Cuba 2007: Day 11

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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. However, it'll probably be best to look at the photos after you've read the following text (if you plan to do that!).

It's the day of the birdwatching walk. It was the day before yesterday that I arranged this and so I hope people have not forgotten.

I wake at about 7am. I notice that my mobile phone says it is 07/07/07 and that it is 07h00. In 7 minutes time it will be one of those weird moments of time when all the components of the time are "07". With 7 being a special number, it'll be a special point in time.

Having noted all that, I miss it by 8 minutes. I guess I'll have to wait until 8th August 2008.

There is nobody at breakfast apart from me. And it's the usual spread. Today there is a heated container for the scrambled egg, and so it is hot. It really tastes nice.

I return to my room and get the rucksack ready for the walk. I then put my walking boots on and put some suntan lotion on.

Down in Reception, Freddy points out the person who is taking me on the walk. He asks me something in Spanish. I ask him whether he speaks any English. He says a little but it's a lot more than a little.

He then asks me whether I have insect repellent as there are a lot of mosquitoes. I say that I have some in my room. I run back, get the repellent, spray some on, return to recpetion and put the container in my rucksack.

The guide says little to begin with. It turns out to be a walk from the hotel and the first bird he sees is the national bird of Cuba, the Tocororo. I can't see it to begin with. I'm hopeless at spotting birds in trees. So there's the usual exchange about the second tree, the one with the dead branches, the second branch. Eventually I see it.

I get my binoculars out. And look at it. He doesn't have any binoculars. I don't find out whether they have none in Cuba or whether he can't afford them. I pass them to him. I think he's impressed at what he can see.

Later, I think about whether to give them to him. I don't particularly like them and I have thought of buying another pair soon. In the end, I decide not to give them to him as I haven't really decided to ditch them.

We walk down through the woods into the village and out the other side to the main road. We turn right and almost immediately into the woods. All the time he's pointing out various birds to me. He has printed off a tick list and he gives it to me. The tick list has one row for each bird with the columns giving its name in Spanish, English, French and German. Just to confuse us the list is ordered by the Spanish names and he is giving me the English name. So in order to find the bird in the list I have to ask for the Spanish name as well. As I'm carrying binoculars, the camera and a small bottle of water, I decide it'll be an impossible task to tick them off.

As we turn off to go along a path through the woods, I decide it might be safer to put on the leg bottoms to my shorts. So we stop whilst I do that.

It's getting hot. I think that it would have been better to go out first thing as it would be less hot and there would be more birds about.

I have brought my PDA with me thinking I would record some birds or get the recording of him saying the name but I'm already carrying too much that I just leave the PDA in my pocket and don't use it.

He finds a mango tree and gets two ripe fruits off the tree. He gives one to me and shows me how to eat it. We then do it again with two more. They are delicious and the juice is very refreshing.

We talk about animals: there aren't that many in Cuba. We see flowers including two different kinds of orchids.

We get to a lookout and take a rest for 30 minutes. A black lizard turns up. From time to time, It protrudes its throat a long way; it is white. I stand there waiting for several minutes for it to happen. Eventually I get the photograph I want. A lizard that does the same sort of thing but having a red protrusion turns up but I don't get a good photo of the red bit.

We talk about all sorts of things. He hasn't been to Santiago and Baracoa but he has been to Havana and Varadero. I tell him what I think of those people from Europe who go to Varadero for a holiday. By having an all inclusive beach holiday in Varadero they don't see the real Cuba. After ranting for several minutes, I apologise!

We talk about music. He says there is a disco in the plaza tonight at 9pm where there will be several chicas (young women).

We go back a different way and reach the other side of the village. Here we visit several places: the studio of Lester Campa, a museum dedicated to the singer/guitarist Polo Montanez, the Bazar El Cuzco and the Café de Maria. I don't buy anything in the studio and bazaar but buy a Polo Montanez CD. It seems that this guy is very famous and got platinum records when he was alive.

We then have a coffee: there's a spirit in my espresso. In the café are a group from Germany. I speak to their guide. At this point some people using the Canopy Tour pass by. There are three different cables across Las Terrazas and one of them is visible from the Café. PSo people occasionally attached to the cable go charging by.

There is a lunch included as part of the birdwatching tour and so we go to a pool restaurant of the Hotel Moka for this. I didn't know this area existed. We have pork and congri, chocolate ice cream and a beer. And then it's back to the Hotel.

I thank my guide (who is called Justo) and get a photo of him and get his email address.

Although we haven't walked far, it has worn me out. Back in my room, I sink into a bath. I've not used the bath before and it is wonderful. You look out into trees.

I don't do much else in the afternoon. In the evening I go to Reception to pick up a receipt for eating out tonight. It's 1850 and I've decided to go to the vegetarian restaurant again. Freddy is in Reception. I try to find out from him whether the receipt is worth 9.50 which is what it says on it or does it pay fort all the food I eat. I'm trying to work out whether the restaurant looses out if I eat a lot. I don't really find out an answer.

We talk about all sorts of things. We laugh again about all the chaos on the first evening. Earlier today I decided I would ask him what the Spanish phrase he mentioned was: he tells me it's "a mal tiempo, buena cara" (when hell breaks, smile). I get his e-mail address, well, the e-mail address of his mother. He tells me he doesn't have access to the web. I think he said it was illegal. I'm amazed. I tell him that I use it for everything: find out information about everything, paying for the hotel in Santiago by credit card with an Italian company, paying gas bills and dealing with my current accounts and paying credit cards. I then move on to talk about flickr, facebook and you-tube. I decide to give "second life" a miss. He's amazed at all this. And I wonder whether he has understood how it all works as it's difficult to explain without being able to demonstrate it.

At the restatuant, the table on the balcony is already occupied and so I sit at a table that has two chairs. It's a different waiter from last night and this one speaks less English. I decide to go for a different appetizer and different dips but choose the same main course ("Superomero"). He tells me that there is no xxxx but I don't understand the word but I think it is eggplant. In my opinion the dish is not complete without the eggplant.

So I go for the second most expensive main course which turns out to be a tart of steamed vegetables. Not so exciting as yesterday's main course but very good all the same.

Today I have a Daiquiri followed by a Rum Collin. I also have a different sweet.

Again I've eaten about 14 CUCs. He charges me for the drinks (5.65) and I give him a total of 8 CUCs.

In the restaurant there is a couple from England. From their mobile phone call back to England, I hear that they are returning on Monday. Another younger couple arrive. They have a room in the Hotel two doors away from me. They don't speak and although they speak in English to the waiter I don't know what nationality they are.

I then move on to my bar where there's only the old lady. I ask for the dispezanda. I give her 1 CUC. She doesn't want to give me change in MN and see says something in Spanish together with a hand gesture. I think I catch the word "otro" meaning another. I say "Si". So I think we've agreed that I get the next one for free. When I go up for the next one sometime later, this is what happens.

There are not too many street lights and so I leave before it gets too dark. I return to the hotel and go to the bar. There is no-one there. I have a mohito. But no-one turns up.

At about 2100 there is a new source of music. I guess it is the disco as it's coming from the appropriate part of the village. So I go down this side of the valley and up the hill to the plaza on the other side of the valley. Although I'm using "main roads" it's very dark in places.

When I get to the plaza, there are about 20 people there. I stay for about 2 hours watching. Not much dancing takes place until about 2230. By then a couple of hundred people are standing around, some of them dancing.

I think there is a bar here but having already had 3 rum drinks and 2 beers this evening I decide to avoid it. Later, whilst allegedly wathcing what's happening, I start dozing off, and decide it's time for bed.

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.