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28th to 2nd cleaning and swimming day then havana

My keyboard seems to have decided to misbehave and the shift and backspace keys are now performing incorrect functions so forgive the lack of capitals and odd character.

Final day in Cienfuegos was spent cleaning the boat and pre-packing kit for the next day before heading off to town with swimmers to relax by the pool of the Union Hotel. There was a thousand or 3 dollar entry fee to keep out the riffraff but this included a 2 dollar bar credit. It's a grand old colonial hotel that's been refurbished and run by the government. The pool is in a courtyard and we were looking forward to showers as a side benefit. Unfortunately, the loos had no showers and the poolside shower wasn’t working. However, we had a fine afternoon chatting and relaxing and swimming, Christine and Colin indulged in lengthy massages and we found our credit stretched to a couple of pina coladas (not something I drink much at home but out here,…. delicious).

After sunset we went to a bar in the square for a couple of mojitos and a band got us up dancing, well they and Sue and Christine, got us up dancing. After rather too many cocktails had been consumed, we wandered back towards a cafe we intended to have something to eat in. However, as it was suffering a power cut  and not offering food, we ended up back on the boat having crumbly toast with cheese, boiled eggs and bits and pieces.

The following morning, the pre-booked taxi arrived to take us on a tour ending up in Havana. He had not had the instructions for the tour bit so phoned his office who said no problem, we will let you know at the end how much more this will cost. Sue then went into angry Lancashire woman mode with the office explaining that it was already paid for,  and after some to-ing and fro-ing it was agreed that we would take the scenic route past the Bay of Pigs, stopping for a swim in the cave of fishes and carry on to Havana. The Bay of Pigs was a bay. The cave of fishes was great, a lagoon about 300m from the sea full of seawater and tropical fish that is connected to the sea by caves that may, posssibly, be possible to swim through with scuba kit. However, swimming in the cave with goggles was great, except for Christine who couldn't get the hang of being able to see but not breath in at the same time as she could with a snorkel.

Once finished here and another hour towards Havana, we stopped for lunch at a cafe at the side of the road and had sandwiches. Christine spotted ice cream in the freezer but it was only available in 1.5 kg boxes. Undeterred, a box was ordered and opened, extra spoons provided along with plastic tubs and the ice cream enjoyed and demolished in short order. Our driver was helping a fellow taxi to fit a new throttle cable but enjoyed a tub too before we set off again for Havana arriving at about 1730.

The rooms Sue had booked are amazing…. Palatial. It was a Casa Particulares ie not government run, and as grand as grand can be, marble staircases, ceilings about 30 feet high, marble baths and bathrooms etc. We unpacked, showered & bathed for some time before heading out for the evening towards a recommended restaurant but ending up at one beside it having mojitos, daquiris, pizzas and pasta before heading home for a relatively early night.

I awoke a little earlier than most and had an amusing sign language conversation with the security guard because I wanted to exchange some money. After a little he locked up and we set off for a walk, it was about 06.30, cool and refreshing. Lots of people about but not too many tourists. We went about a mile and a rapper type individual with orange baseball cap and rucksack met us and 3 bundles of  10,000 peso notes exchanged for dollars. In Spanish, the security guard said not to try that on my own.

Back at the ranch people were emerging, because we had declined the offer of breakfast at 12 dollars a head and wanted to go on a free walking tour starting at 09.30. An 08.00 set off had been hoped for. We ended up spending 12 dollars a head instead at kilometre zero, a tourist cafe close to the square where the walk started. Rushing a little to be on time proved silly as, on arrival, the leader told us to wait because he’d found it better to start 15 minutes late to give people time to assemble and, I  suppose, having people gathering under a free tour umbrella will attract more people. We duly were organised, at 09.55, ten minutes after the delayed start time and were split up into 3 or 4 groups of english and spanish and old town or other bit of town that I forget now. We had the boss chap, a frighteningly sophisticated sounding history teacher with a remarkable ability to reel off 18 word spanish names without hesitation, deviation or repetition. His tour was extremely interesting and went on for hours, it could, possibly, have benefited  from being half an hour shorter because people were flagging at the end. We met a local deity in a square with revoltingly long fingernails and heard about Yemaya's importance in the local religion as a mother figure.

At the end I asked him about how to catch a bus to Cienfuegos and he was not at all sanguine about being able to book one with only 24 hours notice but told me the company name and advised me to book it online. We then retired for a refreshing beer  and I used my phone to get very angry with the website and computers in general whilst,  eventually, having told it twice as much as it could possibly need to know to just buy a ticket.   Finding that my booking was good, but for payment, my vpn was incorrect. Because I only had about 20 percent battery remaining I decided to just visit the terminus to pay. So, once refresherising ourselves was complete, Sue accompanied me for a normal speed walk, group walking speed up to now being around about  zero point one mph as people dillied and dallied along the various ways. My navigation was fine for ages but collapsed at the end   when our paper map had infanta - a road, marked in a different place to where it actually is. We ended up giving up and getting a cyclotaxi for the last half a mile. Sue was involved in negotiations over price with this and after a little laughter we got it for 1500 pesos.

