Archive of December 2015

Dec 23, 2015


#Day 17 Departure for the Viazul station at 7 am to get the ticket. The departure is almost on time. One stop at Guantanamo (GTMO) bus station. After leaving the town, on the right side, there is the road that goes to the US Naval Base. The road is a good 1 hour of turns, with large valleys looking very tropical. In the mountains, the bus stops as a break for the driver, then starts again. Less than 1 km later, the EON bus is broken and we take some passengers to Baracoa. Viazul bus to Baracoa Arriving in Baracoa under a grey but dry weather. The city looks empty and there is almost no cars. Baracoa Baracoa Baracoa Baracoa There is a few museums to visit such as The Matachin museum, which is located in a fort the Spanish built to protect the city and the cathedral. There are a few more, but as the weather is expected to be worst tomorrow, this is a leftover just in case. Baracoa Baracoa Baracoa Baracoa #Day 18 The weather is getting better around 8 am and by 10 there is a blue sky everywhere. Baracoa Baracoa Baracoa Following the Malecón of Baracoa, there is the stadium of baseball and then the *playa del miel*. It is a black sand beach. At the end, is the *rio miel*. At high tide, the path crosses water! Baracoa Baracoa Baracoa To cross the *rio miel*, there is a small bridge made of wood and a couple of boats as well. Baracoa The area is part of a national park. Entry is 3 CUC for The mirador. There is no need to pay for the access to the *playa blanca* as the sea is too agitated to swim. The beach is not interesting though. The mirador is about 160 meter high, but the hike is rather easy. From there, the view on the bay of Baracoa is very nice. There is also the Yunke in the background, which is the highest point around here. Baracoa Baracoa Baracoa A quick drizzle over the beach on the way back. Baracoa Baracoa Baracoa Baracoa After a stop at the casa, a visit at the hotel *El Castillo* which gives a nice view on the North of the city. From there, a walk to the North of the city, to the port and the end of the city, where the Viazul station is. Baracoa Baracoa Baracoa Baracoa Baracoa A walk back on the Malecón to go home, passing in front of buildings just a few stories high. Everything looks desert and poor here. Baracoa Baracoa Just nearby the casa, is a group of people preparing a fire to cook a pork just outside their building. Baracoa

Santiago de Cuba

#Day 15 The day starts by going to the Viazul station to make a pre-reservation for the journey to Baracoa in two days. Santiago de Cuba Bienvenidos a Santiago, Santiago de Cuba Then going to Park Ferreiro with a bicitaxi. It is a long way and it is uphill. The driver will only ask for 5 CUC for the ride. Not having the change on 20 CUC, he says he will take the 4.80-ish CUC! From there, a walk to the centre of the city. The first monument is the *cuartel Moncada*. There is a guided tour and the guide answers lots of questions I had on Cuba history. The visit is made with a stick, like the teachers have. The rest of the *cuartel* is a school. This might explain why. Santiago de Cuba Sin el Partido no hay Revolucion posible, Santiago de Cuba Santiago de Cuba Cuartel Moncada / Ciudad escolar 26 de Julio, Santiago de Cuba Santiago de Cuba Santiago de Cuba A stop at the *Plaza de Marte*, where there are statues of four famous people who made Cuba. In Aguilera, going down to the centre, a stop at ARTex, which has very good cocktails and live music. It is filled with Cubans, which is nice. The museum of the carnival is just in front of it. The carnival had a role during the beginning of the revolution as it was supposed to help Fidel Castro hide after the attack of the *cuartel Moncada*. Santiago de Cuba Santiago de Cuba Propaganda Santiago, Santiago de Cuba Santiago de Cuba A few blocks down is the Park Cespedes. Here is the building of the province, the cathedral and the Gran Hotel. From the Gran Hotel is a very nice view on the square and the cathedral but there is no good view on the South-East. It's 3 CUC, with 2 CUC as a credit for drinks. However, from the right tower of the cathedral, there is a nice view on the whole city. Santiago de Cuba Santiago de Cuba Santiago de Cuba Santiago de Cuba Santiago de Cuba Santiago de Cuba On the waterfront, there is a small Malecón, but nothing particularly interesting. There is a brewery though. In the neighborhood of the casa, is the natal house of Antonio Macéo. The visit is very interesting and gave a lot of details on the Cuban history before the revolution. On the walls of the city, there is a lot more inscriptions about the revolution and the PCC as Santiago is the place where it all started with the attack of the *cuartel Moncada*. Viva la Revolucion, Santiago de Cuba Viva Fidel, Santiago de Cuba Santiago de Cuba Santiago de Cuba Santiago de Cuba In the evening, night out at the *casa de la Trova* and then *la Claqueta*. For the *casa de la Trova*, only a *very* drunk person gave the proper direction. For other directions, different people tried to redirect to other places. It was shallow. Santiago de Cuba #Day 16 It's a rather short day today. Visit of the casa of Franck Pais, who was a hero of the revolution. Then, on the Parque Cespedes, there is the *casa de Diego Velasquez*. The house itself is Spanish style, with windows in Moorish style. Lots of furniture from the 16th century to the 18th century. Adjacent to the museum, is another house of French inspiration. One of the guides asks for money, saying she had her house destroyed by hurricane Sandy, so she needed money. Santiago de Cuba In the museum Bacardi, the guide made a French/English tour. The museum covers from the pre-Colombian immigration from South America to year 1958. Lots of pieces from the different times. Parqueo solo turismo, Santiago de Cuba Santiago de Cuba Unidos por un socialismo prospero y sustenable, Santiago de Cuba La Defensa de la Patria Mision de los CDR, Santiago de Cuba Victoria de las Ideas, Santiago de Cuba There is no bicitaxi in the centre as it is on the side of the hill. This explains why it was difficult to get a bicitaxi the day before. The bicitaxi only rides on flat areas, which are along the water. Moving in Santiago is sometimes suffocating due to the pollution. Lots of vehicles are throwing huge clouds of smoke! It can happen that a street is hazy because of that. Santiago de Cuba To conclude the day, I'm going to the Iphigenia cemetery where lots of the famous people of Cuba are buried. Heroes from the war of 10 years (1868-1878) against the Spanish, the war of three years (1895-1898) where the American intervened, the four years of American colonialism (ending in 1902), and finally the revolution (1956-1963). There is Cespedes, Martí, Macéo, the people who where tortured by Batista and the ones who died during the revolution. Each of them have a special mausoleum. There is also Bacardi and Cumpay Segundo. There is a lot of marble tombs everywhere, either from the famous people area or in the older part. In front of the cemetery, is a huge road, much larger than what is on the street just outside, most likely due to the state celebrations being held here. Due to the rain, there won't be a military ceremony in front of the Mausoleum of Martí. Also, when Fidel Castro dies, he will be buried next to him. While Martí has died way before he revolution, he's considered the father of the Cuban nation, as the one who inspired the ideas that Fidel Castro used to do the revolution. Santa Iphigenia, Santiago de Cuba Santa Iphigenia, Santiago de Cuba Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, Santiago de Cuba Cubana, Santiago de Cuba Santiago de Cuba

