The cutest town in Cuba
01.05.2016 - 09.05.2016 35 °C
While we were still in Havana, we heard there was a huge celebration for 2 things in Cuba on the 2nd of May. First up was the celebration for the international day of the worker, and second was the arrival of the first cruise ship from the United States since the revolution. We couldn't decide whether to stay and be apart of all the celebrations or to run far far away... It turned out that the best thing to do was run far away, even though Billy was gutted to have lost out on the opportunity to see Raul Castro from a distance at the workers celebrations!
We travelled in a shared taxi with a French couple all the way to the UNESCO protected, picturesque town of Trinidad.
The ride took about 5 hours and again we were constantly amazed by how few people were driving on the roads. We stayed our first night at a casa particular that had been recommended to us, but we were really unhappy with the location and the constant hard sell being pushed on us by the owners in regards to buying only THEIR food, THEIR water, and organizing tours with THEIR people from the second we walked in the door. Billy was determined we wouldn't stay longer than the first night we agreed on, and he marched us off down the road in search of a better home for us.
We made our way to the beautiful cobbled streets and parks that lay in the center of the town, and Billy was immediately attracted to a beautiful casa particular right next to the central park, cathedral, and the casa de musica where we planned to begin our salsa classes the following day. He said he could feel the most positive energy coming from the home - and was quickly greeted warmly by the father of the household who shared the name Guido with Billy's own father in the Dominican Republic. We entered the home and quickly fell in love with Gisela who became our Cuban mother, Yalena our new sister, and Teetoo the cutest Pekingese puppy we have ever met. They allowed us to use their kitchen to cook so we could save money, and they gave us a very special rate to stay for a week. We moved the very next morning from our first casa to what would be our wonderful home in Trinidad.
On one of our days in Trinidad, we walked around the town desperately trying to find fresh fruit, vegetables, and cooking items so we could cook for ourselves and save money on food. This was our first realization with just how little exists in Cuba and how expensive everything is that does exist. It took us about 5 hours walking around all of the streets to find:
8 eggs, 2 packets of pasta, tomato paste, onions (8 euros for 20 onions too by the way!), bread rolls, tomatos, plantains, bananas, cookies, and tuna.
The supermarkets had nothing more than empty shelves with two or three items on them, and the easiest way to find ingredients was to ask around and find the houses with a door open, with people selling a few items on tiny tables. Each house would sell something different - eggs and beans in one, tomatoes and onions in another. Finding lettuce was impossible - until the next day when Billy went out for a run and returned carrying lettuce for me as if it was a bouquet of flowers - the most delicious bouquet I ever received!
We quickly realized with the price of ingredients versus the price of food in the shops, that we weren't about to save our money by cooking, and we were quite sad about it. We made a few sandwhiches and on one night we cooked for the whole family and ate together at their beautifully laid out table. Their plates were all antique and of the finest china, and their silverware was beautiful. It had been a long time since I had eaten off such beautiful finery and I was convinced that the food tasted better because of it. We were so touched and felt incredibly lucky when we were then woke up everyday to find breakfast was made for us and we were eating lobster in the evenings as well as enjoying family dinners together.
It seemed that Guido and Gisela were the only people in Cuba who understood we were not rich tourists, rather 2 young people traveling from a neighboring Caribbean island that was even more impoverished than Cuba. We watched movies with them in their rooms, sat up at night drinking mojitos at night, watched football matches together, and talked for hours about the differing politics between Cuba and the Dominican Republic. We learned that to kill a cow in Cuba will serve you 25 years in prison, but to kill a human only serves 15. This is because the milk of the cow belongs to you, but the cow belongs to the government.
On one of the days we took a shared taxi down to the local beach in Trinidad (randomly with the same people we arrived to Trinidad with!). We were not overly impressed with the beach itself as the water wasn't very blue, and it was very commercial - with a huge resort and lots of people selling overpriced snorkeling trips out to the reef. We had our own snorkels with us so we were able to snorkel around the shore line - and we were so pleased we did because saw hundreds of tiny fish swimming as a giant school, and we even saw a baby stingray!
