Santiago de Cuba

09.08 – 12.08 & 15.08

I arrived exhausted in Santiago via overnight Viazul. This kind of travelling (night) I should cancel in Mexico.

After organizing the next steps of my journey. It was negotiation time. Numbers up and down. Until 15 CUC for a casa perticulares fell. Shake hand and even the taxi ride of 2 CUC was not that bad. After a power nap I had a look around. Different parks, cathedral, the old military barracks and the view on the sea from the upper part of Santiago de Cuba filled the day. Also I could arrange a tour with Cubatur to the grand piedra and the nearby “nature” swimming pool the next day. The pool gets filled by river water and a little chlorine gets added. Recycling the chlorined water? Nope, just let it flow down the hill.
Grand piedra was so worth it. Amazing view and the atmosphere is so different at 1250 m.
On Wednesday I have met Alex the French guy we had a good time together. Unfortunately I missed the second appointment.

The day tour (8:30 to 17:00) grand piedra and the natural swimming pool cost 17 CUC. Plus maybe additional entry fee to the grand piedra. Even one lunch and a drink are included! Pick up is in front of the ugly big Melia Hotel. Cubatur is in the corner of Av Victoriano Garzon and calle 4 near Melia Hotel.


It was a last minute decision.
I went with two tour guides to Palma. We arrived late and Palma was not so great, for sure some small parks and cute houses that was it. But it was worth a try. Do I regret it? Nope not at all, sometimes you have to risk getting more than the usual.

After a shaking camion ride (5 CUC) from Palma back to Santiago I had to eat something. I was dying of hunger. It was bread with delicious pulled pork from a street food shop for 5 MN.
The head of financial of the camion told me first 10 CUC. I said ah cool 10 MN. He replied: no no here in Cuba we prefer the money you need normally in you’re a daily life (he meant CUC). Also they promote their camion as following: Santi Santi go go.

The rest whole day was rainy and my throat was hurting. So I was looking for medicine and some nice place to relax.

Next day I had a colectivo to Baracoa (20 CUC).

While coming back from Baracoa I enjoyed the last moments in Santiago de Cuba with me freshly made friends from Italy, Marta, Gabriele and Luca. Ate some edible pizza at the Louvre and enjoyed a tasteful beer (beer dispenser) in the Puerto del Rey bar next to the Malecon (Paseo de Alameda).

 

*** Pirate Bay Baracoa***

 

Recommendations:

– Grand Piedra (17 CUC)

– A walk around the city

– Museum in the old military barracks

– Castillo de Morro in the south of Santiago de Cuba

– Enjoy a beer dispenser in the bar (Puerto del rey) next to the malecon, good beer 3 L 9 CUC

–  Enjoy a snack at the Louvre (Pizza for 10 MN, on the boulevard next to Parque Serrano and El Rapido)

 

Unexpected Matanzas & Varadero

04.08 – 06.08

Friday I left Santa Clara unexpected by a colectivo. Our plan was to ride with the Cuban bus. In the end we ended up in a taxi not due to little time or less comfort in the bus. It was due to the prohibition of tourists in Cuban buses. Tourists are just allowed in Viazul buses and/or colectivos etc. but not in national omnibuses. After hard bargaining we get on a taxi and our wallet was in total 25 CUC lesser. In any way I would have paid alone 25 CUC due to my status of a tourist. In the end Gustavo handled the situation very well and showed his talking and bargaining skills.

After a ride of 3 hours we arrived at our destination in Matanzas. A lovely beautiful house but more important a more lovable family lived there and welcomed us warmly. Expect Rogelio 🙂 he was still in standbye modus due to his hard working liver. Let's call them family of Matanzas. When time is well spent or enjoyed, time flews by and exactly this was the case. Conversation, refreshing beer, playing domino and last but not least delicous dinner filled our time. It was bad that I could not enjoy the delicous food to the fullest due to my ongoing challenge with my stomach, I did my best. Two other friends of Rogelio and Gustavo arrived late at night, let's get the party started! Johnny and Maykel completed the party.

The night we spent in the Athens of Cuba a great club (2 CUC) to hang out on a friday night. In combination with a bottle of whiskey even better. Also I found out that whiskey and red bull is not my type of drink, I prefer the whiskey pure on the rocks.

Yeni and Gustavo challenged others in a dance battled. I enjoyed the show of them nevertheless the audience selected another dance couple as the winner and they got an amount of beer cans. At this time I have to add a huge BUT, in my opinion my friends should have gotten all the beer, not just because of the fact that I love beer, more important was that they danced more natural and better. Their smooth transition between dance style was on point and I enjoyed it!!! Big applaus for them, I would have needed 6 months of dance lesson and preperation :). Yes I know….. I am European this means equal roboter.


After a couple of hours sleep we prepared for a beach day in Varadero. Towel check, swimsuit check, sun screen check (later I found out it was the after sun, f*** :D), and boom boxes check. Let’s get it started.

With my still young and unexperienced age I imagined a normal day a the beach but it came different. More and more friends gathered. Beer flowed and the atmosphere was relaxed and comfortable. We enjoyed some 3 liters beer dispensers and some buenos croquetes nearby the beach. The day ended at the beach when the sun set. The final was the delicous empicado dinner. You could feel the happiness and also the exhaustion. All fell asleep while watching the new king arthur!

Dear amigos and gente thank you very much for the awesome time. My memories got even richer. I wished that I could have changed my skills in speaking English to speaking Spanish. For the sake of sharing more conversations. The next time my Spanish will be more advanced.

This sunday is marked as a “bad” one. It reminded me again about an important rule while travelling. Prices rise and a lot of people want to go from A to B. On the 6th August we travelled back to Santa Clara. A normal taxi due to sunday was priced at 100 CUC loco. But god bless that I had Gustavo at my side. He could arrange a transportation for 20 in total. Thanks Gustavo for your bargain skills. Some hours of writing I was back in Santa Clara.

Additional intel: the transportation from peñas altas (Matanzas) to Varadero cost 10 CUP, retourn 20 CUP in the camión.

***unforgetful lovely Santa Clara***
***famous Santiago de Cuba***

Recommendations:
– Enjoy the beach (do not forget sun screen)
– share a beer dispenser for 7.5 CUC 3 liters
– spend a night in the athens of cuba club (2 CUC)
– Play some rounds of dominos