Trinidad, Cienfuegos, Havana
2. April (Monday): We have breakfast at our Casa Particular.
We know by now that we'd be keeping the car for a day longer than planned, so Annewien tries to call the rental agency from our Casa Particular. We have no luck, and since I remember the car agent saying it would be no problem to keep the car for an additional day, I didn't give problems with the extension much thought.
I walk to the place where our car is parked where the guard shows me that the car has ANOTHER flat tire! Well, darn, how can this be possible? The second flat within 24 hours?! At first I suspected the guard of deliberately puncturing the tire, since he was very helpful in changing the tire. I rejected this theory: either I'd had the misfortune to hit another nail (maybe some garages in Trinidad have nails spread out to enhance their business?), or the garage inserted a nail into another tire while they were replacing the first one the night before. We'd never know. Since we wanted to be back in Havana today and didn't have much time left, and moreover since I had no intention of returning to yesterday's garage, we decided to continue on our way regardless of the replacement tire being flat.
We drive on westwards to the town of Cienfuegos. The road is partly along the sea and beautiful to drive on.
Suddenly we saw quite a few live crabs walking around on the road! I remember Atsuko telling me about this in Havana and here they were! We stopped the car to look at them more closely. They were about the size of a hand and were quite funny to watch. They would continuously change directions while they walked and were of different colours, red, yellow, brown. They all had funny eyes on stems. Some of them hid under our car, perhaps because of the shade. Some crabs were crossing the road which proved to be a dangerous journey, since the road was littered by their remains crushed by vehicles.
I was amazed by the distance we traveled in Crab Zone! There must have been hundreds of thousands of them crushed dead and so there were so many survivors scurrying across the road that it seemed alive. An amazing sight! Cuban vehicles whooshed along the road at top speed completely oblivious of the crabs. I was driving very slowly, avoiding them, being glad that we managed to get by without crushing any. Cuban vehicles horned before they passed us, knowing by our "Tourist" number plates that we'd probably drive a dangerously erratic course while avoiding the crustaceans.
Isn't this cool? Sugarcane Train over 6-lane Highway to Havana with nary a railway-crossing sign in sight
Annewien was suffering because of the heat and we decided to drive with the air conditioner on. Cienfuegos was hot and we headed straight to the Plaza Mayor (called Parque Jose Marti) to stop for a drink and to look for a Farmacia for something to reduce Annewien's prickly heat.
Cienfuegos has a nice little lookout at the top of Palacio de Ferrer you can climb to enjoy the view from above. It overlooks Parque Jose Marti. The building itself is in a elegant colonial style, worth seeing by itself.
Cienfuegos Parque Jose Marti view from the lookout at Palacio de Ferrer, with (left to right) Teatro Tomñs Terry (just adjascent to the long, flat building, Catedral de la Purisima Coincepcion (slim tower) and the Poder Popular Provincial (large dome)
A look inside the theatre is also recommended. It was built by two brothers from Venezuela named Thierry in honour of their father. It is very ornamental and impressive, both inside and out.
It's quite easy to find the road into Havana, quite a difference from the problems we had in finding the road to Santa Clara on the way out!
We don't want to go back to Ulija (too basic, too noisy) but rather want to find a Casa Particular in Vedado, a better part of town, near Hotel Capri. Annewien has found a number of addresses in the LP. Entering Havana, we discover how large the city really is by how long it takes us to finally reach Vedado. Luckily, Annewien is great at map-navigation.
We park on the street, have a quick drink at a Paladar (private restaurant) and then set off on foot to check out the Particulars we've narrowed down. The first addresses are either in noisy areas or don't have any signs indicating they're Casa Particulars. After being stopped by a pushy Jinetero who wants to lead us to a Particular we'd already discovered ourselves, we're put off by this part of town. We take the car and slowly cruise the streets, hoping we'd see some Particulars on the way, but no such luck. There are some Particulars recommended by the LP further south, so we check out two of them. One is "almost ok", the other offers a small room with a low ceiling.
One described in LP as being a "mansion" somehow interests me and it turns out to be the nicest of them all, with exceptionally high rooms about four meters high and a friendly owner called Francisco. We take the room. He allows us to park the car in his locked driveway. We wash and then head out to the street to find something to eat.
We land up at the Hotel Havana Libre and order fried rice in the Polynesian restaurant. It turns out to be quite good and affordable. The waitress is incredibly inefficient but is somehow funny with her jutting front teeth. An acoustic trio (2 guitars and one bongo with harmony vocals) is playing very smooth Rumbas and Cha-Cha's. They're very accomplished musicians.
I'd given the car for valet parking in the underground hotel car-park and we get it driven back up for us. The fee's moderate. We drive back to our Casa Particular, I park the car behind the gate and we retire to our room for the night.