YOU DON'T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT
This week has been a mixed bag. We haven't received fish from the local fishermen but we dived with sharks. Eye Candy's 2.1M draw excluded us from staying at Casilda marina as planned so we sailed on to Cienfuegos. The twenty pen marina here is full so we are now anchored off with ten other boats. The weather has been sunny and calm and now it is windy, raining and chilly. We explored the town of Cienfuegos and had the Lonely Planet stolen from our closed backpack. Yesterday we engaged the services of an English speaking taxi driver to take us to Trinidad and show us around. This expedition went off smoothly and we had a most enjoyable day.
DIVING WITH SHARKS
On Monday we anchored in Cayo Anclitas with two other cruising boats and a live aboard dive boat with a dozen or so Russians having a dive holiday. The dive operator came over to Eye Candy and signed us up for a dive the following day at 1pm at slack tide when the visibility is best. The dive was amazing along coral beds, down through an open canyon with schools of beautiful fish and then back to the dive boat to play with the sharks. The dive operator hung an enclosed box of food beneath the dive boat. By the time we got back there we about ten silky sharks circling. The Dive Master grabbed one on a certain place on its tail which completely demobilized it. He nursed it like a baby and then stood it nose first on his other hand and let go its tail. The shark just stood on its nose until the Dive Master took it by the tail again and then let it go. The Dive Master repeated the procedure with a few sharks and Andrew got the pat one of them. It was the most amazing thing we have seen to date. The only time the sharks got a bit excited was after we got out of the water and the food box was hauled aboard; they thrashed around on the surface looking for it.
WHAT WE DO AND DON'T KNOW ABOUT CEINFUEGOS
Cienfuegos is a relatively modern town which caters for the two economies and the two currencies. The shops range from modern clothes, perfumeries, beauty shops, book shops and restaurants down to vegetables sold on the street and government shops providing basic food for the locals with allocated tokens. There are no electronics shops or jewellery shops and the occasional supermarket (for the want of a better word) has very limited stock and insufficient variety to cater for what we would consider normal food shopping. Some shops have guards on the door limiting entry. They spend all day opening the door to let someone out and then signalling for the next person to come in.
Transport ranges from modern cars, thirty year old Russian cars, air conditioned coaches, local busses which are open back trucks, single push bikes and motor cycles, push bikes with passenger buggies, horse and buggies and horse and cart. In Cienfuegos there is one Government run internet café. Locals are not permitted to use the internet and we have to show our passport to gain access.
I would love to be able to tell you when the city was founded and how old the buildings are but some horrible person stole our Lonely Planet from our closed backpack and so I am at a complete loss. Next time we go up the street we are going to leave our backpack open and fill it with mouse traps.
Cienfuegos Main street & Mall
Cienfuegos Town Square & International Baseball Stadium
HOW TO ORGANIZE A TRIP TO TRINIDAD
At the marina bar every evening there sits a French/Canadian guy by the name of Papa. He works in Cuba a few months each year, speaks fluent Spanish and is part of the establishment. He is so well known at the bar that he is allowed to bring his own large bottle of Rum and bottle of Coke. The bar provides him with a glass and ice (certainly couldn't do that in Australia). Cruisers quickly learn that if you want anything, ask Papa. He organized our deal for an English speaking driver (Osmany) to take us to Trinidad and show us around. The cost was the same as the tourist bus fare plus we had to buy lunch for the driver.
It was an eighty kilometre drive through sugar, coffee, tobacco, mango and banana plantations. Horse and cart was the predominate mode of transport on the road and the farmers were on horseback. We stopped along the way to purchase mangoes and bananas for very little money. The country housing is small and basic but as Osmany said "there are no wealthy people, but nobody is starving, everybody is the same. Cuban people have all we need".
Tasting sugar cane juice & Farmer on horseback
Buying mangoes & average country housing
A BEAUTIFUL OLD TOWN
Trinidad was founded 500 years ago in 1513. The old town is Unesco World Heritage listed and is just gorgeous with its large pastel coloured colonial mansions, cobble stone streets and distant mountains providing a dramatic setting. Its wealth was built of the back of the slave trade and sugar plantations.
We commenced our tour by drinking a La Canchanchara which is a very potent rum mixed with water, honey, lemon and sugar and watching a five piece Cuban band do their thing. We then wandered up to the Plaza Mayor and visited the Museo Historico Municipal where we learnt all about the Castro revolution and the Banditos.
Trinidad Town Square & Lunch at Sol Ananda
Local Church & professional cigar roller
We had lunch in one of the oldest mansions in Trinidad. It was built in the mid eighteenth century by the Town Mayor and transformed in 2011 into a period restaurant by its Architect owner. A beautifully presented restaurant but we thought the food was pretty average.
Then by chance we tacked on to the back of a guided tour for a bus load of French Canadians. We all look the same and so we went unnoticed. We visited another mansion built in the late eighteenth century and houses the Museo Romantico displaying period furnishings, china and such.
Street views of Trinidad
Continuing with the French/Canadian tour group we then saw a display of professional Cigar making. This was pretty good because if visiting the cigar factories photos are not allowed. Apparently it is the young leaves on the bottom of the Tabacco plant that produces the best
taste and aroma. These young leaves are rolled in a stronger leaf and thirdly a soft leaf for the final outer case. The lady we saw could roll approximately 70 cigars a day.
We made our way back to the car and headed for home stopping off to buy some much needed fresh vegetables and some pork chops (the first meat we have found since George Town in the Bahamas). With the benefit of local knowledge, our driver Osmany made it very easy.
SO WHAT'S NEXT
We have just returned from the Internet Café in Ceinfuegos. We could not post this email or update Nos 6, 7, 8 and 9 with photos. The Blogsite would not run properly on the earlier version of Internet Explorer. We were both disappointed as the photos add so much more to the words. However we are heading to the capital Havana on Tuesday for three nights. We are hoping to get Wifi there which will solve the problem; only time will tell.
Love Candy xx
At 4:02 PM28/02/2013 (utc) our position was 22°07.61'N 080°27.27'W
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