Cuba blog May 4, 2019

Submitted by eagle on Sun, 05/19/2019 - 16:52

I don't know how this stuff keeps working out, but it does! :)

Made it to Camaguey!

Beautiful city, but not that interesting to me. I feel like I'm in the Cuban bible belt.


In Camaguey, there's a historic city with attractive architecture, although it's quite comparable to some of the other old cities in this country.

There's now a thunderstorm, I think the first I've seen in the month or so I've been in Cuba.

Tomorrow I think I'll continue to Las Tunas. Each day this weekend I've considered spending the remaining weekend in the same city, but found it insufficiently interesting for me to want to stay another day.



Cuba blog May 3, 2019

Submitted by eagle on Sun, 05/19/2019 - 16:49

Woke up, walked to the outskirts of town. I've walked from east to west.

Tried hitching a ride from outside of the city. No takers. I was just down the street from the bus station. Decided to walk to the bus station. On the way, a horse carriage driver offered to take me to a place where I could hitch a ride. I climbed in. After a short ride, basically back to where I'd been hitching, he asked me for twenty pesos. I took out twenty Cuban pesos, which is as much as it would cost to get all the way to my next destination, Ciego de Avila. The horse person said no, twenty CUC (equivalent to twenty American dollars). That's ridiculous, I answered. After some bickering, he asked me to get down from the carriage. Then he offered to take me all the way to Ciego. I scoffed. How fast does this horse go? It would take too long. The horse person persisted in asking for money. I thought it would be interesting to go that far, but doubted the horse was fast enough. The horse driver said it would take two or three hours, for 80 km, which I think is far faster than a horse goes. After a short ride, he said we were there, if I heard him right, which we obviously weren't. After he threatened to call the police, I called him on the bluff. Finally, I convinced him to give back some of the money.


BTW I prefer the Cuban gesture for hitchhiking, in case I didn't already mention it. Instead of a thumb up, which is tiring, it's a flat hand, palm down, flapping.

Now in Ciego de Avila. Keep on going tomorrow. Hitching rides!


1 c per km.

This area, in the center of Cuba, reminds me of Texas, around Houston. I've seen numerous Houston hats, some rodeo stuff, pickup trucks, etc. The food reminds me of barbecue.

Deciding whether to camp out, or rent a place. Camp in the city, plus after warning by immigration I'm worried about deportation/etc. Places here look overpriced, unappealing.

In this city, Ciego de Avila, I've seen numerous Canadian flags, and just now Quebecois flag, especially on bicitaxis (bike taxis).


Decided to make a reservation. Why? Because I'm worried about Cuban immigration, just want to get through Cuba, leave ASAP.



After making the reservation at the wifi spot, went for a walk, to watch the sunset. Found an attractive area by the train tracks, took some photos.


As I was deciding when to head back to the park to see if the host had responded to my request for an address (which was already supposed to be there, but this host as w/ many in Cuba had not put the address) - a group of train station security people came. Asked me what I was doing. I explained that I was taking some photos. They asked if I was a foreigner. I said yes. They didn't know whether to believe me!


In most other countries, I think that the train security people, would have seen that I was a foreigner taking pictures, and just asked me to move on, maybe issuing a warning.


The group of security people stood around. They called the police, who apparently weren't answering. After a while, they asked me to walk over to a different area. We waited some more. People came by. It became a confab.


Cubans seem to think in groups, slowly. There were at least eight people hanging around, most of them just chatting. Some didn't have any uniform, I'm not sure what their positions were. Later, the police did arrive.


The police asked to see my passport. Despite the lengthy wait, the train security people hadn't taken that basic step. I showed my passport.


The police called in for a car. After much confusion, finally a patrulla (patrol) car arrived. Some of us piled in.


The police talked informally. If I understood, one of them mentioned issuing a ticket to a driver for having two women in the vehicle. Another cop nudged me to look at a woman riding a bicycle.


After driving for a while, with no indication of what was happening, I asked where we were going. They said they'd drive me to the police station for some interviewing, then to the hostel where I had a reservation.


We arrived at the police station. (The first station, they mentioned, I think the main police station in the city.) There, they invited me to take a seat on a waiting bench in the lobby. Someone at the front desk would call me.


Another person was also there, it sounded like he too had some ridiculous non-issue turned into an issue. At one point, he stood up and walked outside. The police asked him where he was going. Returning into the building, he said he thought he'd forgotten the keys in his vehicle.

