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.
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.
Rail tickets for foreigners are officially 25 times more expensive than for Cubans. However, on this trip we paid the local price: 2.30 CUP or only US$0.092 each. Rocío didn’t bother insisting for change and paid 5 CUP for two. What a bargain for an 80km (50 mile) journey. Allocated seating was a bonus.
The train’s amenities and service reflected the price. We experienced a bumpy, noisy and, after the nice sunset, pitch black journey to Nuevitas. In fact, the train interior was darker than the outside night. Orion’s Belt shone brightly in the sky. Even in the darkness I felt comfortable as Cuba is quite safe.
The train passed Camagüey Airport but didn’t stop. It did stop at several towns where passengers used torches to find their ways on and off.
See the video I produced of our journey:
Two hours and 40 minutes of a Cuban train was enough and we were happy to alight at Nuevitas. Our travel challenges for the day hadn’t ended though. We still needed to find accommodation.
As a non-touristy town, Nuevitas has limited accommodation. Besides the state-run Hotel Caonaba, during our two days we only saw two casa partilculares (private guest houses) licensed for foreigners in the whole town. That evening we eventually found one and, thankfully, it had a vacancy.
Nuevitas is located on the coast in eastern Camagüey Province across Nuevitas Bay from La Boca and touristy Playa Santa Lucia. It is a fishing and port town and most of the public art had a nautical theme. Founded in 1775, Nuevitas moved to its present site in 1828. Despite significant shipping and industrial activities, it resembles a forgotten town.
Getting to Cayo Sabinal Overland (or not)
Rocío was set on getting to Cayo Sabinal, located the other side of Nuevitas Bay. She wanted to see the beautiful virgin wilderness and hopefully some of the wildlife including flamingos, turtles, boar, iguanas, tree rats and butterflies.
Rocío asked different Nuevitas locals how to get there. One man went looking for a vehicle for us and his wife provided coffee while we waited. He later returned with another man and a classic Valiant sedan.
The track to Cayo Sabinal follows east of Nuevitas, past a rusted paint factory and along the coast to an intersection. There we turn north and drive over a causeway to our destination. At least in theory.
The Valiant was a wreck of a car with an almost non-existent interior. Neither of us in the back seat could open our doors from the inside. Despite its condition and the depressed Cuban economy, the vehicle was still worth US$5,000! Supply and demand. The government is the sole Cuban car importer and all vehicles imported are for government purposes, either earning tourist revenue or supporting state organisations. The same number of old vehicles circulate amongst private owners, even with increasing demand.
Part of the way there, our quest to reach Cayo Sabinal was thwarted by a large puddle covering muddy track ruts. We needed a truck not an old Valiant for this journey. Oh well.
Cuban Post (Correos de Cuba)
On 24 December, our final morning in Nuevitas, we visited the local post office for postcards. In Cuba, buying and sending a postcard abroad costs approximately 1.50 CUC (US$1.50). In Nuevitas we bought postcards for 1 CUP and stamps for 0.45 CUP, a total cost of only US$0.058. Admittedly, the postcards had medical propaganda on them and weren’t the nice touristy ones, but for a few cents one couldn’t complain!
Amazingly, despite only costing a few cents to post, more than two months later, Australia Post delivered the postcards to their final destination.
We departed Nuevitas Christmas eve for Reserva Ecológica Limones Tuabaquey. Getting there involved an epic journey of many parts and the next blog post topic.