I grew up with Julio Iglesias’ music in the family home. His third child Enrique is now a mega famous singer himself.
Video production people milling around on Cárdenas Street, Old Havana
Returning from Soroa, Rocío and I were walking to our accommodation in Old Havana (Habana Vieja) when we arrived to a closed road. On Cárdenas Street people and film production equipment surrounded its notable art nouveau houses.
Sign on a production van parked on a side street; the Liverpool production was in association with Ogilvy, Oxígeno, TV Casa Productora and Island Film
New Year’s Eve in Havana is traditionally not a major public celebration. Locals usually stay at home with their family eating roast pork and yucca before throwing buckets of water over their balconies onto the streets below. On this evening many tourists end up at overpriced dinners and shows.
The Old Havana (Habana Vieja) late afternoon streets contained suckling pigs either dressed waiting on a spit or already roasting over coals.
Suckling pig on spit balanced against a Havana wall
The Great Cavern of Saint Thomas (Gran Caverna de Santo Tomás) is Cuba’s largest cave system. Near the town of El Moncada 18 kilometres’ drive west of Viñales, the cave belongs to Parque Nacional Viñales.
The Santo Tomás Cave path is 2.8km long
As a geology lover, Rocío was keen to see the cave, especially after seeing artefacts from it in Havana’s Fundacion de la Naturaleza y el Hombre museum. From Viñales we hired a car and driver for 20 CUC (US$20), waiting time and return journey included. Continue reading →
Camagüey Province’s Río Máximo Wildlife Reserve (Refugio de Fauna Río Máximo) contains not only Cuba’s but the Western Hemisphere’s largest flamingo nesting site. After not getting to Cayo Sabinal, Rocío was determined to see the flamingos at Río Máximo.
Flamingos at Río Máximo Wildlife Reserve
In Camagüey City we asked people and agencies how to get the reserve. No one seemed to know. State tour company Ecotur hadn’t organised tours there for two years due to the track there requiring a truck and the lack of on site hygiene facilities. An official tourist guide, who also didn’t know the way, recommended we hire a large US car (with driver) that had been converted to diesel to maximise our chances of reaching the reserve. In the city centre while looking for such car, we met an old man who reckoned he knew a way there. Then we met a younger guy who was willing to take us and had a friend with a car.
Instead of a hulking diesel-fueled US classic we had the opposite: a small Soviet petrol sedan! But our Lada had character, including huge windscreen cracks and no internal rear door handles. Time for another crazy Cuban adventure. Continue reading →
I had never heard of Nuevitas until this day. A port town on Camagüey Province’s coast, it is not on the tourist map. Arriving to Camagüey from Holguín, Rocío and I hoped to go north to Cubitas for the Reserva Ecológica Limones Tuabaquey. Instead, the fruit cart man suggested catching the train east to Nuevitas. We wanted to experience a Cuban train ride so embraced his idea.
Our bicycle taxi driver advised we buy food beforehand as the train doesn’t sell any. 5 CUP (US$0.20) per fish sandwich later and we were set.
Fried fish sandwiches in Camagüey for the train journey to Nuevitas
Taking a Cuban Train from Camagüey to Nuevitas
The daily Nuevitas train left Camagüey at 5:20pm with ticket sales beginning 4pm so we had time to observe the locals in the station and watch a freight train pass. Continue reading →
Cuba’s second city Santiago de Cuba lies far from Havana and is known for both its music and rebellious streak. Rocío and I visited Santiago twice in December 2016, firstly for Fidel Castro’s memorial rally and funeral and later, returning from Baracoa. While based in Santiago we had an epic day trip to La Gran Piedra I blogged about here.
Moncada Barracks and the 26th of July Revolutionary Movement
Children at a school that used to be the Moncada Barracks, where the Cuban Revolution began; note the bullet holes in the walls
On 26 July 1953 Fidel Castro led an unsuccessful armed attack on Santiago de Cuba’s Moncada army barracks. This is regarded as the start of the Cuban Revolution and the official revolutionary movement is named 26 de Julio (26th of July) after this date. The former barracks was converted to a school although some of the battle’s bullet holes remain. Continue reading →
On 4 October 2016 Hurricane Matthew struck far eastern Cuba, causing more the US$2.5 billion of damage. Amazingly and thankfully, no direct fatalities were recorded although 4 people died more than a month later when a bridge damaged by Matthew collapsed near Moa. The biggest single infrastructure impact around Baracoa was the destruction of the Moa-Baracoa Highway bridge over the River Toa.
The remains of the bridge over the River Toa after Hurricane Matthew
7 December 2016 was an epic day. After Fidel Castro’s passing and associated events, Rocío and I looked forward to finally beginning our normal holiday. However, little is normal in Cuba and this day certainly wasn’t.
Singapore Chris who we met outside Fidel’s funeral joined us at Santiago de Cuba’s Avenida de los Libertadores Intermunicipal Bus Station. Trucks and utilities east to Guantanamo and Baracoa leave from here and not the Serrano Intermunicipal Bus Station stated in Lonely Planet’s 2015 guidebook.