On another day (with a huge hangover) we went on a 6 hour horse riding trek through the valle de los ingenios and to visit a waterfall in the mountains. We got to stop off for a much needed coffee at what is now my all time favourite cafe in the world. The cafe itself has no walls and is just a wood fired stove top underneath a rickety roof surrounded by log seats and coffee cups. The coffee is made fresh to the strength you desire, and each cup is served with a piece of sugar cane and a free cigar. The owner/ barista also sings as he grinds the coffee beans before he brews them for you. It was fantastic!
The waterfall and the view through the valley was beautiful too and it was quickly deemed as the best day of our time in Cuba.
Most of the days we had salsa classes, and the price was adding up very quickly. We met a couple of guys while out dancing one night who seemed very interested in my cellphone. They were willing to pay exactly what our salsa classes were worth - and far more than what I would get if I tried to sell the phone back in the Dominican Republic. So I did it, I did a factory reset and sold my phone to pay for our dance classes!
Our salsa classes were held in the different courtyards of the casa de la musica and were an hour long each class. We paid for group classes but were lucky to have no one else in our group so we essentially had private classes for the cheaper price - stoked! Billy and I took a long time to pick up the basic steps and to be able to hear the music, which was so strange considering that we are both always dancing bachata and merengue at home.
By night we would go out and practice dancing at the casa de la musica, and one night we met up with some new found friends of ours Jo and Christoph who we had first encountered at the beach. They had been on a crazy journey to retrieve their missing cellphone and we were out to celebrate the phones return - and did we celebrate or what!?! We instantly began throwing back the most disgustingly strong mojitos and daiquiris that we were stumbling as we tried our best to follow the steps to the salsa.
The casa de la musica closed around 1am and we were left with no idea of what to do or where to go next - until we overheard people mentioning a party cave somewhere in the mountains above the town. We asked which direction to go, and began to stumble towards what we hoped would be an underground party. Just when we felt as if we were giving up hope and would never find it - we saw fairy lights and heard the cries of "$1 mojitos!" ... Party cave or no party cave, no one ever says no to a $1 mojito! Loaded up at the tiny little stall on the side of the cobbled street, we found ourselves on the path lit with more $1 mojito stalls heading right the way up in the direction of the party cave. We decided it would only be fair if we stopped and drank one mojito in each stall so as to not let any stall miss out on a little business...
The cobbled street soon gave way to a jungle path, where again we felt as if we were going the wrong way... until at last we saw it... the entrance to the underground party cave where we would dance until our feet could dance no more!
I have been in a lot of bars, clubs, and party places around the world - that is no secret. But, none have ever been as awesome as the party cave in trinidad. There were so many chambers, real dance floors underneath the stalactites, and multiple levels with fully functioning bars on each. There were VIP areas, a full chamber with male and female bathrooms, and large screens with music videos playing on them as laser lighting and disco balls glittered around the cave.
We were instantly greeted with the dance floor clearing as a group of sexy young Cuban men took over the dance floor with a dance presentation that turned out to be one of the strangest things I have ever seen. The men were playing drums with an almost voodoo-african beat, as they circled a table in the centre of the dance floor. They placed a young tourist on the table and gave her two glasses of water to hold high above her head. They continued to dance and chant as they edged their way closer and closer to the table... where 4 of the men on each corner then bent down and picked the table and the girl up - WITH ONLY THEIR TEETH! They spun her around the room for about 30 seconds and lifted the table higher without ever touching the table back to the ground or placing their hands on the table - it was SO strange! They also placed knives onto each other and walked over the knives, reminding Billy of the voodoo ceremonies performed by Haitian devotees in the community he grew up in.
The days in Trinidad passed lazily as the afternoons were hot and the nights of dancing were long. We absolutely loved our family and left them with promises to help with their visa to visit us one day here in the Dominican Republic. Leaving was hard, but we knew our next destination of Vinales would be worth it