Cuba 2007: Day 6

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It's the day of the big trip back to Santiago. I go to breakfast early (at about 0750). Today, it's the same food but it's a buffet breakfast. Maybe there are more guests today. Strange. I would have expected Baracoa to be more crowded at the weekend and today's Monday.

So I can have as much fruit as I want: I concentrate on pineapple and grapefruit as mangos and squashes don't go well with my stomach. And there's as much coffee as I want as it's in an urn. Of course, it's a lot less nice than the stuff from a coffee jug that he's been bringing for the last two days.

I take my luggage to the car and then return to Reception to check out. I also go to shop to stock up on water, fruit juice and chocolate biscuits.

Back at the car, I check things are OK under the bonnet. I haven't left any unscrewable things loose and there seems to be plenty of coolant.

It's hectic getting out of Baracoa. I do my usual trick of heading north to get to the Malecon (at the bus station) and then head south down the Malecon. Although it is busy in the first few streets, once I get to the Malecon it's empty. At the end of the Malecon, I have to join all the traffic. It's bicitaxis, bicycles and people that makes progress slow. However, the further I go, the less people are about.

I take it easy doing the Farola, the twisty road that goes up and down several times leading me from the north coast to the south coast.

It's pretty uneventful getting back to Guantanamo. There's just one road junction in north east Guantanamo where I have to think whether to go straight on or right.

It's 158.8K to the start of the Guantanamo Autopista and at that point I reset the trip meter to zero. I've going to use the waypoints I created in the pool bar yesterday in order to try not to get lost on this part of the trip. When I was doing this route on my first trip to Cuba, only once did I have to ask the way (at an unsigned left turn).

As I'm armed with the waypoints, I'm even more confident this time. And I suspect the left turn is the one marked as "no sign" in the book "Bicycling Cuba". Because this book has a K marker for this point and because I have a K marker from my outward trip, I don't think this left turn will be much of a problem.

Indeed, the waypoints all arrive with my trip meter nearly matching the Ks I've written down for each of the waypoints. And when I get to the junction where this is "no sign", lo and behold there is now a sign. Who says things never change in Cuba.

I turn off the side of the road just before getting to the Hotel Las Americas. I put all the stuff lying around inside the car into my rucksack. I want to avoid doing this in the hotel's car park. Immediately, after I have parked the car, a hustler turns up but I get rid of him by ignoring him.

As I'm about to leave the car, a security guard comes up and checks the doors are locked. Stupidly I ask him whether he is the security guard. However, this enables me to say thank you a few times to show him I'm a nice guy!

I take my luggage to Reception and check in. Having booked this hotel through (which I've not used before) and seeing Havanatour UK were unable to get me a booking here, I've been a bit skeptical as to whether it worked. But it has.

She gives me room 110, and the porter leads the way. In room 110 he shows me how everything (such as the TV and AirCon) works. However, when we get to the safe, it seems there is no power to it. He picks up the phone and, whilst waiting for a reply, he asks me in Spanish as to whether it is necessary to have a safe. And seeing I made a lot of use of one in Baracoa, I reply "Si, gracias". So I get switched to room 109. I gesture where is the remote control for the TV. He says "manual". Later (when I'm in the midst of a shower) there is a knock at the door. It is the cleaner and she gives me a remote control saying "descuple". I say "no problem".

At about 1605 I venture into the centre of Santiago de Cuba. I want to see how long it takes to walk it. It is several kilometres away. I manage to do it from memory (i.e., without having to use the map) from the last time I was in Cuba. It's very hot and at the first shop I stop to buy a 0.5 litre bottle of water which I nearly finish by the time I get there. The walk takes about 30 minutes.

The other reason for going is to see what's on and at what times things are happening tonight. I see that the Casa de la Trova has an event from 1800 to 2045 and another from 2100 onwards.

En route at various places, I come across large wooden structures for seating. At one point, people are hard at work preparing one. Later, from a poster I discover that the Festival de Caribe starts tomorrow and lasts 6 days.

I have decided to eat at the Restaurant ZumZum which is not far from the hotel but in the direction of the centre. As it's posh I put my trouser bottoms on. Although when I was last here I shared a large room with several other groups, they have individual rooms and this time they show me into a room with one table. It's weird eating in a room on your own. I have Tapas to start and a Fish Fillet for the main course together with two glasses of wine. I'm not that impressed as the started I originally requested is not available, the kind of fish is not explained to me and I'm not shown the wine list.

When my main course is about to start, a guitarist who has been playing elsewhere in the restaurant comes into my room. So there I am trying to eat and listen to music and there's just him and me in the room. Very weird.

He plays three songs. After each one, I say "gracias". Then he asks me in English where I'm from. After I reply, he plays the theme from the Deerstalker (which I heard him play earlier) yet again.

After he leaves me, I hear him later play "Let It Be". That would have been the obvious thing to play after he learnt I was English.

I also hear him play a tune I know which I think is by a Spanish composer called Granada.

I ask for a coffee, and feeling frustrated that there is a musician somewhere in the restaurant not getting enough attention, I leave my "jail" and there he is outside in the corridor. I sit nearby with my coffee. I pay the bill which is the most expensive I've paid so far (20 CUC including tip (about 11 UKP)).

Between numbers, I mention to the guitarist that I've heard him play "Let It Be". He thinks that this is a request and so he plays it again. After that I say that I wondered whether he had played something by Granada. This then leads him to play something (not what I heard before) which presumably is by Granada.

After this, I leave him and the restaurant and give him 1 CUC which he seems to be pleased with.

Back to the hotel. I take off my trouser bottoms. And wander into the centre of Santiago. As I'm leaving the hotel, I get three hustlers. I don't recognise any of them but one of them says it was he that spoke to me when I was parking my car. It doesn't look anything like the one that approached me when I parked. So I say I don't know him. The second hustle says that I'm the one with the "Skotha". I worry that these people know too much about me.

I'm way too early for the 2200 performance at the Casa de la Trova. There's another place that has a performance starting at 2100 but 2115 comes along and they are still tuning up. So I sit outside the Casa de la Trova. At about 2145 I'm let in.

The performance is by a band whose name I didn't note. They are fronted by 4 singers who must each be at least 80 years. There are a couple of guitarists, a couple of percussionists and trumpet player.

The Casa de la Trova is a place where people like to dance and the locals pick up the tourists to dance with and the tourists who have been doing lessons in their own countries show off. In some ways the music is incidental. As you spend a lot of time watching what is happening, you forget about the band.

Later a local looking like Brad Pitt walks him. The other locals seem to know him. They make fun of his hat.

I have 3 Crystals which is slightly weaker than Buchanero. The waiter won't let me pay for these separately. When I get tired, I go out outside the hall and find him. They are 2 CUCs each. That's a normal price.

I hang around in some of the plazas for a little while taking in the atmosphere. Not one hustler has hassled me whilst I've been here this evening and I wonder whether this is because of the police that position themselves at appropriate points (such as outside the Casa de la Trova). There seem to be more police than when I was here in 2004. Maybe that's because of the Festival de caribe.

On returning to the car park at the Hotel, I say hello to the Security Guard. But he's accompanied by others and the hustler who says he was with me when I parked the car says it again. I say "no" and trying to sound more positive I wish him "buenos noches". Later I wonder whether he was the Security Guard that came up to me when I parked the car. Or maybe he was the hustler that came up as soon as I parked. It's a big mystery.

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.