We arrived in Trinidad by bus without any accommodation planned. This meant we* would have to brave the masses of Casa Particulares owners crowding the exit of the bus station to find a place to stay. Shannan hid where the bus left us while I ventured out into this crowd. This was the first time I had been the focus of so much attention; people grasping my arms and hands, others repeatedly shouting the same sales pitch at me with their face by my ear hoping this would convince me we would have a pleasant time at their Casa. Aware that the situation would only get worse if I prevaricated I quickly took a handful of the closest business cards and promised to return after looking them over. Time to retreat and regroup.
I took the cards back to Shannan, along the way picking up a Casa owner who was somehow allowed to enter the bus station. He wass a very pushy type and I quickly decide we don't want to stay with him even if he has the nicest place in Trinidad. We've had enough of pushy people trying to foist their suggestions on us by this point.
The lady running the bus station offers to look over the cards for us and provide a recommendation, pointing to her official badge so we trust her. I figure letting her do this is the fastest way of getting her to leave us alone. She looks carefully through the cards, her face lights up and she selects Gorje, our new pushy friend who is mysteriously allowed inside the bus terminal. We thank her for her unbiased opinion and shoo her away. I return to the sea of people and wave one of the cards, the owner speaks up and we head out to inspect her Casa. This is certainly a more stressful way of finding somewhere to stay but it's less than half the price of the previous Casas we stayed at.
When the sugar industry in Cuba collapsed development in Trinidad froze. The city went into a decline that it has only recently started breaking out of with the arrival of tourism. The buildings are recently renovated constructs originating from the old sugar days and the streets are cobblestone which gives the whole city has a beautiful feel and character.
We arrived on Good Friday just in time to grab a peso pizza for dinner and head up to the square to join the rest of the town who were waiting for the Good Friday procession. Everyone was waiting with excitement in their dress spandex and their finest fluorescent shirts. The procession arrives well after dark with figures of the Virgin Mary and Jesus being brought up to the church. The aged priest gives a rousing (apparently) sermon during which he grows tired and a chair is brought for him to sit on to finish addressing the crowd.
The next day we booked a few tours and headed to the street market. The ladies spend countless hours making linen and cotton table cloths with intricate detail by removing threads to form patterns. We ran the gauntlet with Shannan eyeing off candidates. At the end of the street we split and I re-entered the fray, attempting to negotiate hard on price but not really achieving much better than their original lowest price. Still, we walked out with a number of lovely designs.
Boarding our Soviet era troop transport, now tourist transport truck, we headed for the mountains. Here we sampled a coffee made from locally grown and roasted beans before hiking out to a waterfall and swimming hole pausing to spot the national bird of Cuba, the Cuban Trogon, endemic to the island with feathers the colours of the Cuban flag. Along the way our sharp eyed guides also spotted a Hutia, a large rodent, thankfully far up a cliffside. Time for a dip in the pool and run our head under the waterfall before heading for a late lunch.
The next days tour took us out through the old sugar plantations. Here we could see the fields where the sugar was grown and the slaves were worked along with the colonial style architecture that demonstrated the riches extracted. A lot of reconstruction work is happening here at the moment to restore these residences to their former glory. We met a number of the builders working on this, they seemed more interested in watching the people on the tour busses than actually doing any restoration.
Our final day in Trinidad we took a horse and buggy out to another waterhole for lunch and a swim. At the lunch stop we had roast pork and some freshly squeezed sugar cane juice. Mine had some rum in it, by now we had learnt to request a very small amount of rum. The Cubans are very generous when it comes to alcohol. Even the tourist price for Havana Club rum was $3/bottle.
This was our last stop in Cuba. We said goodbye to Isabel, our Casa owner, and left behind some medicines and toiletries we figured we could do without as these are difficult to come by in Cuba. Back to Havana by shared taxi (same cost as the bus) for our flight to the Cayman Islands and the western world. With a bit of sadness we left the final Spanish speaking country of our holiday.