Here are a couple photos from the last driving leg of our trip. I have no idea where this exactly is, other than somewhere between Morón and Varadero. It was a long 8 hour drive day, and it was our last real travel day in Cuba. I stopped by the roadside to take some photos of some farms while the sunshine was peeking aout between storm clouds. Next week is a few photos from Varadero, and then I will make some posts with the series of photos I took of the casas we stayed in.
And a reminder that my solo show, ’150K From Here’ is happening in a little over 4 weeks!!! Almost all the images are printed and being mounted! May 17, 7-11Pm @ Cre8ery in Winnipeg! See the show write-up here.
As I wrote in a previous post, we spent 4 nights in Baracoa, 2 nights in one casa, and 2 nights in another. I was ill the first 2 days, so we didn’t get up to much for those days. Although we did take a walk to one of the gas stations for a coke or ice cream each day, and went and sat on the malecón wall and watched the waves. On our third day, on advice from Adrian our casa owner, we drove 30km east of Baracoa to the Yumurí River. We had just wanted to chill, maybe sit at the beach, but when we got to Yumurí, it was chaos! There were a couple cars ahead of us, and probably 50 Cubans all trying to get people to take a boat tour down the river. As I still wasn’t sure about the stability of my stomach, I didn’t think a boat ride would be a great idea. So, we back-tracked down the road a bit and found a nice vacant stretch of beach. It was a gorgeous day, so we plunked ourselves down and took in some saltwater scenery. The sand at this beach was black, and what is called “dog’s tooth” grain. (Meaning the grains of sand are larger.) It was a bit rough on the feet after awhile, but I can’t say I really minded. I finally had a chance to take some photos and really worked this stretch of beach (or so I thought). 5 minutes into my photo fun, my husband was approached by a couple of Cubans asking for money, food, clothes, whatever they could get. Mike politely said no, but they weren’t taking the hint, and they sat down with him and started asking for our shoes, and for us to take them back to where we were staying so we could give them money. After about 5-10 minutes of hassle, Mike look like he had enough, and I quickly packed up my stuff and we headed back to Baracoa.
I originally didn’t write much about my Cuba experiences, for fear that my audience may not understand where I was coming from. However, by not telling my story, it can make it impersonal and dull. So I am trying to share some more details of our trip, but I don’t think I can explain a lot of it, you just had to be there. In a country like Cuba, as a tourist, you will be hassled non-stop for money, clothes, food, transportation, anything and everything. (And when I say clothes, I mean even the ones you are wearing.) It got rather frustrating dealing with this every day for 3 weeks. I’m not a big people person (I like individual people, and I have social skills) but I don’t like crowds. I like to blend in and observe as much as possible, but I found it fairly impossible to do so in Cuba.
All that aside, here are some of the photos I took:
There aren’t many photos from Baracoa itself. At least not ones that are mine (Mike was pretty handy with his point & shoot). I was quite sick while we were in Baracoa, and spent a good 2 days wearing a path on the floor to the bathroom. Oh, the joys of travel! We had originally planned to spend 2 nights in Santiago de Cuba, but we had been finding the cities stressful and thought an extra 2 days in a beach town would be a little nicer. So we spent a very long day driving from Bayamo all the way to Baracoa. One of the highlights of the drive was a respite from the Caribbean tunes, by picking up on the U.S. Guantánamo Bay naval base radio. The views of the highway from Guantánamo to Bayamo were insane. I really wanted to get out and take photos in the mountains of the cloud forests, they were low and full as it was raining. However, the only points where you could pull over on the mountain highway, were jammed with Cubans trying to sell various wares and foods, and there was no room to stop. Given the rainy conditions we also just wanted to keep going and get to Baracoa, as it was a really long driving day. We did stop at one spot before the mountains (near Tacre I believe), and here are the results:
As I mentioned, there aren’t really any photos from Baracoa itself, but next week I will be featuring our day trip to Boca de Yumurí (just east of Baracoa). There aren’t many Cuba posts left, as we’ve entered into the last week of our trip’s photos.
As I mentioned last week, we had a very brief stay, just 2 nights, in Bayamo. The only reason we stayed 2, was we had planned on doing a trek through Gran Parque Nacional Sierra Maestra to see the Cuban Revolution Headquarters. However, neither Mike nor I were feeling well and we thought it would be best to relax and work on feeling better, as we had a long day of driving the next day. We also didn’t have an exact plan for the hike and how to get to the park. It was kind of complicated, and we weren’t able to plan it ahead of time. I think I would try and get closer to the park, stay in a town closer to the La Plata entrance. At times it was very hard to plan parts of the trip due to lack of info available while in Canada, and not being able to book things ahead of time. The only thing I managed to do ahead of time was book the casa particulars, and make a rough itinerary. Everything else (and at times even the casas) had us flying by the seat of our pants.
