Why would a travel day have to be boring? Cuba has more to offer than just the cities and that is why I am happy we met two awesome German girls who were up for some adventure. Talking to some taxi drivers in Cienfuegos, we had arranged a full day trip that would take us to Trinidad via some of the region’s attractions. The only tricky thing was, that we hadn’t seen the vehicle. We crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.
The next day it turned out our taxi guy did show up. The thing is, in Cuba you can say you need a lot of space a gazillion times, but in the end the tiniest car will show up, no matter what they promised. Of course that was the case now as well. Our inventive driver got out some ropes to put our luggage on top of the Russian Lada. We became the attraction of the neighbourhood and gathered a crowd. I got onto the back seat with the two other girls. We had to swap two of us because apparently the weight distribution was incredibly important. I didn’t know cars like this existed. Then off we went to our first destination, not knowing whether we should have gotten in or just abandoned the whole idea.
Suspension seemed non-existent in the car as we drove to the laguna. We had to wait for a few more tourists and then a guide took us around the park. He was very knowledgeable and told us about the plants and animals. We climbed up a tower and admired the lagoon from a distance before continueing our walk through the bush. I heard a lot of noise. It turned out hundreds of crabs were walking sideways over the muddy earth. It was the most hilarious sight. They had made little holes all over the place and I was glad I was wearing closed-toed shoes. Eventually the walk brought us to some boats, where we boarded two people per boat. Different guides rowed us to different places in the lagoon to find some wildlife. With my basic Spanish I could understand a little of what the guide told us. The lagoon is known for its flamingos, but the majority of them were now in Florida, so it wasn’t very crowded. We still saw a lot of them. They were so pretty as they flew away in a big group, showing their hot pink and black wings.
When we got back from the tour, our guide was still at the car. Thank goodness, he hadn’t taken off with all our belongings. We crawled back into the Lada for the short drive to the botanical gardens. Apparently these are world famous for the palm trees. Nowhere would you find so many palm species in one spot. I don’t know much about plants, but I do know that this place was more like a forest. There were no clear paths, no signs explaining anything. We wandered in the palm forest, wondering what we were looking at. This may be heaven for a botanist, but I could have easily skipped this. I can’t believe I couldn’t wait to get back into the crowded car.
This next leg took us through the mountains, where our car turned out to have difficulties getting us up the hill. We were more concerned than the driver. He seemed to be more concerned that we would be upset and not pay than anything else. When we went downhill it seemed like he was getting some momentum to get us up the next hill. If another car was in our way, he would loudly bang on his horn. After a while he finally dared to say that we had to stop for a while. It seemed like there was smoke coming from the engine and there was a strange smell. After a few stops and one to ask for some water at a random house, we made it to El Nicho.
The lonely planet had given us a price, but according to the taxi driver it was more now. When we arrived they said they had just increased the price even more the day before, so now we had to pay 9CUC to see a waterfall. We made it all the way out here, so we paid and took the path past the restaurant and a small pool towards the top waterfall. It was gorgeous, although touristy. There was even a lifeguard present. The waterfall was so refreshing and we were surrounded by lush plants, water dripping off their leaves. After a chilly swim, we walked to a viewpoint. The ‘lifeguard’ followed us and some other tourists up. He said he could take us to a cave and opened a gate for us. It all seemed a bit shady, but he was probably just after some extra money. I couldn’t really enjoy the walk as I slowly started to feel shitty. On our way back I had to rush past him to run to the toilets.
I felt awful and was so scared of the rest of the taxi ride. I moved to the front seat where it was easier to get fresh air from the window. I was shivering, sick and my head was spinning. Timing couldn’t be better though, because we’d done all we wanted to do and were now just driving towards Trinidad. We left the mountains behind and came onto a road along the coast. Dozens of crabs crossed the road and our driver tried to avoid them. If you drive over one, it could easily slash a tire and this car was bad enough. In the evening we reached Trinidad. The trip had indeed taken all day and we had just enough time to settle into our casa and find a place to eat. Not that I was very hungry. I was afraid to eat anything. All in all it was a great day though and a creative way to see the country. Anything is possible, as long as you ask and are not afraid to get close to your fellow travellers.