Cuba 2007: Day 5

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Another lazy day ahead. Five things to do:

So I start by getting the chore out of the way. I get a T shirt and a pair of shorts washed in about 15 minutes.

I then start to write up the notes for the day I spent in Havana. Having done this, I suspect that the cleaner is about to arrive. Having turned her away yesterday, I would like her to come in today.

When she arrives I go to the pool bar. Here I have a coffee followed by a cocktail called Cuba Libre: it's a sort of rum and coke. Whilst sitting at the bar, I sort out the checkpoints for the trip back to Santiago.

The route back to Guantanamo needs no documentation as you can't really go wrong. When you get to housing estates and industrial estates in the northeastern side of Guantanamo there are a lot of turns but the ones that are not signposted are reasonably easy to guess.

So I just prepare checkpoints from the start of the Guantanamo Autopista. I am deriving information from two sources:

On the route back to Santiago, the last checkpoint is the roundabout outside the Hotel Las Americas.

Curiously, Havanatour UK were unable to book me accommodation at this hotel. I also tried at the same time from the web and I also failed. However about a month later I tried again from the web and this time I succeeded using the web site of the Italian firm venere. I don't really understand this. I want to stay there because although it's not a great hotel it's not too expensive and it's located not too far away from the centre of Santiago.

I then return to my room and write up the notes for Day 1 of my holiday: this is the day I flew from London to Havana.

I then go out to get some petrol. I mull over whether to go and look at the surrounding countryside but it's hot out and so I decide not to. On my first trip to Cuba, I got involved in a scam at this petrol station and so I'm a bit worried that this will happen again. Essentially before I got out of the car, someone was checking my tyre pressures for me. Although three of them were OK, he was worried by the first one he'd checked and lo and behold he found a cut in it which was positioned at the top of the tyre. It wasn't until I was retelling this story for the nth time some weeks later that it became obvious that this person had cut the tyre. He changed the tyre for me and we drove to his house to get the other tyre repaired. I paid 7 CUCs for this (which is a lot of money for Cubans but is only about 3.80 UKP).

The petrol station is at the other end of Baracoa. On the way out of the hotel I detect out of the corner of my eye the beggar who has been hassling me ever since I got here. To begin with, I thought he was a hustler but he's never offered "services" just begged for one dollar, a biro, a T-shirt, shorts, shoes. He hangs around at the foot of the steps to the hotel. And I regret him associating me with this car. Although there is a security guard guarding the front of the hotel I'm sure the beggar could get pass him at some time of the day/night. I don't know what the beggar could do that would lead to him getting some money. As far as I know hustlers/beggars are adventurous at getting money out of you but I don't think they get involved in petty crime. But I may have that all wrong. The things I can think of are: tampering with the tyres and then offering help or stealing "emblems" (the manufacturer's logos) to get money back from someone else. So later I wished I had got the petrol tomorrow. I was just trying to remove getting petrol from the tasks for tomorrow.

I drove the long way round to get to the petrol station, i.e., I reused the Malecon. Doing this avoids all the narrow streets of Baracoa (which are full of people, bicycles, bicitaxis and lorries). When I get there the petrol station is empty of customers and people milling around. I see the pump for the petrol called "especial" which tourists are meant to use. I get out of the car saying "lleno". He understands.

I'm standing at the back of the car watching both sides but there's nobody about.

He asks me where I am from. I say Ingleterra. I say to him that I am going to Santiago de Cuba tomorrow. He mentions the name of the road (the Farola) but he attempts to converse with me in Spanish with a little English and so I don't understand some of it. Later I work out that he has asked me whether this is my first trip to Cuba. So after I have worked this out I say "dos".

He also asks me whether it a good car. I say it is OK. As he's poring the petrol he fingers the "Fabio" emblem at the back of the car. I get the impression he thinks it's good.

I'm not sure where the beggar is when I return to the hotel. Out of the corner of my eye, I detect that there are a lot of them at the bottom of the steps but I deliberately don't look and so I don't know whether my beggar is there. Maybe I need to buy him off tonight!

It is late in the afternoon and so the sun is getting low and so I decide to go out and take some photos.

The lead guitarist from last night's band at the Casa de la Trova sees me and gets a CD from out of his sack and asks me in Spanish whether I want one. I decline.

When I return to the hotel, the beggar comes running over to the steps up to hotel and I ask him in English how he is. But he doesn't understand. He asks for a dollar and I agree after getting his photograph. Naughty me as I'm just encouraging his begging. Having succeeded with me, he'll be back again tomorrow to get the next set of tourists.

For dinner, I'm boringly unadventurous. Although I could go to the 1511 Restaurant, I would have to wait outside. Maybe they are only allowed to serve a certain number of people at one time. Inside it's very characterless.

So I go for the third time to "La Colonial". This time I have chicken. There are a lot of people here again and I'm placed on a table right at the back. He asks me how many nights I have been in Baracoa. I say three and that I'm going to Santiago de Cuba tomorrow.

It's the same band as yesterday playing in the Casa de la Trova, and I was getting bored with them yesterday. And there is one place playing recorded music. It's all a bit of a let-down compared with last night. It turns out that the best place in Baracoa is the place nearest to me. They are playing the best recorded music which I listen to as I fall asleep.

Here is a link to today's photos. Click the big i button in the centre of the screen to get the titles of each slide.

Here is a link to tomorrow's diary.
Here is a link to yesterday's diary.
Here is a link to the index of the days.