So in Bayamo, we walked around town a bit, there wasn’t a whole lot to see. We ate in an amazing paladar (restaurant) twice, attempted to make phone calls home as we had found a pay phone, and spent most of our time on the balcony outside our room reading and playing cards. I also took the time to take photos of our unsuspecting Cuban neighbours, catching them in the real, everyday moments of their lives.
The photo above was what I was shooting through (with a max. zoom of 70mm at the time). Cuba definitely doesn’t have ‘codes’ when it comes to electrical “upgrades” or housing. Throughout the afternoon we kept hearing a loud buzzing noise, and eventually we also noticed that the wires were arcing. This made us question the safety of the wiring, and our proximity to it. Glad I got my photos before that! Hah!
Next week we are off to Baracoa. I will probably do at least 2 posts from there, as we had stayed there for 4 days, the longest we stayed in any one place.
As you may know, I had this post all finished, I was in the middle of publishing it, and my server went down. Ugh. So I lost the whole post as the auto-save mode wasn’t working. The technical issues have been ironed out, but there’s still the matter of this here post. So, here I go again:
Trinidad. I really enjoyed our stay in this city. It has a vibrant heart immersed in arts, music & culture. It’s very different from any of the other towns/cities in Cuba (we stayed in about 15 different places), and Trinidad was unique. It is a more laid back and easy-going city. The 2nd most frustrating aspect of our trip to Cuba (the 1st being navigating – I’ll share more on that another day), was being hassled non-stop by people on the street. I’m a non-crowd-of-people, open spaces kind of person (think small, Canadian, prairie city), and was thrown out of my comfort zone for most of the trip. I really like Trinidad as people would take a polite “No, thank-you” and let you keep walking. In almost every other city, the street peddlers & hustlers were more in your face, and would follow you as you walked and there were people pulling you in every direction every 10 feet. It got tiresome very quickly. So we appreciated the calm, relaxed attitude of Trinidad.
The city of Trinidad lies not far from the coast and a short trip’s distance to the mountains. We were only there for 3 nights, and could have stayed at least a week with plenty to do. I’d highly recommend adding Trinidad to your list of places to go in Cuba. We stayed in the old part of town right along the historical Plaza Mayor. This section of the town is pedestrian only (although that includes mopeds & horses). We went out every night for a walk around town and took in the music and quiet streets. We talked with a few random Cubans and we kept running into this group from the Netherlands (they were the ones swimming at Topes -featured in last week’s post). The house we stayed in was owned by direct descendants of the original Colonial families, as were all the homes in the Plaza Mayor area. Enough talk, on to the photos. Welcome to Trinidad:
Next week will be a brief post about our very short stay in Cuba’s 2nd oldest town, Bayamo.
Also – I have recently entered the world of Twitter. I will throw a link up on the website, feel free to follow me: @keyfoto
Topes de Collantes is located in the Sierra del Escambray near the city of Trinidad. Mike (my husband) and I took the trek on our first full day staying in Trinidad. I had found it in a guide book, and the book did not do it justice, nor do I find my photos did. It was really beautiful. We hiked down to Salto del Caburní, watched some Netherlanders swim, and then made our rather long trek back up the mountain. Neither of us had done any hiking in a tropical climate, so that was a first. We definitely under estimated the heat and should have brought more water with us. At least now we know for next time. Although we made great time, we did it in about half of the duration the guide book said. Anyone who is heading to Trinidad, I highly recommend this hike.
Next week: the city of Trinidad!
Alrighty. So here is the last batch from our stint in Playa Larga. These were taken on the day we travelled form Playa Larga to Trinidad. These may look somewhat familiar, as they were taken along the stretch of coast between Playa Larga and Playa Girón.
I woke up early one morning (well that’s a bit of a lie – I was up early every morning, but I would lay in bed for awhile. I definitely wasn’t used to being woken by roosters, thus I don’t think I slept past 6:00 the entire Cuba trip). I took a walk down to the coconut grove to catch a sunrise. I was pleasantly surprised to be joined by a number of fisherman. We smiled, nodded and enjoyed the sunrise together.
Next week will be the last posting of pictures from Playa Larga. Then it’s off to Trinidad & Topes de Collantes.
As I mentioned in the previous post, I am keeping with our travel timeline and we are back to Playa Larga. Most of these photos were taken along the coast between Playa Larga and Playa Girón, so I am just classifying them Playa Larga as that’s where we were staying. We must have travelled up and down this 36 km stretch of coast at least 4 times. It had fantastic views, some amazing diving spots (or so we were told – we only snorkeled), very unique landscapes and beautifully rich-coloured but clear waters. I really did fall in love with this place.
This last picture was were we spent a few hours snorkelling. I have some video footage I have yet to edit. I would love to come back and do some here diving one day. There will be at least one more post with Playa Larga coming up, and after that I believe is Trinidad and Topes de Collantes (a nature reserve park in the Escambray Mountains range in Cuba).
And an announcement: Manitoba locals: go and pick up the final issue of Sandbox Magazine (sold exclusively at McNally Robinson Booksellers) and check out my photos that are in it! Support the local talent!