A few other people were being questioned by the police. Didn't seem like much trouble, but one person did seem somewhat violent.


I kept on sitting around. After a while, I wondered whether they had forgotten about me. By now it was approaching ten o'clock. The sun had set at eight.


Because I had not had a chance to check the wifi again, I still did not know whether there would be a place to stay. Otherwise, what? Camp out, risking another visit from immigration? Ask to stay in the police station, risking more obnoxious wastes of time, or worse?

After a while longer, someone finally arrived. A woman from immigration. She and another person, not wearing a uniform so I'm not sure whether from police or immigration or what, invited me into a room for interrogation. We talked for a while.


The immigration woman asked me what I was doing in the country, what I did for work, and a bunch of other questions. It was quite comparable to my previous interview with immigration.


After I mentioned my reservation, they called the phone number I had for the place. No one answered. They tracked down the place by a number of phone calls, finding that it was already full!


So, the immigration woman took me over to a nearby hostel, where they let me in.


Now it's 10:51 PM. Going to sleep soon.



If the train security people, then the police, then immigration, had not gone on this wild goose chase, then I would probably have failed to find a place to stay, maybe camped out, maybe gotten in more trouble.


If the previous immigration people had not gone on their wild goose chase, then I may not have started using buses, maybe slowing down.


Often, the things that seem like problems become opportunities.

Paternalistic, or in this case maternalistic, society.

Even the bureaucrats get annoyed by the bureaucracy. (while waiting)


Cuba blog May 2, 2019

Submitted by eagle on Sun, 05/19/2019 - 16:47

Woke up, showered. Immigration official came by the forced airbnb. Explained that there's a detention center for deportees such as I would become if I run out of cash. Asked me a bunch of questions, to ascertain whether I would have money, where I was going, etc.


I set out to take a bus to the next city, Sanctu Spiritu. While walking, I kept getting run off the road by buses. While trying to take a bus, I didn't see a single one for hours. Tried hitchhiking. Finally got a ride in a big truck!


<truck ride pix/vid>



Now trying to get a place.



Maybe just hitchhike the rest of Cuba ASAP. Not sure which direction.


Cuba: The makeshift society.

Just pushing through, one thing then another.


Cuba blog May 1, 2019

Submitted by eagle on Sun, 05/19/2019 - 16:44

Tough day.


Walked more, maybe 25 km, that seems like my average for around 8-9 am to 6-7 pm.


International worker's day?

Feeling sick, maybe mango, maybe something else I ate.


Bikers, horses… people gave me mangoes…

Recently I've seen a yard with turkeys & piglets eating mangoes that had fallen to the ground.

Grow wild!

Vomited, some mango came up.

Sick, sore, tired, found a spot to sleep. Right by the side of the road. Some passersby handed me more mangoes.


The place was small, covered in spiky plants. I made removed some of the spiky branches to make the area more comfortable.


More passersby on horses. They said not to sleep there, instead at a house nearby. They showed me the house, introduced me to the resident. I set up my gear to go to sleep.


In the middle of the night, a group of people came by, shining flashlights in my face. It was immigration, with a nurse. They asked me if I was OK. I said yes. They said that it was illegal to sleep there. Even though I had permission from the resident, they said that my Cuban permit only let me sleep in hostels or hotels. They drove me back to the city, which they said was the only way. In a bureaucratic office w/ legacy equipment, they wrote a report. They required me to stay at a specific house, which they said would cost $20-25, much of my hard-won cash. Some of the rest I presume I will have to spend on a bus. Inside, I negotiated a price of $20, including breakfast. The hosts offered me coffee, and said that I could have as many of the mangoes that had fallen from the tree as I wanted!



Cuba blog April 30, 2019 continuation

Submitted by eagle on Sun, 05/19/2019 - 16:44

After some planning this morning, went for a walk. Going to the Cadeca to exchange my last hundred dollar bill US. Around a block from the Airbnb, someone called me. Who would I know in Trinidad, Cuba? It was the woman and her son from the last town, who put me on a bus to Trinidad! They had a broken phone, and had come to town to deal with it.

Cubans have different hand gestures. I like the one for eating, as in "Is this for cooking or eating?" "Eating." It looks like a vertical hand, facing your face, then folding back the fingers half.


Cuba blog April 30, 2019

Submitted by eagle on Sun, 05/19/2019 - 16:42

Another long day.


Walked a while.


In one town, some kind people put me on a bus to the next city, Trinidad.


