Santa Clara, Remedios, Caibarien, Cayo Santa Maria
30. March (Friday): It was no problem getting up. Rather, it was a problem staying asleep, since in the wee hours of the morning a cock started crowing with maddening regularity and absolutely would not stop!
We had some breakfast, with enough flies accompanying us, then set off back to our car to visit Che's monument. The old lady guarding our car actually seemed to have slept in it! Her fee is the standard 2$ asked all over Cuba for watching a car for the night.
We first go to the site where Che and his revolutionaries bulldozed open the main railway track and brought a train chock full of Batista soldiers and arms to derail. After a short fight the government troops had given up and the revolutionaries had gained a fat consignment of arms! The original bulldozer and some railway carriages have been renovated, and there are some historical exhibits within the carriages.
We continue on to Che's monument, which is located on one end of an enormous square. Che's monument itself consists of a pedestal with a statue of a bereted Che striding in military garb, clutching a rifle in one hand. Inside, at the back of the monument, is a very solemn, dark room with lots of flowers. The remains of many revolutionaries, amongst them Che (he has a larger plaque than all the others) are kept there.
We are asked our nationalities at the entrance (this happens a number of times in 'critical' places. I wonder which nationalities are unwelcome, if any?). Next door, there is an interesting museum with many Che artifacts and photos.
Bulldozer used by Che to wreck railway tracks and some of the railway wagons filled with Batista's troops which were derailed (scroll right to see full picture)
We continue on our journey to the town of Remedios (recommended by LP).
The scenery on the way there is more or less the same as on most of our Cuba road trip: the road is in good condition, there are lots of palm trees to be seen, there are telephone and electricity lines along the road, and everywhere there are people standing for a ride. The earth is mostly of reddish brown colour and the vegetation is plentiful. There are large unpopulated areas, with no houses to be seen. Traffic consists of trucks, some cars, cowboys on horses, bicycle drivers and motorcycles, some with sidecars.
Remedios is a small little town with two churches. We manage to get in to the main one just after a bus tour-group had been there, later we have a coffee in a cafñ overlooking the main square. It is getting quite warm when we set off in the direction of Cayo Santa Maria which is at the sea.
Laid-back rickshaw cruising Remedios
Aaah, school's out at last, Remedios
Cayo Santa Maria is a string of islands on the northern coast of Cuba connected by landfills to yield a long road actually leading into the sea. It is quite similar to Key West in Florida.
According to LP, going to Cayo Santa Maria involves getting tickets from a bar in the town of Caibarien. Reaching the bar, we find out that it is actually a small restaurant. There they tell us we'd get tickets directly on the way and give us rather cryptic directions to reach there. We decide to have lunch there and then set off.
Finding the way according to the instructions was absolutely impossible and it wasted us a lot of time till we found the correct road! It was practically new and ultra-smooth, and on both sides of the road was the sea, often with mangrove trees in the shallow water! What a marvelous drive!
After a number of kilometers we reach a checkpoint with a barrier across the road, where we're asked for our passports. There's no requirement to buy any tickets, though. After a long drive, we suddenly see a sign to an airport (they seem to have one here!) and then to a place called "Las Brujas". We want to explore the end of the Key first, so we drive on.
Suddenly the road gets very dusty and turns to a dirt track. A bus which is ahead us stops and a man gets out and informs us that the road has ended and we cannot continue any further, since the whole area is under construction. There are construction machines to be seen everywhere. He tells us we should go back to Las Brujas to the beach.
We do so. The resort at Las Brujas sells us entry tickets to their beach, which is time-consuming process. They can only be produced on the computer and the lady there has some trouble operating it. The resort consists of a reception, rooms and a bar area. The beach has exceptionally fine sand and a very smooth sea. It seems possible to snorkel, since rental is available.
We swim in the sea and lie on the beach. It is exceptionally beautiful! Unfortunately there are a few mosquitoes around which don't hesitate to bite us.
It's so nice, that we contemplate staying the night there, but the rooms are extremely expensive (at around 150$), and way over our budget. We decide to have a beer at the bar and then make our way back to Remedios to stay the night.
This bird was hungry enough to throw caution to the wind, Las Brujas
Cuban Eiffel Tower, near Remedios
Che on the way to Spiritus Sancti
We find a Casa Particular in Remedios quite easily. It's owner was quite concerned that we'd leave any clothes on the washing line at night and that they might be stolen. We left our car at the main square to be watched.
At the main square we discovered a beautiful colonial hotel where we decided to have an "elegant dinner". We were the only ones in the restaurant and, whereas the food was acceptable, service was really good.
We walked back to our Casa Particular and had a peaceful, though hottish night since temperatures hadn't cooled down to really comfortable levels outside.