Dec 22, 2015


#Day 13 Departure at 8 am from the Viazul station. There are two stops before arriving in Camaguëy. The bus driver almost honked at everyone on the road. Either it is cars or cyclists that are in the way, or friends & colleagues. The landscape is flat all around. The province is the richest in Cuba and is self sufficient. There is cattle in the fields in the middle, and rice in the South. In the North, where are the Cayo, the tourism is being developed by the state. There is an ongoing project to build 50 000 rooms on beaches currently virgin with only white sand and transparent water. At the bus station, a woman hearing speaking French asked *Montréal*, upon replying *Paris*, she said *you are nice for a Parisian*. The casa is located in the inner centre of the city. The landlord says Camaguëy is the most interesting in Cuba. It is its 3rd largest city and is home to the largest park inside a city in Cuba. The city has changed locations twice before settling here. The streets are complicated by design. In the old times, it was used to complicate the penetration of pirates in the city. It also has many dead-ends for the same reason. The inner centre looks very European. Camaguëy Viva Fidel, Camaguëy Bicitaxi, Camaguëy Camaguëy There are many churches in the city, however, they are closed when it is not time for the mass. Camaguëy Camaguëy Camaguëy There are many more things to do in he city than being indicated in the guides. The city does not see as many tourists as the other major cities in Cuba. Camaguëy No Basura antes 6.00 pm, Camaguëy Camaguëy Camaguëy Viva Cuba, Camaguëy Camaguëy Camaguëy Camaguëy At the casa, they receive the television from Venezuela. They say the information is better there. Lots of people in Cuba get the TV from another country. It is black market, expensive and it is a subscription to the person who installed the service. The government only checks from time to time. As I was told, *they [the government] cut the cables of the device* when they find out. It looks like lots of people are doing the same thing (almost all the casas I've been to) but not all are saying it. #Day 14 Another tour in the city before taking the bus at 1.20 pm. The journey to Santiago is the longest of the trip. It is also the only one that will have a night part. At the Gran Hotel, there is a mirador which gives a very nice view on the city. It is almost as top of the towers of the churches. The tiles are red and made of local clay. Camaguëy Camaguëy Camaguëy Camaguëy Camaguëy Camaguëy Camaguëy Camaguëy Coppelia, Camaguëy At the Viazul station, it is possible to book the ticket just before boarding. This is working fine when leaving from Camaguëy as it is not a common stop. It is the same bus as yesterday, the one that left Trinidad in the morning. For some journeys, it is best to book as soon as arriving in the city. While Cubanacan is a transfer service offered in hotels, Viazul is a regular service, stopping at the different *estación de ómnibus* on the way. 5 to 10 minutes stop. Bathrooms are 1 CUC! There is also EON, the standard line for Cubans since it is less expensive. The buses are older and most likely not air-conditioned. Talking about air conditioning, it is really cold in the busses, and it is better to get a blanket. Talking at a casa about it, I was told that they couldn't tune it. What's the point of going to a warm country during winter if it is to be dressed like over there? It can happen that the driver stops in the middle of the road to pick a few people. All of them seem to work for the government though. There are other people who are shaking bills on the side of the ride with the hope someone will pick them for a ride. Before the sunset, which happened soon after leaving Las Tunas, the landscape is still the same. It will change later on when entering the area of Santiago de Cuba, where there is another mountain range. Two more stops in Holguin and Bayamo before arriving in Santiago two hours and a half late. The highway A-1 to Santiago has only the inbound part being built on almost half of its length. The remaining part has both sides, but the road condition is not at its best and it is hard to tell that it is a highway! The casa is huge compared to all others! It has a nice terrace on the rooftop which gives a view on the city.
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