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The Cuba Diaries: Part 2

April 8, 2019

We’ve sneaked a peek at our client Sharon’s diary. She headed out to Cuba for a truly immersive experience. The first week saw her drink cocktails, swim in waterfalls, and drink more cocktails. Here’s how the rest of her trip went. Spoiler alert: She samples more Cuban cocktails… 

 

08.12.18 | 3am
Today encompassed an easy hike through the forest with another dip. We had two local dogs join us this time and dinner was at the Casa Particular again. Then it was off out for another evening of salsa dancing and onto a club in a cave - I managed to crawl into bed at 3am!
 
09.12.18 | Cienfuegos
Another great day with an excellent lunch.

 

We joined the Trinidad du Cuba city tour, which included a canchanchara cocktail at the canchanchara bar followed by ice cream - all before 10.30am.

 

Then onto our horseback ride with a swim in the middle of it and another great lunch. Yoban told us a story about a waitress who was translating the menu but didn’t know the translation for calf so described the dish as a ‘cow’s daughter’.

 

The craft market was beautiful and I bought clave (wooden tubes) and canchanchara pots with a cocktail recipe list.

 

Onto Cienfuegos for a city tour. It was quite different to the other Cuban cities, with wider streets and a sense of there being more money available. The city was founded by the French so it has a European influence.

 

Cienfuegos is where Yoban’s grandfather was buried and his great, great, great grandfather made his money opening a Chinese casino. Unfortunately, he gambled too much and lost his fortune. To this day, gambling is banned in Yoban’s family.

 

We went to the harbour and then to an amazing house/palace made of marble. Up two spiral staircases is the roof, where you can look over the city and watch the sunset.

 

Christopher Columbus didn’t discover Cienfuegos because the entrance to the harbour looks like a dead end - the big cruise ships are unable to get through because of the lack of turning space.

 

We had dinner at the most exquisite restaurant that was right at the end of the city, with water on both sides. 

Sadly there was no dancing tonight as everything closes early on a Sunday.

10.12.18 | Crocodile and cocktails
We started our day with breakfast on the roof and a fantastic view over Cienfuegos.

 

On leaving the city we travelled through the countryside and various villages including Playa Ciron.

 

Today there was a surprise (not on the programme) stop in store for us. Yoban really knows how to look after his clients!

 

We ended up at a bird sanctuary, which felt like a local’s garden. We saw hummingbirds close up and got some great photos.

 

Due to the never-ending chances for a quick swim, I now pack my swimsuit in my bag every day. The sea in Cuba is beautifully warm and so clear I cannot afford to miss a dip.

 

The Cubans are very open people. They leave their windows and doors open and allow you to see into their homes.

 

Crocodile was on the menu for lunch, similar consistency to chicken but also very tender, followed by a boat trip in Guama. We saw statues in the swamps, which depicted the work undertaken by the aboriginals such as duck hunting. 
 
There were little lodges dotted around and of course we found one with a bar. Cocktails followed!

11.12.18 | Time for pampering
Today we cycled 50km.

 

It was a fantastic ride through the sugar plantations and various villages and towns. The roads were quite flat with the odd hill and we made good time finishing within three hours.

 

When we arrived we grabbed a mojito with lunch. I had a lovely swim this afternoon, as well as treating myself to a massage (1 hour for £15).

 

It was then time for dinner (shrimp) in the same place as lunch and propping the bar up until 1am.

12.12.18 | A shepherd and his goats
Upon leaving sleepy San Diego to head to Viñales, it wasn’t long until we came across a funeral procession. The whole village seemed to be part of this. The horse was followed by all those on bikes and then the rest of the village followed either by truck or car.

 

Life is not easy here - working the land is still a manual process using cattle.

 

We stopped at a tobacco farm where we learned how cigars are made.

 

Cycling around Viñales, we saw spectacular mountains and finished with a visit to a cave that was found by mistake when a shepherd was looking for his goats. 

13.12.18 | Viñales
Viñales. A cosmopolitan town with many tourists.

 

We went to a restaurant where all the food comes from the land. I was surprised by how much there was.

 

Back to the music venue, we’d been to the night before for more live music and dancing. Another late night! 

 

The next morning, we took a hike amongst the fields and mountains and met a family that grow their own coffee. We then met a family that make cigars and stopped to have a cocktail out of a coconut shell.
 
15.12.18 | Beach-side bar and prison camp
We travelled to Maria La Gorda, cycling part of the way (another 50km).

 

This was a hard cycle as the roads were bumpy.

 

This part of Cuba is pretty much uninhabited too so it was like cycling through the forest passing very few houses or other means of transport.

 

When we arrived at Maria La Gorda, the furthest point of the island, it was like entering a military or prison camp. There was security at the front gate and the complex was ring-fenced.

 

The only thing to do here is dive, snorkel, eat and drink. So when the weather turned chilly, it was lunch at the beach-side bar, which is where we stayed until dinner.

16.12.19 | Saying goodbye
Today we made the five-hour journey back to Havana.

 

We gave a lift to two Russian tourists who were backpacking around Cuba, as well as the barman.

 

We dropped off the barman at the garage in the next town (1.5 hours away) before a brief break due to a broken down bus.

 

Back in Havana, the first thing we smell is fumes.

 

Today was a sad day filled with farewells. We said goodbye to our guide and driver.

 

However, our guide had one last surprise for us - a table at a rooftop restaurant with a club next door (he knew us so well).

 

This was the perfect way to finish off the tour.
 
17.12.18 | A little R&R
Now off to Jibacoa for a few days R&R. 
 
The hotel was all inclusive and beautiful. Everyone was friendly and there were various activities ranging from scuba diving, Spanish lessons and yoga.

 

I wasn’t expecting to stay there longer than anticipated but due to the drone situation at Gatwick, flights were cancelled so I ended up a day later than scheduled.
 
This was a fantastic trip and Cuba was an extremely interesting country.  I’m glad I visited when I did before there’s too much change and it loses its innocence.

 

Sharon