Walked around Trinidad. A beautiful old city, patrimonio, tons of tourists. "Taxi!" at most corners. Or "Habitacion?" ("Room?")


Made an Airbnb reservation. The listing didn't include the address, as seems to be a common issue in Cuba. Looked for it for a while, didn't find it.


Finally, someone called the phone number for me. Went to someone who said it was the wrong number. Walked to a bunch of rental places w/ the phone person. (The city is littered w/ rentals.) None available, except for Cuban cash, which I don't have. At one of the cash-only places, they recognized the Airbnb hosts when I showed them my reservation, pointing me to the place. We walked there. Knocked repeatedly. No answer.


About ready to walk out of the city to camp, while the phone person said I should knock more, a woman opens a slot in the door. What do you want? I have a reservation. Show me. I pull out my laptop to show her the reservation. They let me in. By now way after midnight.


Cuba blog April 28, 2019

Submitted by eagle on Sun, 05/19/2019 - 16:36

The Airbnb I rented for the weekend in Cienfuegos, when I arrived, only available for the first night (Friday). Offered to put me up other night at relative's place. I asked for cash back. They said OK. Later, found out that the cash man wouldn't arrive until next week. It's a small city. Horses.


Stayed the second night (Saturday) at the relative's, down the street. I've seen the city, ready to go on. Also, getting tired of the noise of the city, ready for more countryside, small towns. Instead of a third night of hosting, the host is making me chicken, rice, potatoes. I hope enough for a few days.


Getting ready to walk. Sore feet. Shoes, but w/ holes. Looks like a beautiful route.


Running low on cash - around one dollar in Cuban currency, a hundred dollars in US currency. Tried to exchange the hundred yesterday, but the cadeca (currency exchange) was closed. Hoping that the food I carry plus one dollar, plus whatever fruit I find or resources are given to me, suffice to make it to Trinidad. 80 km.

Cuban cities are loud. On every street, at every corner, people speak, vendors hawk their wares. After walking dozens of blocks, still no quiet spot. Opposite of American cities, where you can walk dozens of blocks without running into people (but often there are louder motor noises there).


I'm now thinking of trying to walk, hitchhike, bike, somehow get to the eastern side of Cuba. Then, hope for a boat or plane out of the country, or else fly or hitchhike back to the western side of the country.


 Now my life looks kind of like my screensavers, TV shows, etc.! :)

The Airbnb host made me some chicken, rice, french fries, ham sandwich, mangoes, mango juice, toast, etc. Should be enough to last at least most of the trip!

Walked out of the city of Cienfuegos. Around the outskirts (of town), a horse carriage driver offered to take me some distance. Fun ride!


<horse ride pix>


Kept walking. Something like 32-33 degrees C, humid. Difficult yet gorgeous walk!


In the evening, it started to rain. Some lightning too. Decided to keep walking until the next plausible camp spot. Took longer than expected, at least covered some solid distance. It's 80 km to my next destination, Trinidad. I'm planning to get there over around three days.


Around here is a turning point. I want to keep going to eastern Cuba. That may/could make it more complicated to get to Habana if it makes sense for the flight. Not sure yet (what to do), kind of leaning towards just walking Cuba anyways, then figuring out how to leave.


I learned that apparently there's a bus that covers 80 km for around two dollars (US). If that's the going rate, then I may bus some portion of it, just to stretch my cash. I also learned that hitchhiking is fairly common in Cuba.


I now have a hundred dollar US bill, which I want to exchange w/ another person instead of a bank or cadeca, because the latter charge an anti-US fee of 10% on top of the exchange rate. Other than that, I'm out of cash. Somewhat scary to face the plausibility/plausible outcome of being in a communist country for a few months w/o cash, but I think it'll be fine. Also, I feel somewhat stupid about it, because stuff is so inexpensive here that it's a convenient place to spend money/consume.

I'm feeling somewhat better psychologically. I think in part it's the time in the countryside and small towns. In Miami, I was consistently feeling city stresses. I'd already seen the countryside around Miami, so I had no immediate escape route. Here, when I feel city stresses, it makes it even more compelling for me to keep traveling through the country. Then, I can get to another city!

I appreciate the novelty of travel. Every day, new situations!

Latin people are quite social/sociable, warm, friendly. I think that spending time among such people makes me feel happier.

I'm quite active, traveling, thinking, surviving. That keeps me busy, which I think can also improve mental tone.

Overall I very much appreciate having chosen to go. I am continuing on! :)