The continuation of the post Time travel through the 50s Cuba Part 1: La Habana & Cienfuegos.
Arrival at Trinidad
Trinidad together with the nearby Valle de los Ingenios, have been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1988. The center of Trinidad is paved with cobblestones and packed with colourful colonial architecture. The Plaza Mayor is centrally located in Trinidad as you’ll find in most colonial cities and it is an open-air museum of Spanish Colonial Architecture. The nearby areas are filled with shops, restaurants, casas de musica, Spanish schools, markets and so much more going on in this little place. There is also salsa dancing in the square at night, a small platform centrally located in the square where bands perform. All guests are invited to dance in the open area if you wish to have a fun night or after couple of cocktails.
After checking into Casa Noel y Nury, we were greeted with a delicious Piña Calada on our arrival. With the cocktail in hand we sat on the terrace of the casa enjoying the sunset that brought us some peace and relaxation with the darkness of the evening slowly approaching.
The train journey to Valle de los Ingenios, the sugar plantations, departs from Trinidad
Next morning we took a very old train that still runs daily out to the sugar plantations. This route to visit Valle de los Ingenios is very touristy but still very enjoyable to see the countryside and on board you will find a bar where you can buy cocktails of course! Also there was a singer on board who will play Cuban music which made it a joyful train journey. The train leaves at 9:30am and returns at 2:00pm from main train station, it was within walking distance from where we stayed. You will have to buy tickets at around 9:10am on the same day as no reservation beforehand can be made. Price is 10 CUC per passenger.
However we had a very interesting adventure during the train journey. While my friend Mari and I were keeping an interesting conversation with a Cuban lady who spoke perfect Japanese, much better level than mine, we were chased by a track trolley.
Allegedly it’s a track taxi that takes locals from Trinidad to Valle de los Ingenios. The trolley conductor jumped on the back of our train while moving. Just like those James Bond movies, jumping between the train (although our fancy old steam train moved fairly slow). He managed to convince our train captan to change the track so as to let his little “taxi” go pass first. Here we go, Mari and I both were invited to have an adventure in his fancy trolley that will take us to Valle de los Ingenios.
To be honest, I had no idea where were we going at the time, we were off the train while the train moved to a side track to let this trolley to pass first. We waved off at our friends who were still sitting on the train not knowing what’s happening and why we were abandoning them.
It was an interesting experience and we enjoyed sharing the trolley with local commuters.We first stopped at Valle de los Ingenios for an hour and half, then we got back to the same train which continued the journey to middle of nowhere where we had our lunch at a restaurant.
There were not many Chinese tourists in Cuba overall, but somehow I met only Asian girls on that train trip and we spent the lunch together getting to know other people which is always fun.
Another interesting fact I had during the same journey, I met a deaf cowboy. I know sign language only to communicate with Chinese deaf people so I couldn’t be sure I would be understood. When this cowboy and I tried to communicated in sign language, I was so surprised how much we understood each other. He was blushing a bit when he was suddenly surrounded by several Oriental girls and especially that I could translate what he was indicating in his sign language. He was born and brought up in this little farm, he has many horses to look after and he didn’t enjoy his life in this place as he doesn’t think the horses would bring him any future. He decided he wanted to sell all his horses and got a job on a ship. He was very excited to tell me that he is leaving this place soon and how much he is looking forward to his new future on a ship! I would love to spend more time talking to him but our train is about to leave, we have to say goodbye to each other. It was very nice talking to him and I do believe he would feel the same, very likely grateful to have the chance to communicate with so many foreigners. His voice was heard by a Chinese visitor who was able to communicate in his language.
On the way back, I was able to spend a bit of time to speak with one of the train staff who was working on the train. He worked on this train almost 30 years day after another, he’s never taken any break, sometimes he has to work more than 12 hours a day (train engineering work) earning very little. Maybe it was enough to live but… anyway, I realised in Cuba there are plenty skilled technical people but in comparison with those in the tourism industry they likely earned a lot less. Case in point is that our chauffeur from Cienfuegos used to be an architect and he abandoned his job to become a taxi driver which has brought him much better income.
Along the train trip, we were with our new Korean friend who we went to do the horseback riding together the next day. She has a very amusing name in Spanish like mine – Sola. When we had to introduce ourselves to other people in Spanish, I always say “Soy Ella no es “ella” en Español”. She would say “Soy Sola”, literal translation would be “I am lonely” (grammatically correct translation for “I am lonely” should be “Estoy Sola”). Anyway, we both found our names very amusing in Spanish and specially as Sola was travelling alone, so you may be able to imagine how many laughs she gets.
Full day horseback ride into the mountains for just 10 dollars…
We paid 10 CUC each for the horseback ride, if you like a lot the nature, wild, fields, you should definitely spend a day to do this. We had 2 hours ride into the mountain passing through rivers & streams, fields and then we had to hike 15 minutes until we reach the waterfalls where all the tourists would go have a swim. We dipped our feed into the pool and just to chill before we headed back through a different mountain trail with great views of the countryside.
On our way back, our guide was all over Sola after he discovered Sola was single and a solo traveller he was trying to convince her to stay in the country.
Trying the typical drink: La Canchanchara
In the evening after dinner at our casa, we went to the bar La Canchanchara (very hard to pronounce) to try a genuine Canchanchara drink and there we met a group of Japanese backpackers. We spent the night talking about ourselves but I wonder how much we understood each other… as I didn’t understand much of the conversation but pretended I understood. The conversation was mixed between Japanese, Spanish and a very few words in English.
24km return, cycling to Trinidad beach in 40 degrees heat
On our last day in Trinidad, someone suggested to cycle to the beach… and… no one objected the idea! It’s about 12km of distance from our casa to the beach, and no one realised that to cycle 12km each way is a lot. Yeah, it’s achievable, but in 40 degrees heat with no shade most of the journey. I assure you that is not kind of holiday you want. Our host Noel recommended this activity to us and rented the bikes for us for 5 CUC each.
Cycling in Trinidad itself can be very dangerous as there isn’t any traffic lights! Mari crashed 3 times due to a poorly maintained bike and in the end she had the flat tire and had to walk back to the casa. I don’t think we enjoyed our bike trip to the beach after all.
The beaches in Trinidad are great and we picked the perfect quiet spot to sit down and relax. There was a guy who sits in the area claiming to be the security, and he will make sure our bike doesn’t get stolen when there was absolutely no one else around. We paid our 2 CUC and sit back and chilled on the beach with no other tourists. This “security” guy happened to be the bar too and offers some cold fizzy drink and fresh coconut.
After spending 3 hours on the beach we went back to casa and we set off again to our next stop Santa Clara where I was to study the most about Che Guevara.
Continue the journey to Time Travel Through the 50s Cuba part 3: Santa Clara & Varadero. Or read pervious one: La Habana & Cienfuego.