After the shooting gallery, Rocío and I came across a bar operating. A functioning bar is usually inconspicuous in touristy Old Havana (Havana Vieja). However, after Fidel Castro’s death all alcohol sales and entertainment officially stopped for 9 days and this was the only disobedient venue seen.
Enjoying a prohibited drink at the reggae bar gets Bob Marley’s approval
The small bar’s stereo played but not blasted and strong 2 for 1 mojitos cost 3 CUC (US$3). The NKOTB t-shirt-wearing manager’s view was that people should be able to mourn Fidel Castro’s passing how they liked. If they wanted to remember Fidel by playing music, they should be able to play music. He also gave us a different Fidel’s CD: Fuego Caliente by Argentinean reggae artist Fidel Nadal.
In the rear kitchen an empty burner kept flaming and I would not be surprised if communist Cuba provided free gas but not matches.
Fidel Nadal’s ‘Fuego Caliente’ CD the bar manager gave us; through the back door is a stove burning gas for no apparent reason
A Japanese tourist and her jinetero were the bar’s only other guests and we all joined in conversation, enjoying the bar’s rebellious spirit.
The Havana shooting gallery sign reads: People’s Recreational Shooting Range, Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution; Educate your child (Campo de Tiro Recreativo Popular, Asociación de Combatientes de la Revolución Cubana; Educa a tu hijo)
Wandering around Old Havana (Habana Vieja), Rocío and I stumbled upon a shooting gallery. Blasting a series of bullets with a rifle cost little and was obviously aimed at locals (the business, not the bullets). The sign outside stating ‘Educate your child’ (Educa a tu hijo) supported this assertion. Continue reading →
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
Cuba is known for its classic American cars from the 1950s. The country’s streets also carry Soviet vehicles from the 1960s to the 1980s along with modern Chinese auto-mobiles. However, old Japanese cars are a rarity.
The Havana man driving his old right-hand drive Toyota
On Rocío and my second full day in Havana we saw this ancient Toyota sedan. The sighting piqued Rocío’s interest as a previous long-term resident of Japan.
Rocío with the old Toyota in Havana’s street
The car’s proud owner told us he got his Toyota while visiting Japan with the Cuban military in 1985.
The Toyota owner proudly standing next to his car; note his right arm tattoo sleeve
In typical Cuban fashion, the car is still running decades after manufacture. It is also right-hand-drive, another point of difference to other Cuban vehicles. The owner wore a tattoo sleeve on his right arm, probably for sun protection as opposed to fashion.
Soroa, 7 kilometres north of the Havana-Pinar del Río Freeway is a village known for both its waterfall and orchid garden. As fans of orchids the latter attracted Rocío and me and we made a detour to Soroa between Viñales and Havana.
Getting to Soroa from Viñales without private transport took two colectivos and then a Jeep organised by a tout from the mechanic near the Candelaria/Soroa junction. The travel logistics and costs are listed below this post.
Soroa Waterfall (Salto del Arco Iris)
The Soroa Waterfall has two entrances. The Jeep dropped us off adjacent the lower, southern one where we paid the 3 CUC (US$3) entry fee.
Entry signs to waterfall Salto del Arco Iris; cascada is Spanish for waterfall; entry costs Cubans 10 CUP (US$0.40) and foreigners 3 CUC (US$3)
January is well outside the May to October wet season so the waterfall was a relative trickle. Despite this, the overhang and surrounding greenery still made a beautiful setting.
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
The morning after the 29 November 2016 memorial rally, Fidel’s ashes toured Havana, the beginning of a 4-day cross-country journey east to Santiago de Cuba. The route traced in reverse January 1959’s Caravan of Liberty when Fidel travelled from Santiago to Havana celebrating the end of the Batista dictatorship, the culmination of the Cuban Revolution.
Rocío and I witnessed Fidel’s ashes pass three times, once in Havana on 30 November and twice in Santiago on 3 and 4 December. On all occasions, people lined the streets in anticipation. Officials stood at regular intervals ensuring people remained off the road.
Old Havana, 30 November 2016
Hotel Armadores de Santander in beautiful morning light while crowds wait for ashes, Havana
Early on 30 November we walked from our Old Havana accommodation to coastal Avenida del Puerto (San Pedro) for the caravan. Continue reading →