Thursday, April 06, 2017

Another Cuban adventure

Cuba is a BIG island. This was our 6th visit (including our month long stay in 2000) when we cruised with our sailboat) and we pick a new region every time we visit. The red dots show our previous visits...with a big arrow to the Playa Santa Lucia.

Camaguey is the third largest city of Cuba..but we just landed there. The city was 1.5 hours away from our accommodation on Playa Santa Lucia..a strip of land surrounded by water: the Atlantic on one side and a lagoon on the other La laguna el real.  The reef on the Atlantic side is extensive, the laguna a favorite site for hundreds of flamingos.

Our hotel was very pretty: the green spaces were numerous and  the gardens lovingly maintained, around the bar, the pool and the small café. Not too manicured but decorated with tinajones, large clay pots typical for the area of Camaguey, and other small and large clay sculptures. 

Our preferred spot was the "library"! Indeed, designated as a reading area, it was the quietest place on the resort: we went there every afternoon with a glass of rum and our newly acquired cigars!
It is always quite an endeavour to find those local cigars ...they come in a white paper roll, 25 of them. Cubans pay 24 Cuban pesos for them. We used the bicycles of the resort to explore the surroundings and asked people where we could buy such cigars. The problem was that Marleyne (who has not reviewed her Spanish lessons) could not grasp the directions (she is challenged anyway when it comes to directions!!!)....

We understood something about Centro comercial...ok! we know where this one is! A man chatting with a shop owner tells me that he can sell me one pack for ..10 CUC! Ah ahahah...I am no Yuma (nickname given to dumb tourists). I turn around and say adios.  Not 1 minute later, the man calls me : ok, 5 CUC.  I play the submissive wife and claims that I have to talk to my husband. We decide not to buy them from him. Later that week, we come across El Trayler, a small snack bar in a trailer (!), operated by Daniel. Upon my inquiry, he tells me to wait and disappears in the back, chatting with somebody (Heiner waits with the 2 bikes on the road). He says that he has to get them...and starts walking! I offer him my bike instead! He loves it. He gets us 2 packs at 1 CUC each (!!!) ...and we reward his efforts with a nice tip. Everybody is happy. 

Another striking thing about Club Amigo Mayanabo was the friendliness of staff ..all of them were truly nice.  Cleaning staff, sailing instructors, bar employees! everybody.  Here at the beach bar is Orlando. 

 Orlando himself built this beach bar and is very proud of it. He works 3 weeks at the time and does not like to leave it in the hands of other staff members ! He makes each drink with care and pride..and god knows, he makes hundred of drinks a day!

We sailed the small catamaran with 3 different instructors, sailing in zigzag to and back from the reef. The winds were between 13 and 18 knots...delightful!

We also rented a scooter for 24 hours. We were told that the best scooters were to be found at the Tararaco hotel: Alberto was the man in charge.

While it is quite simple to rent a scooter, it is more challenging in Cuba.  When we inquired a day earlier, Alberto omitted to tell us about a deposit of 80 CUC when renting a scooter. We did not have such cash money with us so, after a bit of discussion, he told us to forget about the deposit...

The rental fee for 24 hours was 30 CUC.  Alberto emphasized that we should put gasolina especial (1,20 CUC per liter) in our Suzuki 125cc. So, hop we go to the gas station. Nothing is going on, the 2 attendants sit and chat. Asked Ché passa???? one of them tells me that there is no gasolina especial..and something more that Marleyne doesn't quite get (if she were a better student....she would have!). So, we drive back to Alberto and tell him that there is no gasolina especial.  Oh, no problemo...just take regular! Yes,, no, no problemo, take regular. OK! back to the gas station. This time, it is more puzzling: no regular, no especial, no fuel! the pumps do not work: Se rompio!!! (It is broken) a commonly used expression in Cuba. Ok, back to Alberto: in the mean time, there is really very little gas left in the scooter.

While we were thinking of cancelling the contract and give up, Alberto and his colleague were not at all on that wave length: in Cuba, there is a solution to everything! Has to be!
Alberto, not deterred, disappears in the backroom and comes out with a 10 liter gas empty one, mind you. He gets a rubber hose out and proceeds to suck the remaining gasoline from every one bike (5) available. Unfortunately, the bikes have very little gas left in their tank (he siphons it back!!!)...but the last one has a full tank! yeah! Here we go with a full tank!

We used our scooter very well; not sure if it was appropriate for Marleyne' s hip (in fact, she had to use her cane on the following days!!!) but it was so much fun to be "motorized".

Our first excursion was to visit the playa Los Cocos and the Boca at the western end of Playa Santa Lucia. Transat was selling excursions to these places emphasizing that these were some of the most wonderful beaches in Cuba. Only a portion of the road going there was asphalted; the remainder was crushed stone and red earth...the landscape was semi deserted. We hoped that the scooter would not die on us!

After some swimming, we went to La Boca where casa particulares (B&B) and paladars (restaurants operated by Cubans in their houses) abund! We could have had lobster meals for 10-15 CUC. No idea how much the accommodation cost.The neighbourhood was so so...

On our way back, we took more time to explore the marshes inhabited by flamingos. They were quite numerous but quite far away and difficult to photograph.

The marshes were shallow and their beaches covered with white foam due to high salt density.

As we had the scooter for 24 hours, we drove around, explorer as much as we is a sample of houses and small communities along the way.

Those apartment buildings looked really is rough for many Cubans.

Back to our resort, we spent the rest of the days sailing and walking...enjoying the view from our room!

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