I'm thinking Monday in Bayamo. Bus privado Tues. If by some low odds no bus privado, then bus, or hitchhike, or taxi, etc.
Looks like no town.
Things can seem slow or fast.
I'm now getting ready to leave Cuba. In my head I've already partly left.
It's a gorgeous country. Cuba has oceans, mountains, agriculture, architecture, music, communism. It's a diverse blend of a country. Again, as with other countries, I'm surprised by the variety, compared to my expectations previous to arrival.
I didn't have as precise a set of preconceptions for Cuba as I did for Mexico. I knew something from talking to Cubans in Miami. I feel like Cubans in North America are more like Cubans in Cuba, compared to Mexicans in Mexico versus Mexicans in North America.
I'm now considering staying in Bayamo another night, Monday, then taking a maquina to the airport Tuesday.
That would be instead of going closer to the airport Monday. There aren't many Airbnb's to choose from near the airport.
I'm somewhat concerned about getting to the airport without an extra just-in-case day. It's important to me not to lose the ticket!
There should be plenty of buses going Tuesday. If not, then I can probably hitchhike, get a taxi, or find some other solution.
One funny thing about travel is how sometimes there's a huge rush to do many things soon, while other times there's a lengthy period in which to do one thing. Each situation can be difficult, frustrating, but also a rewarding challenge.
I walked out of the river park. Found a nearby house w/ a roof. Ducked under for cover.
People kept walking by, carrying a chicken under an arm. I don't know whether it was for food, or a pet.
Woke up to do what I can to leave the country (Cuba) soon. Connected to wifi. See that even the house wifi requires logging in.
I now have like less than an hour of wifi. Maybe the host can log in again. Not even sure that I can log in to house wifi with my card.
My feet hurt.
I want to get to PR! :)
No wifi here.
So, I'm now in Santiago de Cuba, with $8 & change in (precious) wifi cards.
"Let's just quickly…" does not work in Cuba.
Not sure yet how to get out of here.
Maybe fly to Puerto Rico.
Maybe fly to Dominican Republic. Somewhat less expensive, but less option to stay there, would have to have onward ticket, so no.
Do what I can! :)
Getting ready to leave Cuba, bittersweetly.
Some things I'll miss about Cuba:
Food! Rice, beans, etc.
Some things I won't miss about Cuba:
I'd wanted to go to Baracoa & Guantanamo. After walking around Santiago some more, seeing the main parts of the city, I went to the train & bus station. Asked around, sounded like no private buses going to those destinations.
With my cash reserves running low, still concerned about getting safely out of Cuba, I decided not to go. Instead, spent the beautiful day in a grassy area under the sun, thinking.
Now planning to leave Cuba Friday if feasible.
So far Santiago de Cuba seems like one of the dirtier, noisier cities in the country.
Woke up somewhat late. Walked around town. Felt like I had seen enough of Holguin. I was curious to see where Fidel Castro was born, which I had read was in Holguin. I asked someone, who told me it was not precisely here, but rather in a nearby location. The name was hard to make out, something like Vilan. (It's actually Biran.) I tried to look it up on my map, but did not find it.
Walked to the bus station. It's usually possible to get on a private bus at these. As the private buses came, a person yelled out the destinations. I asked around, but all the buses were going to small towns nearby. My preferences were to go to 1. Baracoa, or 2. Guantanamo, or 3. Santiago. Someone told me that no buses were going to Baracoa. I figured in that case that none would be going to Guantanamo, or to Fidel's hometown.
While deciding what to do, I bought some snacks from the omnipresent vendors. Some peanut bars, some butter crackers which weren't particularly buttery. Another vendor, selling chicharones which I didn't want, told me that a bus to Santiago had just left, but another one would be coming in around an hour. I decided to wait for that one.
Later, a bus arrived, again in the cattle car style. "Santiago!" Suddenly a huge rush of people. I wasn't the only one waiting for the bus to Santiago. People crowded around the entrance, pushing hard to get onboard. There were many passengers, some of whom would presumably have to wait for the next bus. I pushed forward, as the crowd applied pressure. People rushed the entrance from every direction. I was surprised at how effectively people fought to get onboard. With my strength above average for the crowd, I managed to get on.
The bus was packed. Somewhat hard to breathe, although once underway the air circulated better through the windows. I struggled to see outside. On previous buses, I'd had at least some view, while on this bus I could hardly see the buildings on the side of the road. The distant scenery was easier to see, because of the angle at which I could look out the windows.
At the stops, while people embarked and disembarked, vendors walked up to the bus and sold their wares through the open windows. At one stop, the kind man next to me bought a bunch of pineapple slices, which he shared with neighboring passengers. They were sweet and delicious.
I feel that Cubans are kind. I think they are even warmer than other Latin people I have met.
In some sense, the unity, the solidarity, the political socialism of Cuba, seems to me like a reflection of the Cuban personality. In general, I think that societies take on political systems reflective of the people.
I think that Cubans are intrinsically sociable. It's just normal here for people to do things together.
I think I've seen men greeting each other with kisses, as women greet each other or greet men in some societies.
Santiago is a large city in eastern Cuba. It has geographic beauty, with the gorgeous hills.
So far Santiago seems to me like more of a culinary city than other Cuban cities. Maybe I'm just seeing some of the busier streets so far, but I feel like there are more and better food places than elsewhere. (After more time there, I think that it was just because I had arrive on the main streets.)
I'm now thinking of going to Baracoa and Guantanamo from here, then returning. Not sure yet of the details.
Woke up, had Cuban coffee. Walked to the bus station. Outside, took a ride on one of the maquinas, the buses that don't leave from the station. This time it was more of a rough vehicle, looked like it once transported farm animals. Previous vehicles I've been on have included somewhat rough old buses, and a nicer, newer bus.
Cuba has a complex transportation system. Cubans can take Omnibus Nacionales, inexpensive rides on recent Chinese-made buses that depart from the station. Tickets cost approximately one or two US dollars per hundred kilometers, something like 1-2 cents per kilometer. Tourists from other countries take Viazul, comparable buses but they cost around five times as much, say 5-6 cents per kilometer. Then there are the trucks and buses that pick up and drop off passengers along the way. You don't buy tickets, you just pay cash when you get on board. These cost even less than the Omnibus Nacionales, probably less than one cent per kilometer. I've been taking these, which they let me on (as a foreigner) without problem.
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.
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)
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!
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.