Cienfuegos

Crocodiles, caves and colourful cars
Cienfuegos, Caribbean

So tiredness hit me today.

We were up at 7am, and breakfast was already waiting for us.

I struggled to drag myself up. Which is such a change from the previous two weeks, where I have been awake and ready to get up at 5am.

For breakfast they had given us guava juice (amazing), papaya, bananas, pineapple (also amazing), plus meat and cheese (which I don’t eat). And also meat and cheese are so expensive here – and well out of a ‘normal’ Cuban budget. I felt guilty that they felt they needed to provide those unnecessary items.

The bus picked us up at 8am and we headed out of Vinales, back on the road to Havana. How ironic. We stopped off several times at service stations for toilet breaks. And also for lunch.

The lunch place did sandwiches, meat and cheese. That was all. So I couldn’t eat there, which was disappointing. Particularly as I only ate fruit for breakfast, I was pretty hungry.

Then we headed through the Zapata swamp area. This is the only wilderness left in Cuba, and the largest wetlands in the Caribbean. Although the area we drove through still had various small villages dotted around. This area is protected as a Unesco Biosphere Reserve and Ramsar Convention Site.

We stopped off at a wildlife park. Like a zoo. But nothing was in a ‘cage’ as such. They had large natural areas to roam in. They had Cuban tree rats. First time I’ve seen these! Basically large guinea pigs, medium brown colour. Pretty cute looking! And the main reason we came here – the endangered Cuban crocodile.

They had various ages of crocodile. Small ones which were 2-5 years old. Then absolutely huge ones which were about 20-40 years old. They can live up to 80 years old. They were feeding them cow skins. The mouths of the crocodiles made such a loud clonking sound as they grabbed at the meat. Scary. The Cuban crocodile are only found in Cuba. You can tell them apart from other crocodile species as they have slight ‘horns’ just above their eyes.

Next stop, the beach at Playa Larga. Except there wasn’t much beach. Just a cliff and a very wavy ocean. It was very blue. Under the water, all the coral was dead. And just across the road was an underground cave – Cueva de los Peces. Part of the cave was exposed and filled with water, creating a swimming pool which was 70m deep. It was difficult to get in, slippery rocks. But it was nice to swim in.

Back on the move and about an hour later we were at the city of Cienfuegos.

This city has different architecture compared with other Cuban cities as there were French rather than Spanish colonisers in this region, arriving in 1819. We got out for a wander around. Firstly on the wide Main Street – apparently no other main streets are this wide in Cuba. The two sides of the road separated with a large boulevard. The usual traffic – cycles, horses, battered old cars and buses. Then we headed down a pedestrianised street. Here we went into a few shops.

A peso shop (local currency), where things were cheap. A random collection of items; soap, fabric by the meter, plastic flowers, dustpan and brush. Then to a CUC shop (expensive currency), which apparently only opened this week and was selling again a random collection of tea pots (at $12 each), fridges ($1,000), TVs ($700) and microwaves. Everything felt very expensive.

The supermarket was closed. It was about 5pm. Everything closes early here. We made it to a main square. Surrounded by pretty, old buildings. A church, a town hall and several others. Some really nicely maintained (old) cars were parked around the square – good for photos!

Back in the bus and the final hour drive to our final stop. Finally, around 7pm, we made it to Trinidad. Our destination. After an 11 hour journey. I was so hungry.

Luckily the first thing we did was dinner. At a local house. They had prepared dinner on their roof for us.

There were 4 men playing instruments throughout dinner – this annoys me. They were so loud. Then incredibly rude about tips afterwards. After dinner we met the families that we were going to be staying with for the next three nights. The guy who picked me up spoke perfect English (so I didn’t get much chance to practice my bad Spanish!). We were staying at his parents house. The room was amazing – we were on a roof terrace, with a large patio with chairs. And a roof top. Wow.

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