I was ready at 8.00am and the taxi, with my official guide, Beatrice, turned up a few minutes later. A charismatic, good looking Latin American/Cuban woman whose job it was to make sure that I had a good time! (I like that in a woman). Nice surprise. It was to be just me and her, with the taxi owner doing all the driving – and it was a very, very long journey to Trinidad but with what turned out to be interesting and great fun sightseeing stops with lunch on the way. A hug from Mileidys and we were off instantly into torrential rain. Still all we had to do was drive (well all the driver had to do was drive – Beatrice and I chatted and slept), so I wasn’t missing much other than what would have been some nice views.
First stop was for lunch on a canopied restaurant roof- terrace overlooking the sea; there was table laid just for me, and just as I sat down a violent storm raced in from the sea, so I pushed the table and chair right back against the wall to try to avoid the lashing rain and watched the storm play out whilst I tried to keep my food and myself from getting soaked. All very dramatic.
Then back in the car to go to the first sight-seeing stop which included an alligator/croc sanctuary and a fabulous fast motor boat trip across a vast lake to a remote island that had a complete reproduction of an Indian village showing how the first settlers lived.
As we approached the area there was a police security stop. A mean looking young policeman complete with holstered pistol sauntered out and demanded the driver’s papers. Then he slowly walked round the car, told the driver to get out, open the boot and take everything out; then he left us all sitting in the car for 45 minutes! as he deliberately took his time in going through a pile of papers, making phone calls and generally being extremely annoying and threateningly authoritative. Beatrice reckoned he was angling for some money but we decided it was too risky to offer any as he could have just arrested us all for bribery. Anyway finally he waived us through thank God, and gradually the steam out of the poor driver’s ears began to subside.
But the wait was worth it as we joined others in a twin outboard engine speed boat and raced through winding mango-lined tributaries out into the ocean-like lake heading for the Indian settlement. Small, palm leafed/thatched huts were lined along its shores and clay figures of how the original Indians looked and lived were dotted all over the place .Very touristy but having my own personal guide in Beatrice was a great bonus.
Back to the main land for the obligatory pina colada and then to the crocodile compound. Nasty looking things who were sloshing around in the mud and opening and snapping their jaws, salivating at the ever hopeful possibility of a juicy tourist getting too close.I’m ashamed to say that I found myself sucked into the tourist thing and was handed a baby croc to hold and play around with, photo taking for the purpose of. On from there the journey continued with a stop at a natural deep tropical fish pool.
Totally clear with beautifully coloured fish whizzing about; the idea was to swim amongst them but time was tight now, the light was failing and we had to get to Trinidad for me to be able to enjoy a bit of the nightlife; The itinerary still included a quick visit to the Revolution Museum where it was very clearly shown how vitally important the success of the Revolution was to the freedom of Cubans and what incredible heroes Fidel Castro and Che Chevara both were.
We finally arrived at my Casa at midnight.. Complete contrast to the tiny country homestead in Vinales. This was massive in comparison. A big oak door opened up straight from the street, into an antique furnished, marble floored, partitioned area beyond which you could see the rest of the ground floor stretching a long way back. My room was enormous. Two double beds and an en-suite bathroom.
Quick shower and straight out into the fray. It was party time in party town and 3 hours later after a bit of Salsa-ing , cuba-libra swilling, cigar smoking and general gay abandonment somehow I managed to find my way back to eventually fall into a deep sleep.