here for the next hour or so. The water was cold but nice and refreshing once you got swimming, you could swim right up to and stand underneath the waterfall and even dive through it. Que me, belly flopping back into the pool as I failed to push hard enough off the rock to get my legs high with the distraction of the falling river. It was definitely a highlight of the Cuba trip so far! And even the returning ascent seemed worth it as we headed back to our truck and into town.
The waterfall day was sandwiched between two beech days, the long, shallow, fine white sanded beach is only about 20 mins bus ride from town so we had no problem getting there. Surprisingly they were quite quiet too and just what the Dr (Suzanne) ordered after lots of walking round Havana and then the hike. The sea was like a pond and nice and warm to swim in when it got too hot lying in the sun. There were coconut trees towards the back of the beach and although I found a coconut on the ground I failed to crack it open with everything I had on me so just went back to lying down and trying not to get burnt (the factor 50 is working a charm by the way!).
When we’ve had the energy or when the sun has been behind the clouds we’ve had a good explore of Trinidad. The first morning we were here Suzanne decided that my American baseball cap was getting too much unwanted attention so we went in search of Panama hats. One shop keeper told me that the trilby styled one I tried on made me look like Indiana Jones so naturally I bought it, in reality I think I probably look more like Mickey Pierce but at least no one is asking me where I got my hat from anymore! Matching hats purchased we went sightseeing around Trinidad, there is a large bell tower in the middle of the historic centre which you can climb for a quid. Amazingly the town looks even better from above than at street level with a sea of terracotta roofs contrasting the cobbled streets and colourful houses perfectly.
Now into our 10th day in Cuba, we will shortly be headed back to Havana for one more night before jetting off to Miami via the Cayman Islands for the next leg of our journey, chasing the American dream, it will be a shame to leave the rum, cigars and revolutionary socialism behind. But then if you’re stood still you might as well be going backwards.