Dec 20, 2015
Early departure from the hotel. The bus is at 7 am!
It's a long ride to Cienfuegos with two stops on the way.
The bus went nearly all the streets of Pinar del Rio, stopping 5 minutes in front of a bus station and then leaving again. No one was dropped/picked up, it wasn't a stop!
It was being rather cold in the bus. The driver said it happens often at the back. At 2 pm, the bus finally arrives in Cienfuegos. While it was expected to do two stops in the city, it will only do one, at another hotel than the one I was expected at. It happens to be a misunderstanding on the name of the hotel. I take a bicitaxi that goes by the Malecón of Cienfuegos. The view on the bay from the Malecón is very nice. The driver gives explanations on the building and streets.
Being almost broke, with only 7 CUC left, I go out looking for a Cadeca / bank. I cannot find the one that they told me about me at the casa. I go back to the centre, walking along the Malecón to find a bank… next to the hotel where I arrived with the bus earlier.
From there, I visit the city centre, only a few blocks wide, before heading West to the Reina neighborhood. As the street goes downhill, the houses are getting worse and worse. Poverty is really more and more apparent. The streets get worst, the houses become smaller and have bare walls. At the end of the street, and one street away from the one of the cemetery - apparently nice to visit - I decide to go back. Going further ahead looks rather uncertain.
In this area, people are nice, saying hello and asking nothing. Only the taxis passing by, wondering why a foreigner's walking, keep asking for a possible ride.
I'll learn later that it is one of the top 5 poorest neighborhoods of Cienfuegos.
Going up the street then going South, I end up on the Muelle Real. There is a lot of tourists here. Fishermen are also here. Apparently, what's being fished here is not edible due to the proximity of the harbor.
Back at the hotel with a bicitaxi. The driver says he's been in the national team of cycling for 10+ years. His name is Nelson.
Evening at the house. Rohly, the host, made a nice plate with fish and local vegetables. There was a starter made of a soup and prawns. The dessert is fruit and cheeses, mixed. The two mojitos will be the best of the trip.
After breakfast, I tour the neighborhood of Cienfuegos. The day before, I asked what were the most interesting places to see the real Cuban life. I got them sorted by poverty/risk.
On the list, were: 1. San Lazaro 2. Punta Cotica / Pueblo Nuevo 3. Reina
I visited most of them but not San Lazaro. Unlike the historic centre, there is no one to ask questions about taxi etc. The people on the doorstep & in the street are nice and open to discussion.
I talked with Jaime who's unbending pieces of metal to repair his house. The house doesn't look much and the front is made of wood. His friend José Luis is nearby.
Near the Malecón, Pedro and José Luis are talking in the shade. José Luis lives part of the year in Montréal.
In the afternoon, after a lunch at the casa, I go back to the city centre with Rohly. Aside his job as the casa owner, he is also helping other businesses grow. Visit of an artist studio and some offices related to tourism.
From the Palais Ferrer, there is a nice view on the Palace of the Government and on the Parque Martí. The palace itself is mostly empty but the walls and ceiling are finely decorated. There is a shower coming from the land towards the sea. The museum of the province has not much to see. The theatre however is very nice to visit.
On the way back to the casa, Nelson the bicitaxi says he has a friend of him who's tall like that and muy lindissima, who's coming tomorrow and that he would like to setup a meeting. That's awkward. After declining, he says that we can always talk about it tomorrow.
No sunset as the sky is filled with clouds.
Another tour of the neighborhoods of Cienfuegos, but with the camera this time.
In Pueblo Nuevo, I encounter Francesco Ferria Ferrer who was a boxing champion in 1945. He's smoking on his doorstep. I visit his house. He then asks me to wait and comes back very proudly with the article in the newspaper where it is written he has won. He'll be turning 94 the next day.
Crossing the paseo, I arrive in Punta Cotica. Here, there is a hill with a telecommunication tower and some schools on top. There is no view on the city though. The streets look like San Francisco, with the buildings being shorter.
Continuing, I enter La Juanita. Here is the city train station. I follow the tracks and walk towards the station. It is an open field that people use to cross this giant area instead of going to the next street. The field itself is a couple of blocks long. Arriving in the station from the back, someone comes and says I shouldn't be here, that we will have to talk to the station manager. I tell her that I have pictures of tracks and trains, but not from the repair centre. I am told that there is an inspection ongoing. She quickly talks with with a person in uniform and asks me to exit the station by a side door.
Next to the train station, there is the Viazul station. I queue for 15 minutes to learn that the next available ticket for Trinidad the next days is at 2 pm. That's too late for the tight schedule!
Continuing in La Juanita I meet with Jesus, a baker. I visit the bakery which is being refurbished. José Luis is pushing an empty caddy. He has just finished his turn for the day and is going home. He sells groceries.
Waiting for a cab at the casa, Nelson the bicitaxi comes to repeat the same as yesterday, but I decline again.
Another visit of the Palais Ferrer, then a Piña Colada near the Muelle Real. It is said to be the best in town. Visit of the park at the end of Punta Gorda, but there is too cloudy to see anything.