A Travellerspoint blog

12 April 2017

Santiago de Cuba to Baracoa

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This morning we left our guesthouse at 8:30am to head to Baracoa. Our first stop was at a lookout over Guantanamo Bay. The Bay itself is large, and part of it is leased to the US Government under a perpetual lease written into the Cuban Constitution when the US granted Cuba independence in 1902. The US Naval base is mostly hidden from view although some installations are barely visible in one of the photos below.

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We then drove through some winding mountain roads, where we stopped for a group photo (although Barbara & Graham are missing). There was some light rain during this part of the drive.

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We arrived at Baracoa just before 1:00pm, and checked into our guesthouses. The rain has cleared and blue sky is back. Baracoa was Cuba's first town, established in 1511, but became isolated when government was moved to Santiago. For many years Baracoa was only accessible by sea, although a road was constructed in the mid 20th century. This part of Cuba was devastated by a hurricane in Dec 2016, and damage to the area is still visible. Baracoa is extremely colourful, and was probably my favourite part of Cuba.

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The above building was my guesthouse (the section on the left with the rocking chair on the verandah). We then went on a brief orientation walk to the main plaza's before having the rest of the afternoon free to explore the town.

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At 6:00pm we met at a rooftop bar with good views over Baracoa, before heading off for dinner. This rooftop bar became our regular meeting place of an evening.

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Posted by HimalayanPeter 04:18 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

11 April 2017

Santiago de Cuba

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This morning was a 9:00am departure for an organised tour of El Morro castle and the city cemetery. But not before I noted the name of the guesthouse, its address, and took a photo so I would recognise it again.

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First stop was the 17th century El Morro castle, at the entrance to Santiago Bay. We were there before the crowds, and the castle was impressive, with beautiful views of the coast and bay.

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Next stop was the Cemeterio Santa Ifigenia, where many important people, including Jose Marti, Emilio Bacardi, and Fidel Castro are buried. The most impressive is the tomb of Jose Marti, Cubas foremost national hero (1853 - 1895) who led the revolution against the Spanish. There is a guard of honour which is changed every half hour to great fanfare.

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Fidel Castro was cremated, and his ashes interred under the round boulder.

Next stop was Moncada Army barracks, where Castro and his forces launched an attack on the Batista led government. The barracks are now a museum and school, and still has the bullet holes in the fa├žade.

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Then on to Revolution Square for a brief stop.

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Then into central town to the Plaza Cespedes, where the rest of the afternoon was free. Santiago is one of 3 Cuban cities that caters for cruise ships, and one was in port today.

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By about 5:00pm the weather changed and heavy clouds rolled in. I made my way back to the guesthouse before heavy rain started at 5:30pm. The rain stopped by 6:30pm, at which time we went to a local restaurant for a group dinner.

Posted by HimalayanPeter 04:59 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

10 April 2017

Camaguey to Santiago De Cuba

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Today we had breakfast at 7:30am in preparation for departure at 8:30am. Our guesthouse owners were very nice, and took photos of the three of us (Sonja, Jenny & myself). We then took photos of them, and the Trinajones in their courtyard.

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Today was our longest day of driving, although we stopped at Bayamo for lunch at a local restaurant, and time to look around the central town. Lunch took about an hour, as there was another tour bus at the restaurant, and things don't happen quickly in Cuba, Bayamo is the second oldest city in Cuba, founded in 1513, but much of the original city was destroyed in 1869 when citizens razed the city rather than surrender to the Spanish. It has since been rebuilt and has a beautiful Plaza.

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Back on our bus for the drive to Santiago. The bus was quite spacious and comfortable being a 24 seater, and there were only 16 of us.

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During the afternoon drive, we stopped at a road side fruit stall where our guide purchased some local fruits for us to try. The stall was opposite a local school, and the kids were sitting under an awning doing their class.

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We arrived in Santiago just after 5:00pm, with heavy rain falling. It eased slightly as we got to the base guesthouse, and were allocated to ur own guesthouses. My guesthouse was just up the road from the base guesthouse. After storing our luggage, a few of us set out with Karrel for an orientation walk to the main plaza, although it was still raining at this time. By the time we reached the plaza we decided to settle into the local hotel bar until the rain stopped.

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The rain stopped about 6:30pm, and Lisa, Sonja Jenny & myself headed off in search of a restaurant for dinner. Found a nice place that served good and inexpensive meals. The lobster was 15 Convertible Pesos (equal to US$15-)

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We made our way back to the base guesthouse where Lisa, Jenny & Sonja were staying, and I continued on to my guesthouse. Unfortunately, as it had been raining when I first went there, I hadn't had a chance to note its name or appearance. Ended up I couldn't find my guesthouse, and when I went back to the base guesthouse, the owner wouldn't let me in or help. After 1/2 hour of panic and wondering what to do next. our tour guide turned up, and pointed out my guesthouse. What a relief.

Posted by HimalayanPeter 05:17 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

9 April 2017

Camaguey

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Breakfast at 8:00am and headed to the base guesthouse at 9:00am for a bicycle taxi ride through part of the old city.

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Our first stop was at the Plaza del Carmen and convent. This plaza is now an artistic area with art galleries and street sculpture.

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Our next stop was at a local market.

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Next stop was the Plaza Agramonte and church.

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The bike tour ended back at the Plaza de los Trabajadores where we quickly entered the Nuestra Senora de la Merced Church. However, being easter Sunday, it was filled with worshippers, so we didn't have an opportunity to look around. By 11:00am the rest of the day was free for us to do what we wanted. I started by heading to the local park, where a family fun day was in operation, Book stalls, performers, rides and food stalls, with plenty of families. There was even a stall selling goldfish.

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After the park, I made my way to the Plaza San Juan de Dios, which contains a former church and military hospital. I then found a shop (closed for the day) which didn't appear to have much stock.

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the rest of the day was spent wandering through the city, and when I finally got too hot and dehydrated, a few ales at a local bar before continuing the walk.

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Dinner this evening was at another local restaurant.

Posted by HimalayanPeter 05:12 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

8 April 2017

Trinidad to Camaguey

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This morning had breakfast at 8:00am before departing Trinidad at 9:00am for our drive to Camaguey. Breakfast at the guest houses is fairly consistent, starting with a bowl of tropical fruit, fruit smoothies (generally guava), eggs pooched, scrambled, fried or omelette), bread rolls, and coffee, hot water and milk, served in thermos flasks.

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Just after 10am we arrived at Sancti Spiritus, where we stopped for 45 minutes to admire the Plaza Honorato and surrounding area. This town was founded in 1522, and has been renovated to become a beautiful and colourful colonial town.

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We stopped at a roadside restaurant for lunch, before heading on to Camaguey, arriving about 3:00pm. after leaving Sancti Spiritus, the sky became overcast, and remained so in Camaguey. Put our bags in our rooms before a short group walk to the Plaza de la Trabajadores, after which we had a few hours to roam the streets. The city is both colourful (in parts) and drab in others, but has many churches, plazas, and cobbled streets. It is famous for its trademark oversize water jars, called tinajones.

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The last photo is my guesthouse. My room was on the ground floor behind the two windows. At 7:00pm the group met at the local plaza for a group dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Posted by HimalayanPeter 04:16 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

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