Still a bit under the weather, I took lomotil pill for the shared taxi ride to Trinidad - I'd been up 5-6 times the night before! After an early breakfast the car arrived at 7:30, an old '51 Chevy. We were the first in so got the "best" seats - Bon and I in front & Cathy behind by a window. Picked up an Italian family of 5 and then off we went. The driver had us pay in advance which was unusual I thought, but as it turned out he only took us the 2 1/2 hours to a restaurant/shared taxi stop outside Havana. There we switched to a '55 Chevy which took us the rest of the way to Trinidad (12 noon to 4 p.m.). Spent half an hour trying to locate the place where the Italian family had their accommodations. Ours the driver knew so we were last - very tired but after discussions we cleaned up and Bon & I went to get more info about onward travel at Cubatur & a gal names Rosi who spoke perfect English. She gave us all the info we needed once we told her our timetable and desire to visit Santiago.
To accomplish this is a bit convoluted: Here's what she said...
1) We need to get bus tickets to Camaguey which requires us to get to the bus station (just 3 blocks from Cubatur office) by 7 am tomorrow (March 6). We get on the list for the next day bus half way to Santiago at Cam (a big travel hub).
2) She has a friend, Puchi, who has a place there to stay and wan pick us up at the bus station in Camaguey - 12 km from town.
3) Since there is no way to arrange the flight from Santiago to Havana here in Trinidad (has to be done in Camaguey), Rosi told us that since we need to be back in Havana by the 11th, unless we fly we won't make it. So we must be assured of the flight before continuing on to Santiago!
4) Once we get to Camaguey we must immediately go to a travel office (near Puchi's place) and find out/book a flight: Santiago to Havana. If we can do that, then we need to go to the bus station and get onward ticket to Santiago.
5) If connections don't work out...no plane or no bus onward - then Puchi can help us plan alternative travel back to Havana...whew!
These are not the kind of ideas that encourage me to travel but for Bon, it seems to energize her! The challenge of it all I guess!!
Well, after getting all the info about travel and discovering there are either no flights from Santiago or Camaguey on either the 10th or 11th we had to regroup! Bon tried resting on the sidewalk but unsuccessfully so we headed back to Caridad Hostel and Bon immediately lay down and slept (no breakfast).
Cathy and I ate - 9am- and talked a bunch about the situation. We both were surprised that Bon was sooo tired even though she had insisted it was because she didn't sleep at all last night. Back in the room Bon was sleeping very soundly so Cathy & I read until 10:30 which we had agreed was time to make more plans in case Bon was really sick. in the LP Cathy pointed out the Topes de Collantes and the Sierra del Escambray, Cuba's 2nd highest Mtn. range. Waterfalls and pools, etc. I'm more inclined to gravitate to the out of doors rather than museums and city scapes so I went with Cathy to 1) check out tours there and 2) arrange for at least 1-2 more nights which Caridad's husband might have available 3) cancel our reservations on the bus to Camaguey.
The 2 tours we found were either with Cubatour: $47 incl. meal & English speaking guide but with 20 other people on a land cruiser OR Ecotur @ $55 each with pickup at our casa, meal, and 5 people...return at 4 pm (both leave at 9 am). Since we had made reservations at 7 am for the bus to Camaguey, Cathy & I decided we'd cancel them now (O.N. bus!), since dwe both felt at this late an hour we'd at least want to stay one more night at Caridad Hostel in Trinidad before heading onward to ??? Cathy had also indicated NO interest in Camaguey but was happy to head back to Havana on her own and let B & I go to Camaguey. We'd checked shared taxis as well to Playa Larga ($25 each) and bus ($12 each) both about 3 hours so since it would not be until Monday leaving at 3 pm, we put our names on the bus list after cancelling Camaguey bus leaving tomorrow at 7:30 am.
On our way back to Caridad Hostel we ran into Bon on the street and decided we needed to explain what we'd done and why! Bon was most upset that we had abandoned her in the room! Making other plans w/o her when she said we should have awoken her to join in the planning. I guess she was a bit in shock that we'd done what we'd accomplished and thought it was a 'done deal' not realizing our concern for her health and well being!
In the end after tea and milk shakes she finally acquiesced but not w/o some regret that she could not go further W. even though Cathy made it clear that she was okey making her way back to Havana on her own. Bon did not want to split up the group as this was her priority over going further W.