Arriving at the bus station a free marketeer tried to get our custom in a shared taxi to Cienfuegos saying, in any event we couldn’t book a coach because the station was blacked out. Having come all this way we thought we'd give it a go anyway, and did, but, as he’d said it was impossible and it looked likely it would involve queuing for hours even once the electricity returned. We returned to the capitalist system and booked a shared taxi to pick me up from our accommodation the following day at about 12.00. By this time my phone was at about 5 percent battery and we were receiving messages to say that Colin and Christine were in an establishment called El Dandy, purveyors of fine cocktails and snacks, would we be joining them. As Graham and Jennifer had been going to go back to the apartment when we left them, we asked if j and g were with them. The response was…… who question mark.  Then after a bit, yes.

We hailed a three wheeled electric whoosh whoosh the modern equivalant of a tuk tuk. Showing him the flat address and he said 'mille' which seemed fine we set off, it was actually during the journey that plans changed but as El Dandy was only a quarter of a mile further we decided it was too difficult to change plans and got out at the flat, paid the thousand pesos  and walked to El Dandy's to meet the rest, where we caught up on mojitos and snack consumption.

Having later refreshed at the flat with showers and not alcohol, we set off at about 20.00 to previous days recommended restaurant where  we had a barbecue style meal and the waiters & waitresses were very good at getting the Sues and Christines amongst the group to get up dancing. Once main courses were finished I was presented with a birthday tomato along with candle and indoor firework by the staff , or that's what it looked like but I think was perhaps a persimmon because it was actually deliciously sweet and full of squirty cream, so eminently acceptable. The waitresses all now ganged up on me, to get me on the floor to dance, it was just the floor space between the tables and I graced them with my moves for as short a time as seemed acceptable. As ever there were some frighteningly accomplished local dancers who Sue and Christine had persuaded to  join them. It would be fair to say our styles were somewhat different. 

Next morning we were out of pesos again so, because the security guard had left by the time i got up at 07.30 we chatted to the cleaners who said changing money at 300 to the dollar was no problem. We left them to organise this and after a bit the hostess of the house turned up, Nanda, which was a little awkward because she had offered to change money at 250 to the dollar. However as we weren't just off the plane we knew 300 was the normal rate and were not happy with her trying to fool us, Sue and she had words and 300 now seemed to be ok but it took ages to materialise, leaving just enough time for us to nip out for breakfast in time to return for 12.00  for my pick up by shared taxi. By 12.30 with no sign of the taxi and its now being allegedly scheduled to arrive by 13.00 the others decided to move to their new accommodation and as a blue taxi had stopped outside the door we hoped that this could be mine so a general exodus ensued with bags and all heading to the street where it was discovered that the blue taxi had broken down and wasn’t mine anyway. Graham spoke to a taxi driver on the main street to take bags and a couple of people with the others walking to the new accommodation however something was lost in translation and because his boot was full of jerrycans of fuel - quite normal here when fuel comes and goes a bit on availability, and his 1000 peso deal fell through.

The cleaners were keen to help and we thought that they had spoken to another taxi company so with everyone waiting for another taxi to come nothing much happened for a bit, then Nanda turned up and it transpired that the cleaners had just phoned Nanda  who now phoned a taxi. After about half an hour this turned up and Nanda told us it would be 10 dollars which eventually became 2000 pesos with most people ,mostly happy, and crew b, after some farewell hugs ,left.

I believe that they found their new accommodation without issue and had an afternoon rolling around town in a convertible cadillac. Meanwhile back at the apartment, after some alarming phone calls with the free marketeer, who kept hanging up  and then some calls with the driver it eventually turned up at 14.21. There were two other occupants, initially grumpy young ladies, on their mobiles. The taxi driver seemed to attempt another pick up which didn’t come off and provoked some angry words from the  driver and we were on our way. Stopping after half an hour for a comfort and smoke break and then another half hour later for a topping up of oil and water under the bonnet and then an hour later we ran out of diesel. With 15 litres in the boot this was soon topped up and an outboard style squeezy pump under the bonnet bled the system through effectively, so we were  soon under way again with the grumpy young ladies now much less grumpy and involved in animated political discussions with the driver in fast spanish. As i had taken the trouble to try to learn some spanish prior to coming  out I had no problems understanding words like castro and nada but the rest was incomprehensible and we  arrived at the marina at 17.31. This may seem a bit precise but doesn’t involve me pressing the zero key.

My washing which I had left with the marina whilst away was complete and the very nice laundry lady gave it back to me so I returned aboard, re-organised the fridge and freezer, because i had turned the fridge off for the few days away with the balance being transferred to the freezer, before going out for a quick meal at a local cafe in a garage and early. night which was a better idea in thought than practice because it was  a Saturday night and everyone is partying and making lots of noise.

Today’s my birthday thanks all for the wishes, i am about to head out on the bike to pick up some provisions.

Slainte Jock and Yemaya

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1 Comment

Mar 05

I loved reading these adventures. It seems like patience and living in the moment without expectations are order of the day!

Belated happy birthday wishes x

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