In Old Havana (Habana Vieja) we came across a small restaurant and bar with the marketing nightmare of a name, El Shamuskia’o. Located on Muralla Street in between Habana and Compostela, El Shamuskia’o became a Havana favourite for Rocío and me, visiting four times.
Shellfish and pork and pineapple kebabs at El Shamuskia’o
An old image of Teatro Campoamor’s exterior in its glory days before the theatre was destroyed by fire
On the corner of Industria and San José streets in central Havana lies the ruins of a once grand theatre, Teatro Compoamor. Destroyed by fire decades ago, the theatre appears off limits. However, payment of a fee facilitates access.
Teatro Campoamor’s contemporary exterior with trees growing out of it
160 kilometres west of Havana is the intriguing city of Pinar del Río. Not a major tourist destination itself, south-west of Pinar del Río is the famous Robaina cigar tobacco farm Finca El Pinar and to the north, Viñales’ wonderful landscapes.
After the new year in Havana Rocío and I were ready to go west. From Parque de la Fraternidad we caught the local P-12 bus to near the National Bus Terminal (Terminal de Ómnibus Nacionales). On 19 de Mayo Avenue we took an old Chevrolet van colectivo to Pinar del Río. Part way there the vehicle experienced a flat tyre.
Our classic Chevrolet van parked under a tree on the roadside between Havana and Pinar del Río
While changing the tyre, the driver used a rock to support the axle. The van’s lights contained images of Che Guevara.
Driver changing tyre on way to Pinar del Río; note the rock and the Che Guevara image
Camagüey, Cuba’s third largest city was founded in its current location in 1528. The city’s labyrinthine streets in its UNESCO world heritage-listed historic centre are worth wandering. Camaguey is also a good base for exploring its eponymous province, Cuba’s biggest, including Reserva Ecológica Limones-Tuabaquey, Nuevitas and Refugio de Fauna Río Máximo, the Western Hemisphere’s largest flamingo nesting site.
Camagüey’s central square; the building on the right features an image of Che Guevara and a common official Cuban phrase ‘until victory always’ (hasta la victoria siempre)
Rocío and I first visited Camagüey for an afternoon in between the bus from Holguín and the train to Nuevitas. Returning Christmas day after a night on a hut floor, we desired a shower and proper bed. From our worst Cuban accommodation we chanced upon our best: Casa Juanita y Rafael, a lovingly decorated guest house with super high ceilings and a beautiful courtyard (25 CUC/US$25 per night). The courtyard included a fish pond in Camagüey’s symbol, a large ceramic vessel called a tinajón.
Our guest house (casa particular) courtyard featured Camagüey’s symbol the tinajón (large ceramic vessel)
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 →
Boats in Baracoa Bay with El Yunque (The Anvil) mountain in the background
Baracoa in Cuba’s far eastern Guantánamo Province has unique a history, location and environment. Founded in 1511, the city is the island’s oldest Spanish settlement and Cuba’s first capital. Historically, people could only visit Baracoa by sea or air with the first mountain-piercing road connection opening in the 1960s. Continue reading →