We stopped at Ecotur and paid for $55/pp tour for Sunday the 8th. Also, then taking the bus to Playa Larga but from there??
$$$ wise at this point I have $400 CUCs
We went to the Ancon Beach on the 5 CUC On-Off bus - really mostly just goes to the beach! Lots of tourists waiting, one bus is open air seating on top as well as inside, the other just a regular bus. Bon and an Irish couple got on first and saved Cathy & I seats on top. The ride is out of town through mangrove swampy area (being drained!). Three large tourist hotels and another huge one being built. A very long beach with lots of foreign -mostly Euros and Russians - tourists. Met a Canadian fellow who'd been to Cuba 6+ times. He'd been snorkeling and saw one starfish and some other 1' long fish but no coral, just conch grass. He'd been diving days before down some 100'along the "wall" but was not impressed. The only coral (dead) along here was off the N. end of he beach he said. He's from Toronto and seems to think Trump has had something to do with the auto industry expansion near Detroit. Says there is a new plant going in there which is huge. Didn't say how many will be employed or what cars to manufacture though. Sounded a bit Trumpish!!
Bon & I walked the beach, Bon to the end, my foot did not tolerate the sand well with or without Chacos - very fine and felt like needles in the bottom of my foot! We went to one of the hotels and were able to use the ETECSA wifi cards so did some connecting/deleting emails - but very few photos uploaded while on for an hour. Got in front of the line for the 3:30 return bus so we could sit up front on top which worked since we were there waiting at 3 and no line! We had been lying on the beach recliners in the shade but a fellow came by and said we'd have to pay $2 CUCs - that's how we decided to go to the bus, ha!
These were very upper end hotels which explains a lot about location, tourists, etc.
Our mountain excusion to Topes de Collantes and Parque Guanayara where we hiked a total of 3+ km in and out to waterfalls and a swimming pond. Had a really nice guide, Eddie, who answered all our questions and told us about his life. Born & raised just an hour out of Trinidad, spent one year in the compulsory military working on a coffee plantation. Then to university getting his degree in languages - speaks English German, French, and of course Spanish all very fluently - now guiding for the past 5+ years.
Our group consisted of 3 French, 2 German girls, us, a Brit couple, and a family from ? -parents and 2 small children. We talked a lot with the German gals, students majoring in English...Jamie and Laura. Laura has a brother at Conlumbia Univ. studying IT getting his doctorate in artificial intelligence. He is taking on a lot of debt which worries him.
Also spoke with Brits who wer retired recently from fashion industry wholesaling. His family has a farm but after a motorcycle accident in his 20s he had to quit that (almost died 3 times). Took up woodworking for 10 years until he met his wife and she had 3 clothing stores which he helped manage before they took up wholesaling.
The hike was really great and swim as well...only saw 4 others in the water, it was a tad cold but after a couple minutes your body was so numb you couldn't tell, ha!
Eddie related that the government owns nearly all the land (only a few very small private farms or land holdings...probably like the tobacco farm we visited. When the revolution took over only a few families owned most of the land in Cuba. Afterwards, individuals could only lease but leases can be handed down thru families...maybe THAT is what the tobacco farm was?! Products produced are either "sold" to the government - to pay the lease, and then some is left in private hands of workers on the land which can then be sold at markets.
We saw a crowd in front of a store and found out they had gotten a shipment of chicken from Canada &/or Brasil. Cubans do not own the chickens we see (government does) and they are for egg production only, not meat! Actually, to clarify, later we talked with Nana in Playa Larga, she said the reason they don't have chicken meat is because the cost of corn (to fatten them) is very high.
Friends we met at Caridad (Louis' hostel) from Ireland came over to Louis' place (where we moved before going on our mountain excursion yesterday). Had a great conversation with them. They couldn't believe Brexit passed anymore than we that Trump was 'elected'. They said it was the doings of Russia that interfered with the vote. Don't know what's going to happen since it affects trade greatly in Ireland. Already there are 'gangs' looking to take advantage of any breakdown in trade between EU and Ireland if an agreement is not found within the next year!
By 1 pm we were ready to go - they to catch a bus to Santa Maria, we the bus to Playa Larga at 3. Walked to the Viazul bus lot and saw Tony & Mairin again...talked a bit more before they boarded their bus at 2:15. Our bus was an "extra" since the regular one to Havana was filled - and so was ours. It left promptly at 3, stopped in Cienfuegos, Playa Giron (on Bay of Pigs) and arrived in Playa Larga about 4. Cathy hired a bicycle taxi to our O.N. when the 'driver' said it was 2 km. Since we'd been sitting for 3-4 hours, Bon & I decided to walk - Cathy's bag has no wheels so she'd have to carry it. It couldn't have been more than half a km...Cathy came back to the main road and flagged us down, we'd already passed the turn, ha!