This week on our blog we finally leave colonial Trinidad to discover a new part of Cuba – Viñales!
After what felt like a lifetime in Trinidad – necessitated by Elle’s requirement for daily medical attention – we finally got the all clear to leave. We were very glad about this – spending every breakfast pouring water over your infected scab so it’s softer for when the doctor gets out a chisel to scrape it off your leg while you desperately try not to faint can really turn you off a place. The doctor gave us some strict instructions regarding treatment in Viñales and we headed back to our casa to pack our bags.
However, let’s just say that despite our somewhat tarnished impression of the town – Trinidad is a truly beautiful (if not touristy) place. The museums, cathedral, antique cars and colourful streets are not to be missed. It’s also a place where people keep something called a jutía [a Cuban tree rat] as pets. Or eat them, we’re not sure.
The beautiful ruins of La catedral de Santa Ana (Santa Ana Cathedral):
The colourful town:
And the jutía!
But we digress. Having experienced the Viazul bus no less than 4 times at this point [a total of 34 hours spent in these moving sardine tins] we knew it wasn’t the best environment for someone who has to keep their leg elevated. But thankfully, Yare’s illegal taxi-driving father came to the rescue again! We agreed to pay him the same fare as the Viazul [realistically we could have bargained this down], said goodbye to Yare and her lovely daughter Monica (who gave us both some beautiful beaded necklaces as gifts) and hopped into the car, Havana bound.
Photos from the road to Havana:
What happened next was only to be expected. A lot of odd conversation (not sure how it got to this, but there was a deep cultural discussion about the age of consent in Cuba – we were distressed to learn most
women girls become sexually active around the age of 13) and bathroom breaks (again, not sure why the walls dividing stalls in Cuba are so low – is it to facilitate casual conversation?) later: we finally arrived in Havana to witness our connecting bus to Viñales already pulling away from the station.
The next bus wasn’t for 24 hours. We were facing a day in limbo at the awkwardly located out-of-town Viazul stop.
What happened next allowed us both to tick something off the bucket list.
In a flurry of rapid Spanish, we asked about other ways to get to Viñales – which would involve changing at every city in Western Cuba or waiting on uncomfortable plastic seats with no food but biscuits for the next day. Then, felicitously, we happened upon someone who knew the phone number of the bus driver at the wheel of the bus we’d just missed and said he’d probably stop if we could catch up with him!
We grabbed the number, thanked them, sprinted out of the station with our bags and leapt into a nearby taxi with a cry of “follow that bus!”
It felt like we were the stars of an action film or, failing that, Sex in the City.
We caught the bus and strode on, feeling like we had just conquered Rome. Unfortunately our feeling of glory rapidly wore off as the person next to us proceeded to spend the whole journey telling us how everything they’d ever done was absolutely perfect, and that they’d had world-class universities fighting over them to study there because they were just incredible.
This went on for at least three hours. We added the peril of encountering other travellers to our list of the dangers of the Viazul. After what felt like significantly longer than it took to get to Baracoa from Heathrow, we finally arrived in the leafy Viñales region. Although we had to admit, at least this time the bus appeared to be new.
Viñales is famed for several things: Scenic countryside, cigar plantations and caves. Boy, does it deserve to be called beautiful. We’re talking rolling fields, greens so vibrant they look like they’ve been photo-shopped and flowers in primary colours so vivid they look poisonous. It was like driving through a tourist brochure – certainly a welcome relief after the dusty greys of Havana and the motorways!
We’ll leave you with a few photos that we promise have not been played with at all… Yes, Cuba really does just look like this!
Come back to our blog again next week for more photos, tips and to hear about our adventures in Viñales – soy protein from Madrid, Toby the dog, a turtle and more!