Trinidad to Havana
An early start this morning due to a long 370 km trip. We left Trinidad with a light rain falling. This was the first rainy morning since arriving in Cuba - usually it started raining at about 2pm. After an hour or so we drove to a restored Hacienda belonging to a sugar plantation owner. This was located in the 'sugar valley' as it was known when Trinidad was a major export port for the product. Apparently up to 11,000 slaves were used to sow, harvest and process the sugar. In the grounds there stood an impressive tower from which overseers could watch what was happening in the cane fields and from which a bell was rung to indicate various stages of the work day.
Returning to the bus we motored along for a longish time with the drizzle continuing until we reached the town of Santa Clara where the mausoleum dedicated to Che Guevara is located. Che commanded the forces which worked in the mountain ranges around the town and successfully dealt with Batista's soldiers. He was killed in Bolivia in the late sixties but his remains took 30 years to be returned to Cuba. We had a look at the huge memorial erected in his honour but the museum was unfortunately closed due to humidity. A little further on we stopped for lunch at a quirky restaurant named after Don Quixote with an appropriate art work out the front.
There followed a long drive to Havana where we first viewed Revolution Square and then drove to the International Hotel for another look before being taken to our guest house for the last night. The guest house, in a fairly grubby part of Havana turned out to be quite modern inside and had a young man who spoke very good English. We freshened up and we're collected by the bus for our final group dinner. This was at the hotel Armadores del Santander on its rooftop terrace. Yes, the rain had stopped by then. For a fixed price we had a tasty dinner, a bit cold by the time it reached us from the kitchen, which actually included a drink for the first time. The view over Havana harbour was worth seeing as were the ferries plying back and forth across the water. We said our formal goodbyes to our guide Abel and driver Wille as well as to some of our fellow travellers who were leaving before us or were in different guest houses.
Our final treat for Cuba was to attend a concert with the Buena Vista Social Club. This started at 9:30 and was held in an unusual venue which consisted of a wide internal verandah surrounding an open. Tables and chairs occupied the four sides of the verandah and the band was in one corner. Some people had paid for dinner, they were in one section, while the rest of us were entitled to three 'complimentary' drinks. Weirdly the waiters walked back and forth in front of the performers, sometimes behind them as well. The toilets were also behind the band so customers would often walk across in front of the band. The key singers were all oldies, our vintage and older. They had fabulous voices and heaps of stamina as they often sang while moving around through the audience, occasionally forming conga lines. It was strange to have the sound coming from one corner of the area even while the performer was on the opposite side of the room next to our table. Maree and I just had one mojito and then switched to lemonade, four alcoholic drinks in one night would be two too many. We were back in our rooms by midnight but I had a rotten night due to a nasty cough that I have developed and some conjunctivitis which is affecting one eye. I hope to get some suitable medication in San Jose.
After a late breakfast Maree and I walked to a nearby WiFi spot to check our flights and emails. Henry is looking great in the pictures that Sarah sends and we are both missing him and the girls. After a false alarm when a 'Coco Taxi' arrived, not for us as it is only a two seater with no room for baggage, our proper taxi transfer arrived about 15 minutes early and we made our way to the airport for the first leg back to Mexico then a five hour layover before the next move to California.
I have just read in this morning's paper, which I managed to download this morning, that our esteemed Prime Minister claims "Australia is the most successful multicultural society in the world". Maybe he should come to Cuba to see how people of many races live in harmony that makes us look like rednecks. Let's not kid ourselves that we Aussies are something special particularly after the way we are still treating refugees.
After a long day which involved more than an hour's delay leaving Havana airport due to the late arrival of the plane from Cancun we finally reached San Francisco at 11 pm and had a surprisingly swift passage through immigration and customs (unlike Los Angeles). Since the free airport shuttle was no longer working we had to catch a taxi for the 4 km trip to the airport hotel at a cost of $25 including tip. The guy at the hotel was very helpful, getting me some salt and hot water to bathe my eyes which seem to have developed conjunctivitis. Tomorrow we meet Anthony for the beginning of stage three of our holiday.